New £500k scheme to make Leigh Park healthier and wealthier

Wednesday, 3 November, 2021

Almost £500,000 is to be invested in a scheme to help young people in Leigh Park into work and improve their long-term health and wellbeing.

The money, awarded by independent charity Health Foundation to Havant Borough Council, will be used to help residents aged between 16-24-years-old into education, training, apprenticeships and employment.

Havant Borough Council will work with doctors, community groups, schools, colleges and businesses in Leigh Park.

The University of Portsmouth will also work alongside the council as it studies the links between economic prosperity and improved health.

Cllr Alex Rennie, Leader of Havant Borough Council, said: "This is a huge sum of money that will deliver many tangible benefits to the people of Leigh Park and give the local economy a timely and lasting boost.

"The project will also further our understanding of the correlation between economic strength and healthy lifestyles.

"The improvements in training and employment opportunities brought will lead to a healthier community overall. It will benefit our residents now and in the future.

"Being in meaningful work with fair pay and opportunities for progression has a positive effect on health, creates social connections and lifts people out of poverty.”

The project is part of a £2.1 million scheme called Economies for Healthier Lives, which will explore how local economies can improve health inequalities around the country. The programme sites are spread across the UK in diverse settings, from coastal communities to urbanised areas in cities and city regions.

In Havant Borough the £473,000 award will help young people get good local jobs. It will help encourage them to stay in education or guide them back into training and work, and it will work with local employers and Havant and South Downs College to offer training, apprenticeships and mentoring opportunities.

The scheme is the first part of a bigger plan to regenerate Leigh Park and capitalise on the employment opportunities created by Dunsbury Park, which could generate up to 3,000 jobs.

Cllr Tim Pike, Cabinet Lead for Finance, Regeneration and Estates, said: “This is a first step in our Regeneration Strategy for Leigh Park and the wider borough. It will create a smooth path, from education, through training and into employment, so young people can learn the skills local employers need so they can find fulfilling, higher-wage work.

“There are already a lot of community groups and services working with young people in Leigh Park. By working with these groups, we will make sure that all young people will be able to benefit from this programme.”

Employability specialist Dr Julie Udell, project lead from the University of Portsmouth, has a wealth of experience in face-to-face research with a wide range of people, from young people to those with dementia.

She said: "I was the first in my family to go to university and have a lifelong passion for employability and helping and inspiring employers and young people to find win-win solutions which benefit both.

"It has been great to be involved on this project from the start. It's very valuable to us, as a university, to better understand the barriers young people on our own doorstep might be facing and to work with employers, charities and other organisations to find new ways of opening doors to young people.

"Employability is much more than a job; it's my passion. My own work will benefit too, because I'll have the chance to learn from more local organisations and employers what their needs or problems are."

Havant and South Downs College (HSDC) will have a major role in helping young people remain in education.

Aaron Butson, Assistant Principal Business, Employment and Skills, at Havant and South Downs College, said: “At HSDC we are committed to working in our community and transforming lives through education.

“We are delighted to be a key partner on this project as the funding will enable us to work more closely with the main stakeholders from the Leigh Park community, helping us to better engage with young people who are at risk of leaving or not attending Further Education.

“HSDC will be able to direct dedicated resources into the community, including working with employers to enhance the opportunities available to young people.”

Sharlene McGee, Policy Manager at the Health Foundation, said: “As we seek to rebuild the economy post-pandemic and ‘level up’ UK regions, there is an opportunity to create more inclusive economies geared towards reducing inequalities and improving health.

“These innovative projects will show how joint action across economies and health can help our communities to thrive. Economies for Healthier Lives will provide valuable evidence for local authorities and central government, to help inform how local areas across the UK can take steps to ‘level up’ their health and economies.”