Mum’s the word for bridging the disadvantage gap

One academic’s innovative idea for helping a deprived community? Ask parents what they need to raise their own aspirations – and then work with them to deliver it

Trisha Bennett has lived in Whitley for nearly four decades, so she knows it better than most. She has had a front-row seat for all the outside attempts to ‘save’ the people that live there. And there have been many, many attempts: the community development consultant says that the area has been “initiatived to death”.

“Whitley’s one of those places where if you saw it on paper, you’d see it’s this, it’s that, it has a reputation and all of that, but actually it’s a really strong community and people look out for each other,” she says. “You get that quite a lot in a deprived community – they might go and rob somebody the other side of town, but they’ll look after their next-door neighbour. It’s a rough diamond.”

On paper, the statistics are bleak. In the most deprived area of Whitley, employment and health are both ranked first. Not too bad, you might think. But this is on a local government scale of one to 98, where one represents the most deprived, and 98 the least. Males born in Whitley have a life expectancy that is 2.3 years less than the national average. For women, the gap rises to 3.9 years. Read more