At this point in time, the UK has not fully entered a Covid-19 recovery phase and the consequences of Brexit are being worked through. It is important to acknowledge that some indicators and research show disruptions, due to Covid-19 especially, which makes planning at a time of uncertainty particularly challenging. We will review our analyses to ensure they reflect current and future trends as and when new or more reliable information becomes available.
Cohesive communities are attractive, safe, viable and well-connected communities.
Compared to other parts of the UK, both local authority areas have low rates of crime and anti-social behaviour, although in the case of Denbighshire there are pockets with higher rates within parts of Rhyl. For both local authority areas domestic violence remains a key challenge in relation to personal safety. Exploitation of individuals and groups, especially those that have experience adverse childhood experiences), is a common feature across the counties (priorities for policing include organised drug supply, child sexual abuse, modern slavery, domestic abuse, hate crime, missing persons, fraud (including cyber-crime), driving under the influence, and rape and serious sexual offences).
Ensuring communities are resilient in the face of extreme weather events, notably flooding and extreme heat, is a major challenge. As well as efforts to prevent and reduce environmental damage, adaptation to climate change is already a pressing issue. There is still more to do to make sure that there are healthy places for people, protected from environmental risk across the areas (see our summary on the ‘resilient’ well-being goal for information). People living in those areas described as experiencing concentrated deprivation are also communities at risk of flooding, they may also be more likely to experience fuel poverty, and are less likely to benefit from energy improvements. In short, they will be more likely to be affected by climate change than more affluent groups and communities, who tend to rely less on public services that could also be disrupted due to climate change.
Good quality, affordable housing can directly improve people’s well-being. Delivering affordable and high-quality new housing in the right locations, density and design creates opportunities for growing food, for outdoor play and learning, integration with existing services and infrastructure, proximity to public transport, green active travel routes, and access to biodiverse, high quality green and blue space and nature. Existing housing stock can be retrofitted to improve energy efficiency and reduce fuel poverty as well as being adaptable to meet changing needs of the household. Investing in energy efficient homes lowers energy use, reduces overall energy demand in the economy and makes individual households, and Wales, more resilient to fuel price fluctuations.
While the expansion in the house building programme has been meeting need local needs, there is a risk that continued growth could undermine environmental resilience and a sense of ‘place’ with a local identity.
Transport and digital connectivity are set to continue as barriers for some people for the long term. Over the next five to 10 years, those with fewer than 100 mbps could be considered ‘left behind’. Online safety and misinformation will be a concern for communities and services alike.
The demographic evidence we have gathered highlights some key considerations. Assuming the intention of sustaining balanced communities that meet the needs of all ages and promote good intergenerational relations; we need to consider the differing needs at different life stages.
The aging population, which is testament to people living longer – a positive trend – is expected to need support to retain their independence and allow access to services and prevent social isolation. Certain areas in both counties tend to have a higher proportion of older people, such as the “East” and “North” sub-areas of Conwy County Borough and Prestatyn in Denbighshire.
Outmigration of local young people is set to be a continuing trend. Economic and educational opportunities, along with affordable accommodation have been identified as key factors in retaining and attracting young people to the area.
Healthy and affordable housing
While cohesive communities are based around people, attitudes and opportunities to access quality accommodation is a necessary pre-requisite and a key factor in community and individual well-being.
A person’s physical environment, including access to green space, plays a key role; with poor health associated with homelessness, poor quality accommodation and fuel poverty. By the same token poverty, unemployment and personal safety, all affect a person’s physical and mental health.
Housing conditions affect people’s health and energy use. Eighteen percent of homes in Wales pose an unacceptable risk to health, and 12% of households are in fuel poverty. Damp and mouldy homes increase respiratory problems by between 30% and 50%, especially in children. Ensuring homes are energy efficient and rely less and less on fossil fuels will be a key issue for the next decade at least. The scale of the challenge for householders is great. Rising gas prices, inefficient housing stock, existing fuel poverty and particular challenges in rural areas, leaves some doubt as to the resilience of householders – of all tenures – in the future.
UK average house prices increased by around 14% in Denbighshire and 19% in Conwy County Borough. This is the highest annual growth rate the UK has seen since October 2014. It is early days, but the Covid-19 pandemic may have caused some house buyers to reassess their housing preferences.
We expect to continue to see a decrease in home ownership for people under 65. Older people are more likely to own their home outright. Younger people are more likely to be renting. Half of people in their mid-30s to mid-40s had a mortgage in 2017, compared with two-thirds 20 years earlier. People in their mid-30s to mid-40s are three times more likely to rent than 20 years ago. A third of this age group were renting from a private landlord in 2017, compared with fewer than 1 in 10 in 1997. At a UK level, there is an increase in UK households in the private rented sector.
Over the last two decades there has been a significant increase in the number of young people, aged 20 to 34 years, living with their parents, increasing from 2.4 million in 1999 to 3.6 million in 2020. This is equivalent to more than a quarter of young adults in this age group.
The context for homelessness prevention work has changed since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the ‘no-one left out’ approach resulting in over 12,400 people being supported into temporary accommodation across Wales since March 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic has therefore provided a much clearer picture of the scale of previously hidden homelessness in Wales, as well as the previously unmet support needs. This has led to increased investment from the Welsh Government, with over £185m invested in housing support and homelessness services – and a record £250m in social housing in 2021 alone. Demand for help with homelessness across the two areas has increased slightly whilst the overall amount of casework involved in preventative work has increased more significantly. We do not currently have any analyses about future trend.
Because the provision of social housing is now concentrated on providing homes for the most vulnerable individuals and families, it can often concentrate these groups in the same area. This can create neighbourhoods which are isolated from the community at large, increasing levels of social exclusion and the risk of antisocial behaviour. Research by Shelter draws a link between deprived neighbourhoods and reduced life chances, meaning that children who grow up in such areas can lack the resources, reasons, skills and confidence to move on.
For the replacement Local Development Plans, growth rates will be less than half of that in current Plans based on latest Welsh Government projections. The 2018-based projections predict household growth of 700 – 2,200 households over 15 years.
While the expansion in the house building programme has been meeting need local, there is a risk that continued growth could undermine environmental resilience and a sense of ‘place’ with a local identity.
The number of adults suspected of being at risk of abuse or neglect that were reported has increased for both areas from 286 in Conwy County Borough and 398 in Denbighshire between 2016 and 2017, to 552 in Conwy County Borough and 450 in Denbighshire between 2018 to 2019. The number of children on the child protection register has increased in both areas (from 35 in Conwy County Borough and 80 in Denbighshire in 2016 to 2017, to 70 and 90 in both counties respectively during 2018 to 2019), although recent information is not yet available. We do not yet have any analyses about how the Covid-19 pandemic, and pressures associated with the experience of lockdowns and economic turbulence, have impacted on the safeguarding of vulnerable children and adults. However, in its annual report (2020), the NSPCC noted that many of the risk factors associated with abuse and neglect have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, while the support services that would traditionally identify and respond to these concerns have been unable to see many of the children and families they work with face-to-face.
Since the mid-1990s, the Crime Survey for England and Wales has recorded long-term falls in overall crime estimates. The police recorded 5.7 million crimes in England and Wales in the 12-month period to year ending September 2020, a 6% decrease from the previous year. The annual decrease was driven by substantial falls during the April to June 2020 period. This reflects the increase in time people spent at home under national lockdown restrictions due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
We have seen an increase in the number of hate crimes across North Wales from 432 recorded crimes in 2015 to 1,113 in 2020 (and increase of 157.64% (or 681 recorded crimes). Between April 2020 and March 2021, there were 361 recorded crimes for Conwy and Denbighshire, up from 280 in the previous year (a 28.9% increase). These increases are consistent with the picture across England and Wales. There were 105,090 hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales in 2019 to 2020 (excluding Greater Manchester Police), an increase of 8% compared with the year ending March 2019. While increases over the last five years have been mainly driven by improvements in crime recording by the police, spikes in hate crime followed events such as the EU Referendum in 2016 and terrorist attacks in 2017. As in previous years, the majority of hate crimes were ‘race’ hate crimes, accounting for around three-quarters of offences (72%). The majority of hate crimes are public order or violence against the person offences.
The true scale and cost of modern slavery is unknown. The Centre for Social Justice believes there could be at least 100,000 victims in the UK, with the actual number likely to be even greater. Since 2017, the number of suspected victims identified and referred to the National Referral Mechanism has more than doubled. There were 10,627 referrals in 2019 compared to 5,145 referrals in 2017. The number of modern slavery crimes recorded by police forces in England and Wales in the year ending March 2017 was 2,306 compared to 5,144 modern slavery crimes recorded in the year ending March 2019 – a 123% increase.
Globally, cyber-crime has evolved and become more frequent. This is discussed in more detail below.
County Lines is where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority boundaries (although not exclusively), usually by children or vulnerable people who are coerced into it by gangs. The ‘County Line’ is the mobile phone line used to take the orders of drugs. Importing areas (areas where the drugs are taken to) are reporting increased levels of violence and weapons-related crimes as a result of this trend. Organised crime groups and County Lines cause misery and devastation to our communities. The number of hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of drug-related mental and behavioural disorders fell from 7,376 in 2018 to 2019 to 7,027 in 2019 to 2020. This has decreased by 18% from the previous highest recorded admissions in 2015 to 2016 (8,621). However, these admissions are still 21% higher than 10 years ago – in 2009 to 2010 they totalled 5,809. Drug-related hospital admissions are five times more likely in the most deprived areas. Whilst these admissions cannot all be attributed to organised crime or county lines, Conwy and Denbighshire is seeing a significant number of active organised crime groups and County Lines from outside of our area.
The “North” area of the Conwy County Borough has high crime rates compared to the rest of the Borugh and national averages, especially for violence against the person and theft/handling. The “Central” and “East” areas also has higher rates, especially for violence against the person, whereas crime rates are low in the “South” sub-area.
Rhyl West 1, Rhyl West 2 and Rhyl South West 2 are identified by the Wales Index of Multiple Deprivation as areas of ‘deep-rooted’ deprivation. Despite significant improvements in recent years Rhyl has relatively high levels of recorded crime and anti-social behaviour compared with other parts of Denbighshire and Conwy. Rhyl West and South West are among the 10% most deprived in terms of the WIMD community safety domain. This domain is intended to consider deprivation relating to living in a safe community. It covers actual experience of crime and fire, as well as perceptions of safety whilst out and about in the local area. The indicator data shows that police recorded criminal damage rates and violent crime rates in Rhyl West 2 are both the second highest in Wales. Burglary rates in Rhyl West 1 are the 6th highest in Wales. The Department for Education has noted the links between economic deprivation, poverty and abuse:
“Of particular note in this analysis were indicators of poverty or economic deprivation as feature of the case. The detailed examination of neglect cases revealed the complex ways in which the links between domestic abuse, substance misuse and poverty are 17 often inter-dependent, so that addressing a single issue does not deal with the underlying causes or other issues present. Complexity and cumulative harm was almost invariably a feature of families where children experience neglect.”
North Wales Police, in its strategic assessment (2020), identified that exploitation of individuals and groups is a common feature across its priority areas, which include organised drug supply, child sexual abuse, modern slavery, domestic abuse, hate crime, missing persons, fraud (including cyber-crime), driving under the influence, and rape and serious sexual offences. When examining pathways into serious organised crime, North Wales Police identified that individuals involved in SOC would often be raised in households experiencing on average four adverse childhood experiences, and likely to have experienced parental separation and witnessed domestic violence in their childhood. It was also found to be likely that those individuals’ first introduction to Police and other agencies was due to the possibility of child neglect and abuse.
Resilience to climate change
Cohesive communities are also sustainable and resilient, making flood defence, climate change adaptation and carbon emissions key challenges under this goal. As well as efforts to prevent and reduce environmental damage, adaptation to climate change is already a pressing issue. There is still more to do to make sure that there are healthy places for people, protected from environmental risk across the areas. Ensuring communities are resilient in the face of extreme weather events, notably flooding and extreme heat, is a major challenge. Sea level is expected to rise by 1.1 metre over the next century, and every year floods cost around £200 million to the Welsh economy. Some of the communities most at risk of being affected by flooding are also likely to experience other challenges to their well-being over the next decade or so (see our summary on the ‘More equal’ well-being goal for more information). This is particularly the case in more deprived communities where we can see stark differences in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy between communities.
Transport connectivity continues to be a big issue for people living or working in the two counties. Road capacity, a lack of integrated public transport provision particularly for peripheral and rural communities and an active travel network remain challenging. The environmental impacts of transport, including air quality, impact of flooding and extreme weather events on transport infrastructure and carbon emissions will continue to feature in the longer term and are a key factor in community well-being and people’s enjoyment of their local area.
Concerted efforts are underway to decarbonise our transport infrastructure, but challenges remain for those without access to their own personal vehicle, which in turn can affect their personal economic and subjective well-being and ability to get to work, education or leisure opportunities. For those without access to a private vehicle, transport challenges will persist over the long term. Developments in the provision of electric vehicles and charging provision are likely to come to fruition sooner in more urban and coastal areas. Access to affordable electric vehicles will be a barrier for those on low incomes (see our summary on the ‘More equal’ well-being goal for more information), and it is likely that those most at risk of socio-economic disadvantage will only have access to increasingly inefficient and penalised petrol/diesel vehicles or older, less effective electric vehicles. Sustainable development thinking here will be critical to preventing problems from occurring for future road users.
Active travel offers serious health and environmental well-being benefits. In order to achieve long term sustainable changes to travel habits, the culture change needed to achieve modal shift (a shift to active travel for short journeys and public transport for longer journeys), might be best focussed on children and young people.
There continues to be geographical ‘not-spots’ throughout the area and improvements to infrastructure in these areas are likely to be slow to come to fruition. There are also many low income families who are unable to afford subscriptions to broadband services. Mobile data can be expensive; unaffordable for those in poverty or at risk of socio-economic exclusion (see our summary on the ‘prosperous’ well-being goal for more information). What is more, while more disabled and older people are using the internet, some groups may continue to face digital exclusion barriers. Finally, whereas – up until now – we have been focused on superfast broadband speeds of 30 mbps or more, over the next five to 10 years, those with fewer than 100 mbps could be considered ‘left behind’.
Online safety and misinformation
As well as the social and economic opportunities offered by digital technologies, there are some negative aspects around online safety which are increasingly causing concern, and which public authorities, providers of technology and society as a whole are still developing means of dealing with. These include controlling access to inappropriate content for children and young people, on-line grooming (including radicalisation), cyber-bullying, trolling and online fraud/identity theft.
Online fraud and identity theft are also particular areas of concern. Though these are new twists on longstanding criminal activity, as with cyberbullying the growth on new technology means that these forms of abuse are now potentially everywhere, all the time.
In recent times, misinformation, or ‘fake news’, and social media have presented serious challenges to governments, businesses and people themselves. Examples include anti-vax campaigns, electoral tampering, ‘Covid is a hoax’ campaigns. Fake news is designed to undermine trust and confidence in democracy and public institutions. The World Health Organisation has started to refer to this as an ‘infodemic’, where there is “too much information including false or misleading information in digital and physical environments during a disease outbreak.” In relation to the Covid-19 pandemic, the WHO has developed guidelines to ensure successful ‘infodemic management’, which involves ensuring consistent and factual information is disseminated appropriately. We do not currently have evidence to fully understand to what extent misinformation is causing people anxiety, or affecting Covid-19 vaccine uptake for example.
Personal data management has become, and is likely to continue to be, more sensitive. People will seek credible, reliable and transparent information and immediacy will be highly valued. Public services will seek to find more, new and better ways to offer their services virtually.
Human health depends on ecosystem services that include food and fresh water; regulation of climate, floods and disease; opportunities for physical activity; for living, learning, working and playing and for aesthetic and cultural enrichment. Living or working in a poor local environment is not just unsightly (for example due to litter, dog fouling, fly-tipping, graffiti and even poor air quality), it can have an impact on physical and mental health. It may also impact how much investment an area attracts, levels of antisocial behaviour and can even impact on local democracy.
Access to, and engagement with, this natural environment is associated with positive health outcomes, including improved physical and mental health, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions (see our ‘healthy lifestyles choices’ topic for more information). Access to recreational infrastructure, such as parks and playgrounds, has been found to be associated with reduced risk of obesity among adolescents and increased physical activity levels. Similarly, park improvements can increase visits /use and physical activity levels of children and older people. Living near and using green spaces, can improve health, regardless of social class. Access to GI can increase social participation among older adults.
Connecting communities with their local amenities and beaches, especially in those areas considered to have poor environment can improve well-being and raise awareness of those to support a resilient environment.
What people have told us
People have told us they take community safety seriously and would like to see an increased police presence on foot throughout local communities, although many have praised their local areas as relatively crime free.
From our engagement with seldom heard groups, they expressed the importance of building trust and continuity within communities. They told us there is a need to celebrate and raise awareness of the things we have in common as a range of diverse communities. They highlighted the need for collaborative work to the address the reality that hatred is based on misconceptions and ignorance.
Housing support for young people was discussed at length by people; some of whom feel that rental accommodation is becoming unaffordable. They want to see improved access to good quality affordable housing, including social housing. Redevelopment of empty properties, including repurposing spaces that are no longer used (e.g. office space, dwellings above shops), in place of building new homes could be an opportunity. This could also mitigate people’s concerns that the space between towns and villages is reducing as new housing developments are built, as well as taking a cautious approach to building on green spaces by looking at other alternatives. Homelessness is seen as a factor in deprivation and so too housing quality. Poor housing has been highlighted by people as having a causal relationship with lower life expectancy.
The need to support healthy lifestyles was raised as a concern for people locally, particularly in respect of tackling obesity, through increased leisure opportunities, partnership working and by building on our active travel network. Active travel has been high on the agenda for the public as they want to see increased walking paths and cycling routes to neighbouring villages and towns. Concerns about the availability and sustainability of public transport have been raised in engagement work with the public and officers from across public services in each county. This feedback came particularly from young people and those describing themselves as ‘working class’.
People have told us how they value access to the natural environment, that is safe and clean. There have been concerns around litter issues throughout the counties.
Wales’ Programme for Government consists of almost 100 specific areas of activity. Among its ten well-being objectives are commitments to:
- Continue our long-term programme of education reform, and ensure educational inequalities narrow and standards rise. Protect, re-build and develop our services for vulnerable people.
- Make our cities, towns and villages even better places in which to live and work. Embed our response to the climate and nature emergency in everything we do.
- Work towards our new target of 45% of journeys by sustainable modes by 2040, setting more stretching goals where possible.
- Expand arrangements to create or significantly enhance green spaces.
- Support innovative housing development to meet care needs.
- Launch a new 10-year Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan for a zero-carbon economy.
- Create a Welsh language Communities Housing Plan.
- Build 20,000 new low carbon social homes for rent.
- Fundamentally reform homelessness services to focus on prevention and rapid rehousing.
- Support cooperative housing, community-led initiatives, and community land trusts.
- Decarbonise more homes through retrofit, delivering quality jobs, training and innovation using local supply chains.
Opportunities for targeted interventions
- The 20 minute neighbourhood concept is about designing an urban society in such a way that residents can meet most of their daily needs within a short walk from home. Safe cycling and local transport options are key to this, as well as high quality public spaces, community services and housing densities that make the provision of local services and transport viable. The 20 minute neighbourhood was pioneered in Melbourne, Australia as a way of guiding the city’s development and transformation to 2050. In order to achieve long term sustainable changes to travel habits – to secure a green economy – the culture change needed to achieve modal shift (a shift to active travel for short journeys and public transport for longer journeys), might be best focussed on children and young people.
- Targeting issues associated with organised crime groups and county lines needs support from across communities and partner agencies.
- We have learnt that we can do things differently and we must build on the innovation and change that has benefitted us during the pandemic. There is also wider learning associated with the changes that responses to Covid-19 brought about. For example, digital health services or changes in support for homeless people, a pivot to online working etc.
- Given the known impacts of Covid-19 (inequality has been exacerbated, poverty and isolation has increased for some), it is possible there could be long term consequences in terms of more families experiencing domestic abuse. Given the links with adverse childhood experiences, there could be a risk more children and young people could be at risk of exploitation by organised crime. This is identified as a knowledge gap but could be an area warranting some targeted partnership intervention.
Key questions and areas for further research:
There are a range of gaps and deficiencies here. Information about these gaps will be added following a full review of this draft for consultation. Known gaps at this stage include:
- We do not yet have any analyses about how the Covid-19 pandemic, and pressures associated with the experience of lockdowns and economic turbulence, have impacted on the safeguarding of vulnerable children and adults.
- Health impacting behaviours (such as alcohol use) that lead to poorer well-being outcomes and can lead to safeguarding concerns or crime could be an area worth exploring in more detail.
- Housing (and climate change resilience and adaptation), homelessness and pressures on social housing.
- The role and influence of misinformation (fake news) and its impact on our ability to fulfil our wider public health and civic objectives, is not yet clear.
- We are not sure currently how we can balance opportunities posed by online services, which can remove travel barriers for instance and produce cost savings for services, with the challenges around the quality of the service from the user’s perspective. How big an issue is this?
- Detailed information about recorded hate crimes.
- A significant data gap exists for carers at risk of domestic abuse.
- Given the known impacts of Covid-19 (inequality has been exacerbated, poverty and isolation has increased for some), will there be long term consequences in terms of more families experiencing domestic abuse? Given the links with adverse childhood experiences, is there a risk more children and young people will be exploited by organised crime?
 Public Health Wales, 2019
 Chapter 5, Social Housing and Spatial Segregation, The Future of Social Housing, Shelter, 2008.
 Adults suspected of being at risk by local authority and measure – https://statswales.gov.wales/Catalogue/Health-and-Social-Care/Social-Services/Adult-Services/Adult-Safeguarding/adultssuspectedofbeingatrisk-by-localauthority-measure
 NSPCC (2020). How safe are our children? 2020 An overview of data on abuse of adolescents. https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/media/2287/how-safe-are-our-children-2020.pdf
 North Wales Police.
 Denbighshire County Council (2020). Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation 2019: Results for Rhyl. Un-published report.
 Department for Education (2020). Complexity and challenge: a triennial analysis of SCRs 2014-2017 Final report https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/869586/TRIENNIAL_SCR_REPORT_2014_to_2017.pdf
 North Wales Police Strategic Assessment 2020 – restricted document.
 It is important to note that active travel is the term used to describe walking and cycling for ‘purposeful journeys’. Cycling or walking, within three miles, to a place of work, education, retail, leisure and so on, where it displaces private vehicle journeys, is considered to be ‘active travel’.
 https://www.who.int/health-topics/infodemic#tab=tab_1. Accessed 26 July 2020