JRF - Residents of traditionally white estates feel they are seen as ‘lowest of the low’

4 Aug 2010 03:49 PM

People living on Bradford's traditionally white estates want to be given the chance to improve their own lives and change the perception held by the rest of society, according to a new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

'Participation and community on Bradford's traditionally white estates', by a team from the University of Bradford, looks at two communities in Bradford and Keighley and considers why, given the government’s commitment to improving the lives of the most excluded social groups, there is still no evidence of sustainable change.

Jenny Pearce, co-author of the report, said: "These communities were once respectable places to live but have been damaged by a process of long-term decline. It is vital to recognise the residents and community activists working to change their estates. Transformation is not possible without listening to their voices and tackling the difficult issues head-on."

"Importantly, these findings are neither unique to Bradford nor to white working-class communities, as other JRF research across the UK and in Bradford has shown. But, at a time when people are facing additional hardships, this report issues a timely reminder of the people and places left behind, and of the energy and expertise ready to be tapped – with the right support."

With residents from the estates working as researchers, the project explored people’s views on their communities, how they participate within them and how they interact with external organisations. They found:

  • Many residents actively try to improve their estates, often leading to strain on their lives and misunderstanding of their motives. They need support.
  • Residents feel they are seen as the 'lowest of the low', blamed for their problems, stigmatised by where they live, and discriminated because of their class.
  • Residents feel their voices are not really heard - consultations are often seen as tokenistic exercises.
  • Prejudice and resentment towards newcomers can create further divides. More information for newcomers and existing residents would help.
  • Hopelessness and determination co-exist on these estates, with many people looking for ways to improve their lives and communities.

Bana Gora, JRF's Bradford Manager, said: "One of the key shared problems across all these communities is residents' feeling of powerlessness to influence meaningful change. Agencies and other bodies who work with these estates need to believe in peoples' capability to contribute to solving their own problems. Residents understand the issues and challenges facing their estates better than anyone and must be part of the solution."

Alex Brown, Chair of Braithwaite People's Association and resident on Braithwaite and Guardhouse estate, said: "I know of one agency that takes people's ideas on board and acts on them. Most agencies working on the estate don't really take notice of what residents want. They either consult then ignore our requests, or just tell us what they think we need without asking."

This finding is supported by other research published today as part of the JRF's Bradford Programme.

The research findings have also inspired a new play, to be performed by North of England theatre group, Arakan Creative, in August. 'Estate of Mind', written by Artistic Director, Conor Ibrahim, will be shown in both Bingley and Bradford before travelling to Birmingham later in the year. The JRF hopes the play will provide creative, engaging and constructive ways of talking about the issues.