Monday, 19 August 2013

Stronger communities

Last week I attended the annual Pengegon Fun Day in Camborne which goes from strength to strength each year with a growing attendance. It is a great example of how a local community has come together to change their neighbourhood for the better.

Pengegon is often singled out by the local authority for its poverty and deprivation. I have always felt there is a danger of such people sounding patronising by focusing too much on the statistics and not enough on the people who actually make up and take great pride in this community. A couple of years ago a report in the West Briton about Pengegon prompted residents to ask the reporter to come out and meet them to put the record straight and see what was actually happening on the ground.

Crime has fallen dramatically in recent years as people start to look out for one another and the community has come together to campaign for improved facilities. Last week, young people living in Pengegon all aged between 8 and 15 were doing a litter pick to earn rewards. If they put in enough hours helping improve their area, they are all taken on a group day out swimming. If they go to the next level, they earn enough rewards to go to the main trip to BF adventure. It’s a really good way of bringing the next generation in this community closer together as well as teaching them the value of work and giving them a great trip.

Before I am accused of seeing everything through rose tinted glasses, I am under no illusion that we live in difficult times and there is undoubtedly a problem with poverty, debt, worklessness and family breakdown in our towns. These problems are longstanding and difficult to solve. But should we focus our efforts on treating the symptoms or tackling the causes? Is it better to give people a little bit extra in benefits or get them out of the benefits trap altogether and back into work? Should we make allowances for the challenges local schools will face or have even higher expectations of them?

My view is that our priority should be to tackle the root causes of poverty even though it takes longer and sometimes means tougher decisions in the short term. That is why some of the difficult changes the government is implementing to reform the benefits system are right and I welcome the increase to the Pupil Premium so that schools in areas where there is poverty have extra funds to employ the best teachers to give children the best start in life.

George Eustice can be contacted at or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.