Cambridgeshire is a beautiful county, combining large areas of rural landscape with the major urban centres of Peterborough and Cambridge. It is famous for its University and the Cambridgeshire Fens. The incredible boom in local businesses, especially high-tech, has brought prosperity and opportunity to some areas. However, this success is not universal and many communities in the county face challenges of inequality and disadvantage, with Cambridge regularly topping the league as the UK’s most unequal city.

Vital Signs

Understanding needs and issues in a community is the first step to being able to solve them. That is why we invest in research to keep abreast of current issues in Cambridgeshire.

Our Vital Signs report looks at key social themes across the county and considers how well it is performing in relation to the rest of the UK.

Read our latest Vital Signs report

Inequality and disadvantages

The gap between the wealthier and the more deprived districts has widened in the last decade. In the cities of Cambridge and Peterborough, there are significant inequalities relating to income, education, and health between the most and least deprived wards.

In Cambridge, there is a 12 year difference in life expectancy between the most and least deprived people.

Education and learning

The county is below the national average in indicators of early years development and school engagement.

Poor outcomes for children eligible for free school meals reflect the impact of deprivation on education and later life prospects.

Supported projects tackling these issues

Physical and mental health and wellbeing

Fenland and Peterborough have higher rates of preventable mortality and lower life expectancy than other areas of Cambridgeshire and the country. These higher rates can be linked to deprivation, including fuel poverty and low income.

Housing and homelessness

Housing affordability and quality are major concerns across the county. Even the cheapest homes in Cambridge are out of reach for low-income earners, reducing social mobility.

Strong communities

Around a third of people in Cambridgeshire don’t feel connected to their community. Inequality, deprivation and poor integration can all be attributed to reduced bonds between people, places, and systems.

Local economy and employment

Cambridgeshire’s local economy has been growing in all districts. Cambridge has reaped success through knowledge creation, the tech industries, and biosciences, whilst Fenland boasts a rich agricultural sector. The benefits of growth, however, are unevenly distributed. Some people still face a plethora of barriers to good employment opportunities.


Cambridge and Peterborough have the highest reported crime rates in the county and crime severity has risen in all areas.

Surveys of offenders revealed that 94% have needs related to mental health, financial or employment problems.

Arts and culture

Whilst Cambridge ranks highly for its arts, culture and heritage, other parts of the county face barriers to participation, such as distance, lack of transport and high cost.

Successful efforts have been made in recent years to encourage children and young adults from deprived backgrounds to increase their engagement with the arts.

The environment

Cambridgeshire boasts a range of beautiful landscapes and habitats, such as the Fens. However, the county has suffered declines in biodiversity, most notably due to development pressure and agricultural intensification. Overall, Cambridgeshire has a smaller proportion of natural habitats than most counties in the UK.

Also, whilst air quality has improved in the last five years, poor quality housing results in inefficient heat retention and increased emissions from energy use. Parts of the county still face high rates of fuel poverty, adversely affecting health and wellbeing.

Cambridgeshire ACRE’s Eels in the Classroom project

Children looking over a container with elvers.

Working together for a better Cambridgeshire

With the collective effort of the projects we are proud to support and the generous individuals and organisations who offer funding to make their work possible, we can continue to tackle these issues in Cambridgeshire.