Why Knutsford?

Mention Knutsford and many people immediately associate the town with affluence. So it isn’t surprising that many people have asked us, ‘Why Knutsford?’ when we tell them about Knutsford Together.

Knutsford street photographThe truth lies in the fortunate convergence of many factors. David Briggs, in his time as Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire, became familiar with most of the county. His chairing of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Poverty Truth Commission was a pivotal experience when it came to understanding not only the key issues faced by those in poverty, but also the need for a different approach to improving the problems.

Meanwhile, in Frome, Somerset, people there were grappling with very similar core issues, albeit through the lens of a healthcare setting. Motivated by the need to improve population health and thereby reduce demand for costly hospital care, an inspirational GP had set up a scheme to make Mendip better connected, so that residents could be directed to the non-medical help they needed to better overcome big social issues such as loneliness and debt. Non-medical maybe, but these issues can manifest physical and psychological problems which, if dealt with earlier, can reduce the need for medical intervention later. They built on the social prescribing model.

Excited by the success of Frome’s ‘Compassionate Communities’ approach, David approached Sarah Flannery who had also heard of the Frome ‘solution’. Passionate about community engagement and the role of volunteering in supporting community life, Sarah’s involvement with most of the town’s local charities, organisations and community groups as a result of her involvement with Knutsford Hosts and Knutsford’s Heritage Open Days, combined with David’s extensive contacts, made them realise that they had a platform of potential partners.

Another big factor is that David and Sarah both live within the WA16 postcode. An in-depth knowledge of Knutsford made it the ideal location as a pilot for the ‘Compassionate Community ‘ approach. Plus the demographics and size of population were not too dissimilar from Knutsford.

The perception of affluence is an interesting one. In many respects, it can be a disadvantage – fewer national charities have a presence in Knutsford compared with, say, Crewe. The truth is that Knutsford is a town of contrasts and its affluence attracts more attention than the deprivation. Visually there is a distinction between the historic and picturesque town centre’s conservation area and the overspill housing developments (Longridge and Parkgate) built in the 60s to accommodate families from Manchester. In short, Knutsford has its fair share of problems but they are better hidden than most because of the external appearance of affluence. Most Knutsfordians are shocked when we tell them that Knutsford ranks just below the median in terms of average Cheshire towns. 42% of residents in Longridge are on Universal Credit. But it is very important to understand that some social problems such as loneliness are felt across all demographics and locations, and no-one is unaffected by the burgeoning rise in inflation and energy prices. Knutsford Together is needed right across the community, because a resilient community is a well-connected one.

The final factor in the ‘Why Knutsford?’ answer is that we had the active support and backing of Knutsford Medical Partnership, Cheshire East Council and Great Places Housing Group. As they say, timing is everything and the launch of Knutsford Together coincided with a wider appreciation amongst local policy makers and influencers that for best outcomes, services need to be delivered within a joined-up framework. That’s why Knutsford Together will be playing its part in initiatives such as the Care Communities Framework. Our ethos is simple: we are stronger, connected.

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