Supplied by the Chair of the Brierley Hill Town Centre Partnership
Brierley Hill is a former steel making and manufacturing town situated in Dudley Metropolitan Borough.
At the end of the 1970s and in the early 1980s the borough experienced the fastest rate in increase of unemployment in the country. This was perhaps symbolised by the closure of the Round Oak Steel Works which was located in the town, but this should not disguise the collapse of other major employers, such as the Marsh and Baxter’s meat processing plant – at one time the largest in the country.
By 1984 the unemployment rate in Brierley Hill was in excess of 25%.
A number of regeneration initiatives have taken place over the last two decades, notably the establishment of two enterprise zones in the town, the building of the Merry Hill shopping centre and the Waterfront office complex, and the construction of a new transport infrastructure and health facilities.
Yet challenges still face young people.
- Nearly 1 in 10 of local residents are claiming Job Seekers allowance (8.8%, April 2010)
- Median earnings of full timers is over £4,000 lower than the national equivalent
- Life expectancy in Brierley Hill ward is just 76 – five years lower than in neighbouring Norton ward, with the variance being higher for males.
These indicators of multiple deprivation translate into real challenges for young people:
- 30% of children in the area are living in poverty (from National Indicator 116 HMRC)
- There are high levels of single parent households in the area
- Local teenage pregnancy rates stands at between 59.2 and 65.9 per thousand females aged between 15 and 17, compared to just 40.4% nationally.
The 2008 Children’s Healthy Lifestyles Survey in Dudley Borough illustrated the divisions in the area – with children in poorer areas such as Brierley Hill being:
- less likely to have had lunch the previous date (more than 1 in 8)
- to have had breakfast the previous day (16.1%), no portions of fruit or veg (17.4%)
- twice as likely to take care to avoid a sexually transmitted infection
- more likely to carry weapons or anything else for protection when going out (17%)
- proportionately less happy with their lives (63% v 71% for less affluent v more affluent children).
Clearly differences in inequality remain and these inequalities are huge barriers to participation in civic, community and economic life.