What hope remains for the youth of Britain's worst sink estates?

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The Independent Online


The town of Harpurhey may be the home of Bernard Manning's nightclub but few residents were laughing yesterday.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has identified its 11,000 residents as among the most deprived in Britain. Research commissioned by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott came to a similar conclusion in May.

Two miles from central Manchester, Harpurhey, named after a 14th century landowner, William Harpour, has in previous centuries enjoyed sustained periods of prosperity, with an economy reliant on anything from fish to dyeing, bleaching and engineering works.

The view from the streets makes all that look like an anomaly and resentment of the millions invested in the city centre, to coincide with the hosting of the 2002 Commonwealth Games, is tangible.

Teenagers roam the area - testimony to GCSE attainments well below the national average and a 6.4 per cent unemployment rate. Their youth club has been vandalised and closed down, again, and even the community's focus, the District Centre, has been vandalised and covered in graffiti. Jon Carr, 18, holds little hope of getting work in the near future. "I want a job but I would probably have to move away first. It is a sad fact that my hometown is a depressing place to live but nobody seems to care."

Manchester City Council is tackling Harpurhey's problems by redeveloping an indoor market, building a new police station and helping the jobless find work.

Claire Fraser, 17, a single mother, said: "I hope the Government can make our town better by the time my daughter grows up. There are no prospects here for her or me. The council flat I live in is not up to standard but I can't afford anywhere else."


While their neighbours in Liverpool city centre enjoy a 21st-century renaissance and prepare for the European Capital of Culture celebrations in 2008, the residents of nearby Everton complain of feeling rooted in the past.

Two miles from the exclusive apartment blocks and modern art projects, the landscape of Everton is of derelict industrial buildings and terraced housing.

Neston Street, near the home of Everton football club - whose current success is lifting the gloom - is one of the most deprived areas. Locals identified the low-wage economy and decline of the family unit for the many ills of an area with 6.8 per cent unemployment and which the Office of National Statistics placed joint bottom in a table of nearly 10,000 wards this year.

A mother, who did not want to be named, said she claimed benefits because she would be no better off if she worked. "Wages are terrible and there's nothing to push you out to work," she said. "I have children and I want to provide as best I can for them. But after rent, bills and food are paid for, we'd be worse off than now [if I worked]."

John Gallagher, a call centre worker, said: "I've lived on this street my whole life and problems with petty crime and prostitution just seem to get worse."


Such has been the extent of the social and economic ills facing the Easterhouse estate in the past few decades, that the solution has been to raze parts of it to the ground.

New estates have been built in their place and fresh hope has come in the form of a £124m grant from the Scottish Executive for the country's poorest areas, which will be channelled to improving life for Easterhouse's 31,000 residents.

Construction of the estatebegan in 1954, but little provision was made for shops or amenities. To help fill this gap a multimillion-pound shopping centre recently opened but the feeling persists among residents that Easterhouse has been neglected for too long.

It remains blighted by drugs, high unemployment and sub-standard housing. This is feeding an increasingly violent gang culture and the number of stabbings has risen sharply.

Alison McGregor, 34, who stays at home with her four-year-old daughter, said there was a huge gulf between the streets of Easterhouse and the more affluent areas in the west of Scotland. "When you go into the posh areas, it is much nicer and you can tell that there's money in them," she said. "Here, there are usually a lot of problems with gangs and no one knows if it's safe to go out. I've been caught up in gang battles and it makes me really worried."

Alec McCue, 23, a factory worker, said that more had to be done about the area's drugs epidemic. "It is the same as a lot of other places, but drugs are certainly the biggest problem, particularly heroin," he said. "And there are lots of bad people who go with drugs. A lot of the housing schemes have been redeveloped and the old houses have all been flattened, which makes me prouder of the area now. It is getting better."

Joanne McCaffery, 34, an unemployed youth worker, added: "There are a lot of drugs in Easterhouse, but as far as unemployment goes, the new shopping centre has brought more jobs to the area and will hopefully bring the whole place up.

"A lot of youngsters are staying on longer at school to help themselves get a job and I do think it is a lot easier now than when we were younger."


Shamsuddin shares a tiny bedroom with his two teenage sisters. The few pounds the 19-year-old earns from his supermarket job goes towards helping his father support his mother and three siblings.

Standing in the doorway of the cramped two-bedroom flat, he appeared baffled at the suggestion that he might be living in deprived circumstances. "I have no complaints. It's alright here. We have waited so long to move that now it doesn't matter," he said.

Across the graffiti-scarred, litter-covered estate in Stepney Green, few of the largely Bangladeshi families expect the luxury of a bedroom to themselves or a job for every adult.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said ghettos of acute child deprivation still exist still in Tower Hamlets. The outline of the square mile's multi-million pound buildings are a stark reminder that affluence and poverty exist here side by side. But this is nothing new to London's East End.

For Mohamad Rhaman, 26, the problem is not money but a generation without self-esteem or aspirations. The engineer arrived from Bangladesh last year to study a further degree in accountancy. "I was shocked, I thought I was coming to a leading world country ... The children are not getting any inspiration from parents to be educated, get better jobs ... The next generation will be an even bigger disaster."