'You walk through the town centre at 8am and people are drinking, it didn't used to be like this'

Sam and Stuart say there are resources available to help families in the town
-Credit: (Image: Jason Roberts)

The figures make for uncomfortable reading. But in one corner of Burnley, for the most part, they don't come as a surprise. In Lancashire, lots of the towns and cities are known for their community-spirit and sense of togetherness, through good times and bad.

As the cost of living crisis reaches every aspect of people's lives, families, groups of people and neighbourhoods are struggling with paying bills, putting food on the table and affording the cost of everyday life. Whilst this is a known fact for many, looking at statistics creates a clear and rather bleak picture.

Using government-released data, the neighbourhoods in Lancashire with the highest rates of child poverty have been revealed. At the top, with 67% sits the ward of Central Burnley and Daneshouse, an area encompassing Burnley's town centre with a population of around 73,021.

Although these high statistics make for grim reading, do the residents really think it's the town's reality? We visited the area and spoke with locals and business owners to understand it's make-up and whether they'd agree with the numbers.

Couple Sam and Stuart have lived in Burnley their whole lives and says where they live around 15 minutes away, there's a real sense of community. "I think in areas, we're in a Council estate so that's classed as low-poverty," Sam told LancsLive.

"But there are things around, there's a centre you can access." Sam added: "There are food banks around and around the corner from where I live, they do something where you pay £5 and you can do three shops. You can get so many items for £5, if you want anything else it's a couple of quid more.

"Schools help a lot of people these days, in the holidays they'll send home packed lunches and things like that. Schools now, with parents on benefits and things, the government give I think it's £15 per child to cover the holidays and things."

Sam says issues may also come down to the "ignorance in adults." She explained: "In regards to financial, where does the rest go?

"Does it go on the gas and electric? That can be a hard thing, not so much at the minute in summer but in the winter. To heat or eat and that's a big thing."

'Burnley wasn't like this a few years ago'

As the country prepares for the upcoming General Election on July 4, Burnley awaits the news of who will be the town's new MP. Although Parliament dissolved on May 30 meaning there are no MPs in the House of Commons, the representative for the area was Conservative candidate Antony Higginbotham after his election in 2019.

A 62-year-old resident who did not wish to be named, said over the past five years a number of shops have shut in the town centre and it's "not a nice place to live". She added: "They're opening more pound shops than anything and we don't need anymore.

"Everywhere you look, one shuts and another one opens. All the main shops are going.

Claire moved to Burnley from Yorkshire and works as a psychologist in the town. She says she sees a lot of people who are living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet, which affects adults as well as children.

"We walk the dogs sometimes in the early morning," Claire explained. "You can walk through the town centre and sometimes people are drinking from 8am.

"You don't really want your kids seeing that. Obviously I work in that sort of industry but a few years ago, I don't think Burnley was quite like that. I think there needs to be more provision for all people, not just kids."

Although Claire admits funding isn't easy to come by for particular bodies, she thinks problems could be dealt with in other ways. She added: "Even setting workshops and trying to get people to help themselves.

"The idea of my job is to give coping strategies to people, why can't the government and the council give people in these sorts of areas that are struggling, teach them new skills? This could be gardening, get them to build new things and learn new skills."

'I'm not a big fan of living around here'

Shannon, 26, has lived in Burnley her whole life, but says her family have moved down South, saying "that's how bad of a place it is."

She added: "I'm not a big fan of living around here, it's not where I want to be for the rest of my life. Teenagers make it quite hard around here."

Shannon says part of the problem is there isn't a lot to do in the area, particularly for children. "I think even when there is stuff to do, it's really expensive," she explained.

"I've got four children myself. Trying to get your kids to go on a day out, it's costing me £70 to take them on the play areas, it's a bit extortionate."

Talking about poverty, Shannon says it might "sound bad" but she believes a lot of the situations are "self-inflicted." She said: "I think a lot of it is played on, the fact that people don't work and they don't go out and live life, staying at home.

"Whereas, if you went out and got a job, you'd feel better about yourself and your kids would feel better because you'd have more money and whatever else. Then you're bringing up your children to have that work ethic as well aren't you?"

Mum Natasha also agrees with this sentiment, but states play areas for children are shutting down and are few and far between in Burnley. "There's a couple closing down and they're like the main ones in Burnley," Natasha said.

"Not far from here - Queen Victoria and the Wacky Warehouse, they're closing down so there won't be much for kids to do." Talking about the problems with children not having much to do, Natasha also reflected on older children and teenagers roaming the streets.

She said: "All the things going on at the minute, kids running around town and causing a nuisance. You do hear about people walking around with knives and stuff, it's a bit scary."

'Why would you want to come here?'

Business owner Chantelle lives in the central Burnley area and says there isn't enough activities or amenities for kids. "Me and my partner, we were going to go for a building a few doors down for the shop," Chantelle told LancsLive.

"In the basement, we were going to do stuff for kids. You've got Pioneer and I know they're building a youth centre across the road, but apart from that I don't know of anything else."

Further down the road in the main shopping thoroughfare, another business owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, says the poverty statistics have shocked him, but he has been dealing with a number of issues in the town himself. He says people come to the town centre for a "shopping experience," but are put off by trouble-makers in the centre and anti-social behaviour.

"Burnley have been in the Premier League and we're attracting people from Chelsea," the business owner told LancsLive. "There's different genres of wealth coming in to the town centre.

"But you've got your usual drug addicts with no teeth, begging and drinking and pretending they can't work. Why would you want to come here?"

Although he agrees with some of the ideas that poverty has plagued the town, the business owner states the town has got a "bit of a bad rep." He added: "I've been here for eight years and I'm battling on.

"It's just that nobody seems to give a toss. There's all sorts of wealth - people have got million pound houses only 200 yards away. Then you go 500 yards that way, you can't give them away. No one wants to be there."