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Communities Evidence Event

Tackling Multiple Deprivation in Communities : Evidence Event - June 2, 2009

This event was chaired by Mike Foulis, Director of Housing and Regeneration, Scottish Government, and brought together academics, policy makers and other expert colleagues to consider current and emerging evidence on multiple deprivation at a community level, and the impact of a succession of geographically focussed regeneration programmes dating back 30 years. The event examined how effective practice could improve outcomes in the future and identified gaps in the evidence base and future analytical priorities.

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The event was organised to inform future policy approaches to tackling multiple deprivation experienced in particular areas. The Scottish Government's Fairer Scotland Fund (FSF) is the current national ring-fenced programme designed to accelerate progress in this area of work. From 2010/11 the ring fence around the FSF will be removed and the challenge of turning the fortunes of these communities around will be one shared by all community planning partners. This will involve strategic investment of all mainstream resources to achieve sustainable outcomes, demonstrated in Single Outcome Agreements (SOAs).

Ministerial Address

The event opened with a Ministerial Address from Alex Neil, Minister for Housing and Communities.

The Minister set the context for the day. Despite long standing efforts, there are still significant problems in Scotland regarding poverty and deprivation. 840,000 individuals, 17 per cent of Scotland's population are living in poverty, this includes 210,000 children, 21% of all children [1]. Scotland needs to learn from previous approaches, both at home and beyond, and think strategically about tackling poverty and disadvantage. There is a need to maintain a long term focus on helping those currently experiencing or threatened by poverty, even in the face of short term challenges presented by the recession.

There is debate as to whether to prioritise people, spatial or physical focused regeneration policy and programmes. The Scottish Government is clear that we must move forward on all of these fronts simultaneously.

There is a need to get more people into work but also ensure that jobs are sustainable and provide a decent living wage as too many people in employment are still blighted by low income. Local communities need to be at the forefront of our efforts. We are moving away from programmes designed at a national level and assigned locally. People in local communities know what's best for their areas and we need to listen to them and feed their ideas into the policy development process.

"The Scottish Government is focussed on outcomes, and three key outcomes which we all must work together to achieve are a reduction in unacceptable levels of poverty, a reduction in unemployment and an increase in the standard of living for people in our poorest communities. This event provides a timely opportunity to discuss how we address these issues with the debate today helping to shape the way forward". Alex Neil, Minister for Housing and Communities.

Spatial Patterns Of Deprivation In Scotland

David McPhee, Senior Statistician, Scottish Government, presented an overview of statistical evidence comparing the most deprived areas of Scotland to the rest of the country.

The presentation was structured around the Government's five strategic objectives, there were some striking facts.

Wealthier and Fairer

  • 34 per cent of people in the 15 per cent most deprived areas in Scotland are living in poverty, compared to 16% in the rest of the country.
  • The gap in employment levels between deprived areas and the rest has started to increase since autumn 2008, indicating the recession is particularly affecting those in deprived areas.


  • The difference in S4 attainment between the 15 per cent most deprived areas and the whole of Scotland is equivalent to two Standard Grades at award 3.
  • The percentage of adults with severe literacy and numeracy problems is more than double in deprived areas compared to the rest of the country.


  • Healthy life expectancy in the most deprived areas is some 10 years shorter than in the rest of the country.

Safer and Stronger

  • Crime rates are more than four times higher in deprived areas.


  • People living in the most deprived areas are more than five times as likely to live next to derelict land.

Clearly not all people experiencing poverty and disadvantage live in deprived areas, this is especially so in rural areas where there are unique challenges related to remoteness, accessibility and the quality of employment opportunities. Taken together however, these statistics present a compelling case to remain focused on the problems experienced by individuals living in Scotland's most disadvantaged areas.

Community Regeneration In Scotland - Where We Are Now, What We Have Achieved, Future Challenges

Andrew Fyfe, Director, ODS Consulting, presented a summary of research commissioned specifically for this event[2] to provide an understanding of the historical context for geographically focused community regeneration; explore the impacts of previous interventions in narrowing the inequality gap between the poorest areas and the rest; and outline the challenges for the future of area based regeneration.

Key Findings

  • Good local outputs but lack of solid evidence of overall impact of programmes to tackle multiple deprivation
  • Evidence suggests limited impact on the gap - but would the situation have worsened without the programmes?
  • Need for agreed indicators, better local data and evaluations more focused on impact
  • Physical, social and economic programmes need to complement each other

Challenges For The Future

  • Need for reliable and comparable information about change in small areas
  • Clearer understanding of what makes a difference
  • Building and embedding outcomes focused approach
  • Modestly resourced regeneration programmes were meant to be the catalyst for mainstream resources - but little evidence of this
  • Given the scale of the problem mainstream (and national) resources will be needed

Questions To Consider

  • Why have the most deprived areas not seen relative improvement after 30 years of effort?
  • Are we any closer to joining up our physical, social and economic regeneration activities? And what more can we do?
  • How can we identify what works? And how do we stop 're-inventing the wheel'?

The Rationale For Community Focused Approaches To Tackling Multiple Deprivation: An Employability Study

Carol Hayden and Donna-Louise Hurrell, from Shared Intelligence presented findings from research looking at under what circumstances and under what conditions, community based approaches to employability are likely to be effective. Evidence had been gathered from their role as DWP Area Evaluation Advisors working with the City Strategy pathfinders in Scotland - Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow to reflect on and learn from their experience of implementation to date.

Key Findings

  • Employability is a key driver for sustainable neighbourhoods and large area interventions will not reach local people by 'trickle down'
  • A people and place approach is necessary - tailored to individuals and delivered in local communities
  • Links are required to other services at the local level for a holistic approach to people's interrelated needs (eg health, housing etc) and be nested within a wider local authority/sub regional employment and skills strategy that actively engages mainstream services.

Challenges For The Future

  • What do different mainstream services (eg housing, health etc) need to do to 'join up' at a strategic and local operational level?
  • Given the financial climate, how can the Scottish Government encourage better integration and devolution as an innovative and also cost-effective approach
  • What are the implications for staff capacity (resources and skills/mind set) of working in this way and how can these be addressed?

Questions To Consider

  • What constitutes integration at a strategic level (ie that goes beyond making joint decisions on programme funds and co-commissioning)?
  • What evidence is there on the relative effectiveness of local/community approaches as part of a wider employment and skills strategy compared to area based 'projects'?
  • What further evidence is required to assess 'what works best' for people based interventions to tackling worklessness and skills in local communities - for whom, where, how?


A key feature of the event was the opportunity to hear and discuss research evidence in smaller groups. There were nine workshop sessions, covering a diverse range of topics from mainstreaming funding in education to addressing deprivation in rural areas.

The slides from the workshop presentations are available. The views expressed are those of the researchers and
do not necessarily represent those of the Scottish Government or Ministers. Some key propositions coming from the workshops are highlighted below.


  • 'Poor' areas tend to get poorer service outcomes, across a diverse range of services. They do not get enough extra resources to make a decisive difference to outcomes.
  • Outcome based funding allocations are possible. However reallocating resources through an outcome based framework is likely to face significant local opposition.
  • Focusing on environmental cleanliness and environment service provision we find that there are particular neighbourhood factors which predict a greater need for this service over and above deprivation; and when we look at resource allocation what looks like standardised services can mean less resources are spent on deprived areas compared to other neighbourhoods.
  • There are examples of where targeted mainstreaming can improve outcomes.
  • To what extent can outcomes in deprived areas be improved using mainstream services and how can this happen?

Area Change

  • Rising social inequality has lead to increasing economic segregation which has resulted in worsening conditions in our most deprived neighbourhoods.
  • Direct evidence of selective migration is weak, with most migration found to be driven by housing need rather than views of the neighbourhood.
  • We need more detailed analysis to identify changes in economic segregation and how this relates to social inequality.
  • There is a need to explore how the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) 2009 can be used to identify the impact of regeneration policy.
  • The spatial context is important in providing an overall understanding of the specific factors that impact on people in rural areas.
  • The evidence base on multiple deprivation in rural areas is weak and we need strategies to improve this and to ensure effective monitoring and evaluation. This would help us to better understand the impact of sectoral policies (eg agricultural policies) in addressing rural disadvantage.

Social Regeneration

  • It is easy to create meaningless community engagement. Local Authorities and public service providers need to create the right climate for community empowerment to happen, with less micro-management of localities and a risk friendly culture.
  • How do we recognise an empowered community? And how can we measure cultural change in the public sector in relation to community empowerment?

Physical Regeneration

  • Neighbourhood image, reputation and stigma have complex direct and indirect relations to self esteem and neighbourhood attachment.
  • We need a better understanding of the processes and impacts of neighbourhood reputation, how image can be changed and consideration of the extent to which the social processes and outcomes within a neighbourhood reflect a problematic reputation.
  • Housing investment is insufficient to transform neighbourhoods, class needs to be acknowledged as a core factor in limiting ambitions in new house construction, as well as regeneration and renewal.
  • Changing the relationship between social housing and deprivation requires action on a number of fronts: changing the income profile of social tenants; improving the management of social housing; restructuring existing estates; reshaping capital spend and improving the permeability of social housing areas.
  • Neighbourhood renewal and regeneration programmes may lead to small positive impacts on health and socioeconomic circumstances, however adverse impacts are also possible. Policy makers and evaluators need to agree realistic expectations of, and pathways for how, neighbourhood renewal might impact on socio economic and health outcomes among the target population.

A Perspective Of The Day And Future Challenges

Alan McGregor, Director of Training and Employment Research Unit, University of Glasgow summed up what he had heard during the day and presented future challenges for policy and practice. His full paper is available for download.

Local regeneration interventions have had important and significant impacts. However, these have to be seen and measured against the wider economic context. Collectively we need to acknowledge the regeneration successes we have had, and in the course of today's event, we have sometimes focused too much on what has not worked. There have been real successes. For example, the employment rate in the City of Glasgow has risen from 55% to 65%. This could not have happened without significant gains in employment in the city's more disadvantaged communities. Also, there are a whole range of very effective interventions now in place in the employability arena as our practice has improved significantly over time.

Perhaps the central issue which is holding back successful regeneration is the contribution of mainstream service delivery departments. The reality is that, stripping out physical investment in housing regeneration, the spend by regeneration initiatives on economic and social services of one kind or another is miniscule relative to the inputs of the mainstream providers in health, education, and employment, etc.

In Scotland we remain focussed on trying to assist the same areas after many years. Should we look to prioritise and focus on certain areas, possibly at the expense of others. Will we ever be able to close the book on some areas and say they have been regenerated?

Looking Forward

In broad terms, taking on board the key lessons presented, but perhaps injecting a note of greater optimism, the key challenges moving forward are:

  • to improve significantly the delivery of mainstream services into our most disadvantaged communities, both in terms of the volume and quality of the service delivered.
  • to identify and spread the good practice in a wide range of areas such as employability, education, working with young people, etc.
  • to join together improved practice in terms of area-based initiatives with more effective mainstream delivery to allow us to drive with greater impetus into the problems that need to be tackled and also to release the great under-utilised potential that resides in our most disadvantaged communities.
  • to agree on the most effective ways of engaging with communities to generate a sustainable process of community regeneration, and to make this the norm throughout these communities.
  • to commit to making significant investments in people and households - and not just in the houses they live in.

Delegates Perspective Of The Day

Event attendees were asked what they learned from the day. The key themes included:

The opportunity to network, particularly between academics and practitioners, was a key benefit. Hearing from a wide range of researchers, on diverse topics, was useful and although many of the issues discussed were not 'new' the event brought delegates up to date with the available evidence.

Some of the key messages included; the importance of mainstreaming, the need for genuine community engagement; the challenges of assessing the impact of regeneration activity; the need for early interventions and the phenomenal amount of learning about tackling multiple deprivation in communities we have done over the last 30 years.

Some of the challenges identified for policy and practice in future included the recession; the need to ensure the sustainability of projects and approaches funded through the Fairer Scotland Fund; the need to adopt an early interventions approach and the need to join services up and bend mainstream provision to secure better outcomes in our most deprived communities.

Future analytical priorities identified by delegates included the need for a better understanding of the impact arising from our interventions; a deeper understanding of how mainstream service provision can better target deprived areas and what outcomes this would lead to; more studies of 'what works' through use of longitudinal data and stronger evidence of the impact of effective community engagement.

Next Steps

Many issues were covered during the course of the day, but we could not cover all issues of relevance to deprivation in communities. Further events could be of use, focusing in on specific topics, and potentially linking research evidence with case studies of practice.

We are currently in a very challenging economic climate and the recession will require us to look at new approaches to regeneration. The event provided a challenging look at what area based initiatives have achieved. When thinking about the impact of area based initiatives we need to be mindful of the wider context and measure these interventions against a realistic understanding of what change they are able to deliver.

There were lots of examples of successful regeneration interventions - both people and places - and an overriding message is that policy has evolved in light of experiences.

The Community Regeneration and Tackling Poverty Learning Network is a cross-Government initiative that supports Community Planning Partnerships and their partners to improve the way communities are regenerated and poverty is tackled throughout Scotland. The network will be a useful tool to disseminate examples of best practice in regeneration initiatives in order to help organisations and individuals working at a local level.

The outputs of the event will help inform the future development of policy on tackling multiple deprivation at community level, in the context of a transition from Fairer Scotland Fund to delivery through SOAs.


[1] Joseph Rowntree Foundation. 2009. Child Poverty in Scotland: Taking the Next Steps.
[ http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/poverty-children-scotland-viewpoint.pdf]

[2] Fyfe, Andrew. 2009. Tackling Multiple Deprivation in Communities: Considering the Evidence. [http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2009/06/01092951/0]