Stockton's Infinity Bridge

New report highlights impacts of welfare reforms in the North East

16 September 2013

A new report highlighting the impact of the Government's welfare reforms on the North East has been published by ANEC, aimed at national and local policy makers and community organisations.  Commissioned by ANEC, the research work involved close collaboration between the Universities of Durham (Institute for Local Governance), Northumbria and Teesside and the North East region of Citizens Advice.

The economic conditions in the North East and the negative consequences for this area of the country of nationally driven reforms are highlighted by the report. Findings estimate that around £380m is likely to be lost to the North East each year through the introduction of the Government's benefit cap and changes to disabled people's benefits, council tax benefit and housing benefit in the social sector.

National research recently undertaken by Sheffield Hallam University  verifies this figure, which rises to a financial loss to the North East of £940m when changes to tax credits and child benefit are included.  This comes at a time when the North East's economy and communities are already experiencing the detrimental impact of austerity measures and continuing recession.

The report suggests that, whilst the reforms have yet to be fully implemented, the cumulative effect on households and neighbourhoods could be profound.  Social housing tenants (especially those with disabilities), and social housing estates will, the researchers state, be particularly hard hit.  The impact of under occupancy and the structure of the housing stock in the North East, which offers a limited number of smaller properties for ‘under-occupying' households to move into, leave residents vulnerable to a range of pressures.  The report raises concern about the risk that networks of resilience - practical and emotional support - will be broken down, and the sustainability of communities undermined.

All twelve North East councils are actively engaging at community level to take forward recommendations from the report and to help address impacts on the ground of the welfare reforms.  Through ANEC, councils are also highlighting issues of concern at a North East level with national opinion formers and decision-makers, including the Government. 

Councillor Paul Watson, Chair of ANEC, said:

'I am grateful to the three universities and Citizens Advice for the rigorous approach taken to the research and evidence base about the impacts of the welfare reforms in this area of the country, now and into the future.  The implications for our economy and on the lives of people and communities right across the North East are significant.  They are a key priority for ANEC and this independent body of work will help us both monitor the impacts of the Government's reforms as they are introduced and inform how we can best help and guide residents who will inevitably look to their local council for support'.

Phillip Edwards, Strategy and Implementation Director at the Institute for Local Governance said:

'This report provides evidence of the substantial and immediate effect of welfare reform in the North East. It is, however, a dynamic and changing environment and we must maintain our knowledge base to keep track of these substantial changes.'

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