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Abbey: The ‘forgotten’ ward in England’s most unequal city



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From left Cambridge Deputy Mayor Alex Collis and Daniel Zeichner MP open The Hub, a new community space in Abbey Ward, with Nicky Shepard, CEO of Abbey People. Picture: Keith Heppell
From left Cambridge Deputy Mayor Alex Collis and Daniel Zeichner MP open The Hub, a new community space in Abbey Ward, with Nicky Shepard, CEO of Abbey People. Picture: Keith Heppell

If you think that Arbury or King’s Hedges is the most deprived ward in Cambridge, you’re mistaken, writes Nicky Shepherd of Abbey People.

While Cambridge made headlines in 2018 as the most unequal city in the UK, what most people in Cambridge don’t realise is that it is Abbey, not Arbury or King’s Hedges, that has the unenviable position of being the most deprived ward in the city.

Abbey was the only ward in the city to become more deprived between 2015 and 2019 and, from January 2019 to November 2020, the ward has seen a 327 per cent increase in benefits claimants.

The ward is a ticking bomb of potential poverty.

Abbey People has been working in the ward since 2013 – we are a community organisation that has grown out of the community. Our food hub has been at the heart of the community response to Covid-19, helping 150 households a week to access food and other support.

In addition, we run community activities, gardening projects and regular youth clubs. Our trustees, staff team and volunteers all have strong connections to the area, and feel strongly about fighting the poverty and inequality in the area.

This pandemic has been a long haul, and it isn’t over yet. The start of the year is traditionally a quiet time for donations following the Christmas rush, while need is increasing exponentially in the area. Our work this year has grown in line with the pandemic but, like many community organisations, our income is by no means secure.

For many in the city, this pandemic hasn’t affected them financially. Some are even better off, as they are saving money on outings, holidays and commuting. This is why we are reaching out to people across Cambridge to consider regular giving to a local charity.

Nicky Shepherd, CEO of community charity Abbey People, outside The Hub on Barnwell Road. Picture: Keith Heppell
Nicky Shepherd, CEO of community charity Abbey People, outside The Hub on Barnwell Road. Picture: Keith Heppell

Smaller organisations like Abbey People have a huge impact on our local communities, and smaller overheads mean that every £1 donated goes a long way towards helping people. Plus, monthly giving means charities can budget and plan better, making the biggest impact from every gift.

If you do one thing to make a difference this month, please consider setting up a standing order to help fight inequality in our city. You can find out more about how to do this here.

Here are some other thoughts on how you can help.

Ask your employer to set up a matched ‘give as you earn’ programme. If your employer can double everything employees give, it will make a huge impact for charities – and payroll giving will reduce your tax bill too.

Consider setting up a charity fundraiser – perhaps your employer would consider matching this. Although many activities are off for a while due to Covid restrictions, people are still allowed out for exercise. A company or community-wide walking/running/biking challenge could get people moving, improve employee engagement and can raise some much-needed funds at the same time.

Make a good old-fashioned donation: unrestricted funds are hard to come by in the charity world – if you are able to make a donation (and ideally cover any fees) then the charity can use the funds to meet the greatest need right now. I don’t know a single charity that would turn down a donation right now.

Whatever you do, I hope you and yours keep safe and well.

Nicky Shepard is CEO of Abbey People, a community charity fighting poverty, hunger and loneliness while making Abbey a better place to live. Among other things, Abbey People runs a regular food hub and delivers food parcels to those in need in their community. Click here to find out more.



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