Updated: Jul 9, 2020
1. The objective of this research report is to identify the needs of Totton, and how one of the parishes in the Church of England, Totton Team Ministry, can help meet those needs. This report does not treat the church as a spiritual body, but as a social organisation. It is therefore not intended to comment on any of the beliefs that the church operates under, unless it is relevant to meeting the physical, mental, and social needs of the community the church serves.
2. St Winfrid’s Church, located on the main Southampton to Salisbury Road, in the town and parish of Totton, serves a population of approximately 30,000 people with 3 other churches within the town.
3. Based upon the 2011 Census data, Totton is a family orientated community (67% of households contained some element of a family unit), that encountered rapid growth in the 1980s. This has resulted in a larger elderly population, who are encountering health and long-term mobility issues related to age. Whilst most of the population remain white, the ethnicity of the population is changing together with its religious beliefs, but firmly remains British. The housing stock within the town is largely owned, whether outright or through a mortgage, with currently only 9.8% of the housing stock being social housing.
1.2 The Initial Project
4. The primary purpose of the proposals put forward by St Winfrid’s was to have a church that was fit for purpose, but maintain the unique architecture created by Nugent Cachemialle-Day. At the same time, it was felt by the church membership that the building should be available to the community, to help address the issues of unemployment and social isolation.
5. The initial idea was to develop a music hub, with the main part of the church becoming an auditorium, like Union Chapel in London, creating an income stream for future projects.
6. The development and completion of the project was founded upon three key assumptions, a continuing income stream, the ability of the completed project to become a leading music venue overnight, and being able to complete both the repairs to the building and its development at the same time.
7. In addition, the organisational structure of the parish was not appropriate for adopting what was effectively a business. Similarly, the organisational structure of the project team was not appropriate for developing a business, and as a result the project was ultimately not deliverable.
8. However, what has subsequently transpired through the Coronavirus pandemic, is that if the project team had delivered a music venue in the time scale planned, the business would have collapsed due to the income stream ceasing overnight.
1.3 Identifying the Needs of Totton
9. Through analysis of the 2019 Index of Multiple Deprivation, and the underlying statistics, three aspects of poverty, income, education and crime, were identified as issues being faced by Totton, even though the overall ranking for each of the areas of Totton suggested that such issues did not exist.
10. Regarding income, the Index was based upon the number of people claiming income related benefits, which stood at 2,451. Whilst not exclusively, the largest proportion of the benefit claimants were centred on those areas of the town which had the highest proportion of social housing.
11. The effect of this was that a larger proportion of children were being affected, which was reflected in the number of children receiving free school meals, 554 in 2018/19.
12. However, the way in which poverty is constructed, there are many more families that do not bring in the minimum level of income deemed to be necessary to meet the essential needs of that family, and as a result, many more children are being affected by low incomes and not being identified through the official statistics.
13. It is widely accepted that poverty influences the ability of children to learn, and this is reflected in the statistics supporting the education element of the index, which also centred on those areas of high social housing.
14. Breaking the education domain down into its constituent parts, the problems faced by young people regarding their education appears to be from secondary school upwards, although not exclusively.
15. The statistics produced by both secondary schools within the town indicate that a significant minority of pupils leave secondary school without the minimum level grades (grade 4 GCSE) in English and Maths.
16. With the number of children in year 11, having Special Educational Needs, being low within each school, their only two possible explanations for these results. The first is obviously poverty. The other is related to the policies and practices of the schools, especially when their finances have been curtailed due to the government policy of austerity.
17. The educational element of the index was also being influenced by the low number of young people continuing onto higher education, which may in part be due to young people not wishing to incur debt or the need for families to increase the level of income coming into the household.
18. The link between poverty and crime is also recognised, especially regarding violence. The index, together with the underlying crime figures, indicate that violence and sexual assault have increased significantly, especially on the Calmore Estate. With no public outcry being evident, it is reasonable to assume that the increase in this type of crime is related to domestic violence.
1.4 Proposed Solutions
1.4.1 Poverty and Social Mobility
19. If poverty is at the core of the needs of Totton, then it is important to understand what poverty is or what it represents.
20. Poverty is simply a measurement of the level of inequality within a society, between those who are wealthy and can obtain anything they want, and those who are poor and have difficulty in obtaining the basics that society deems necessary.
21. Whatever the method of determining the level of poverty, the inequality caused by it is due to the power exercised by those in a position of authority or wealth over the scarce resources of work, food, and education.
22. The recognised method of escaping poverty is through the process of social mobility. Social mobility can be defined as ‘an opportunity structure’ which ‘promotes social mobility if it allows people to escape poverty while limiting the degree to which those who grow up in privileged homes get advantages throughout their lives.’ (Beller & Hout, 2006).
23. At the nucleus of social mobility is education, but this can be restricted by immensely powerful influences from both the family, more specifically the father, and the local neighbourhood. An example of this could be found in the Welsh mining towns and villages, where sons were expected to follow their fathers into the mines, and any other type of career was frowned upon.
24. The example given also highlights the issue over the well structured and well entrenched class system, that to a greater or lesser extent continues to dominate society today and is very difficult to break out of, especially when, because of the lack of income or working in a low paid job, there is the need to live in a large social housing estate where there is a stigma attached to it.
25. Social mobility also requires anyone who is ‘upwardly mobile’ to replace someone who is ‘downwardly mobile’ for whatever reason. Therefore, by implication, the person coming down will attempt to prevent the person going up from succeeding.
26. It must be recognised that the church, as well as being a spiritual organisation, is an important social organisation, and has an important role to play in how society operates. That role is even more important during and following the current Coronavirus pandemic.
27. What the church, including St Winfrid’s, has been exceptionally good at, is giving an appearance of stability in a crisis. What St Winfrid’s, as well as the church generally, needs to do is extend that stability to helping those in crisis, especially with those having lost their jobs, to move forward. This will require either associating with other charities or other organisations to assist in helping those in need or encouraging experts in their field to join the church and provide that support within the church itself.
28. One of Totton’s needs identified within the Index for Multiple Deprivation was education. The Index suggested that the problem, which was focused on areas where there was a high proportion of social housing, lay within the secondary schools of the town and the lack of students progressing onto University.
29. The underlying statistics suggested that some of the problems may be due to the focus of attention being on trying to reduce the gap between children from poorer backgrounds and those from wealthier backgrounds. The statistics and data suggest that this is not working because a significant number of pupils leave school without an adequate qualification in English and Maths. This would suggest that social issues may be responsible.
30. At the centre of St Winfrid’s approach to dealing with the issues surrounding education should be music. The music that we have today in church would not exist if it were not for the vicar of Eling, John Pinhorne, teaching Isaac Watts in the 17th century.
31. It is recognised that music is important in helping young people to learn. Therefore, utilising the history of the parish and the design of the church building, the church can help the young people of Totton develop by allowing them the space to learn and explore music.
32. However, the church can go further. A casualty of the 2008/9 economic crisis were the evening classes/night schools that were operated by colleges and schools around the country. These enabled adults, and those having left the school system, to gain experience and qualifications they did not have.
33. Throughout the recent Coronavirus pandemic, greater emphasis has been placed on parents to teach their children. The problem parents have faced, apart from being able to motivate their children, is understanding what the children are learning. Therefore, providing further education for adults would not only help them with their children’s learning, but also assist in obtaining work or a better income.
34. Dealing with the individual educational needs of Totton is important, however, it does not address the underlying causes. It would be all too easy to recommend that St Winfrid’s works with the schools to improve the education of the town’s children. What this report is recommending is that St Winfrid’s holds not only the schools to account, challenging them when required, praising them when needed, but also the politicians and businesses, to address the social needs of the town.
35. The Index of Multiple Deprivation also revealed that the level of income in those areas where social housing was concentrated was also an issue. However, identifying who is struggling financially is problematic because it is not just limited to those who are receiving benefits. The proposal this report is making is that church members resort to the past practice of being a nosey neighbour, getting to know the ins and outs of their local neighbourhood, and dealing with any issues that arise on a personal level.
36. The final key area where the Index for Multiple Deprivation highlighted issues was crime, where at least one area of Totton was shown to have an issue with what appears to be domestic violence.
37. The role of Street Pastors within our towns and cities on a Friday and Saturday night, has been invaluable to the police and the night economy, in being able to protect the vulnerable and defuse situations.
38. This report is recommending that the role of Street Pastors be extended, with the training and co-operation of the police, to cover crimes committed within the town, not only to potentially defuse incidents, but identify and provide assistance to vulnerable individuals and families.
39. All the proposed solutions require experienced, well trained, and well financed members of the church. Yet, as has been shown through the Coronavirus pandemic, reliance on funding, especially when it stops overnight, means that under the current model used by many organisations many projects are at risk of failure and closure.
40. What this report is recommending is that a request is made to the whole world, that experts in their own particular field of dealing with society’s issues, come and live within the parish, obtain work within the local, regional or national economy, and in their own time teach and assist the parish in transforming Totton.
41. There will be no quick fixes for the new team coming to St Winfrid Church. They will have to support the members who have remained and at the same time reach out to a community that will be broken. But if the right action is taken then the results could be a transformed town.
42. Central to any solution must be prayer. This is not the type of report which can or will delve into the theological importance of prayer, but, and this may sound cynical, if the Church believes in a God that can do anything, then it seems logical to call on that help.