article date May 2020
You might think that the District of Lewes was one of the more pleasant places to ride out Covid-19, but some statistics suggest that you might be wrong.
Who we are
There are around 100,000 of us in the district
25% of us are over 65.
At the last count 5% of us needed disability living allowance, a payment made only to people under pension age who need help with daily living.
7841 people say that they are not in good health.
Not all of those people will need to lock themselves away, but a substantial proportion will. When it is suggested that we should “return to normal” think of those people. We have a long tradition of hiding people away and forgetting them.
A high proportion of our population is likely to miss out on vital treatment for other conditions because of the virus.
Care home residents
Just over a thousand people live in care homes in the district. Your author has not seen any reports about how they are doing. Maybe we don’t like to ask.
We know that poor people are more vulnerable.
Even though the median income is £30,400 a year there are big gaps between rich and poor Newhaven Valley Ward is in the top 20% of deprived wards in the country, while Peachaven North and Lewes Castle is in the top 25%, even though Castle has affluent parts.
There are three foodbanks in Lewes Town alone.
Insecure incomes and high housing costs
3% of our workers are on zero hours contracts and it seems that this figure does not include those who are allegedly self-employed.
Even those with permanent jobs are at risk of course. We do not know how many people who are furloughed at the moment have, in fact, lost their jobs, but with 10.3% of our workforce in the retail sector and 8.3% in hospitality, sectors that have been hard hit, the number is likely to be substantial.
Things are made worse by the fact that we are in a high cost housing area. The statistics say that Kingston near Lewes is one of the hardest places to find a home in the country taking into account local incomes. Lewes town is not far behind and even less expensive areas are unaffordable for many. If you look at the median income (above) even people with that sort of wage would struggle to get a mortgage.
With rising unemployment many people will struggle to pay their housing costs.
7% of households in the district rent in the private rented sector. Benefits will not meet most rents and landlords in the sector are not known to be forgiving.
If you are at risk of losing your income you are more likely to be forced back to work even if your employer has not set up arrangements for social distancing, or you have a vulnerable person in your home. We have not seen any government action to deal with this.
Front line jobs
More people work in health (14.5% of jobs) than any other sector. 8.9% work in education. These are the jobs in the front line. Those working in schools face the risk of catching Covid, whilst those in higher education risk being laid off.
About 13% of us are aged 16-29. This age group is more likely to become unemployed. The under 35s constitute half of people working in the gig economy.
Even those with qualifications are at risk. Even in 2015 in Sussex there were 75 applications per graduate job.
Young people not living with their parents are more likely to be in insecure housing.
25% of us live in rural areas.
At the last count 20% of housholds in our district had no access to a car. Rural areas are fast becoming no-go areas for people without cars, but in Ditchling and Westmeston 10% did not have car access. In some urban areas the figure rises to 30%
Bear in mind that there are currently no bus services to most rural areas. Also that Micheal Gove is telling us to do all of our shopping in one weekly go. Just how do you do that without a car?
Lewes District Council
As a small council Lewes District Council cannot afford to lose large amounts of money. It has already been savaged by government cuts. But its income from council tax is falling fast while it is having to provide many more services. There does not seem to be much chance of significant government support.
It is not looking good for quite a few of us. If you are in a more fortunate position remember that.
The figures in this article are taken from:
East Sussex in figures
The figures used are the latest available, but may not be for this year.
UPDATE AUGUST 2020
Although Covid figures in Sussex are still low, Lewes district currently has the second highest rate in Sussex