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The findings, revealed in new research published today (Wednesday 13th July) by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods as part of its inquiry into levelling up, shows the great financial pressure on residents in those parts of England identified as being ‘left behind’.

The new research, ‘Financial vulnerability in ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods’ and ‘Child maintenance and fuel poverty in ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods’, produced by Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion (OCSI) found:

  • ‘Left behind’ areas face higher levels of risk of financial hardship, including fuel poverty and food vulnerability, than other deprived areas, according to a series of measures produced by the British Red Cross of vulnerability to rising costs
  • People living in ‘left behind’ areas have seen a sharper rise in fuel poverty than those in other deprived areas and England as a whole. Between 2011 and 2020 the proportion of households in fuel poverty in ‘left behind’ areas rose by 8.8 percentage points, compared with rises of 6.6 percentage points in other deprived areas and 2.3 percentage points across England.
  • Areas identified as ‘left behind’ are also disproportionately affected by rising energy caps. The majority of ‘left behind’ wards are found in areas with a relatively high default tariff cap, with 142 of the 225 wards identified as ‘left behind’ (63.1%) in areas with a default tariff cap which is above the national average.
  • More than a quarter of people living in ‘left behind’ areas are income deprived (26.7%) – this is higher than across other deprived areas (25.9%) and England as a whole (9%). Children living in ‘left behind’ areas are twice as likely to be income deprived than the national average (34% compared to 17.1% across England).
  • A relatively high proportion of children in ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods live in households with a Child Maintenance Support (CMS) arrangement. Not only are they more likely to have maintenance owed from the CMS, with 98.7% of ‘left behind’ areas having a higher proportion of households with unpaid or underpaid child maintenance arrangements than the national average, but children are also less likely to receive childcare support from absent paying parents.

Typically located in post-industrial areas in the East and West midlands and north of England, as well as coastal areas in the South East, neighbourhoods identified as ‘left behind’ rank within the top 10 per cent of most deprived areas according to the Index of Multiple Deprivation and the top 10 per cent of areas most in need as measured by the Community Needs Index, meaning they lack places and spaces to meet, digital connectivity and transport and an active and engaged community.  People living in ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods have worse social and economic outcomes than people living in other, similarly deprived areas, experiencing higher unemployment, poor health outcomes, and lower levels of education attainment. This suggests the vital importance of accessible social infrastructure to the health and wellbeing of local communities.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods will consider the OCSI research alongside expert testimony at its inquiry session on 13th July, as part of its inquiry into levelling up. This will assess the extent to which the government’s levelling up policy programme – as set out in the recent Levelling Up White Paper – aligns with the needs and aspirations of people living in ‘Ieft behind’ areas, and its potential to improve their prospects. The inquiry’s second session explores levelling up economic outcomes, examining missions relating to living standards, digital connectivity and transport infrastructure, and the impact of the cost of living crisis. It will consider examples of how local community-led organisations are effectively developing strategies that can support the most ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods.

Co-chair of the APPG for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods the Rt Hon Dame Diana Johnson DBE MP said: “This research for the APPG highlights the stark reality of the financial pressures faced by residents in ‘left behind’ areas – including areas such as Bransholme and Orchard Park in my Hull North constituency.

“With rising fuel costs, growing food poverty and worrying levels of financial insecurity, this research should be a wake-up call for the Government. It underlines the need for urgent action to address the cost of living crisis that will hit communities that have the least the hardest. This research shows that to genuinely ‘level up’ direct investment and funding must be targeted where it is needed most. Otherwise many of the most deprived will fall even further behind.”

Paul Howell MP, Officer of the APPG for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods and co-chair of the second inquiry session said: “It is clear from this research that to improve economic outcomes for those communities, such as mine in Sedgefield, that for far too long have been ‘left behind’, we need to invest in people as well as places.

“As well as tackling financial inequality we must tackle the underlying social issues that also hold people back from reaching their full potential. For levelling up to be a success, we need to support community efforts and locally-led solutions and approaches that tackle the wide range of causes of inequality. Cost of living challenges mean the need for a Community Wealth Fund to do this has never been more timely and important.”

Barbara Slasor, community development lead for Gaunless Gateway Big Local said: “The cost of living is the last thing we need. We are quite a resilient community with a hell of a lot of skills which could provide a better future and a bit of work for people moving forward. But until they start putting in a consistent amount, on a larger scale, with a more cohesive approach, nothing’s going to change. They need to create jobs, create hope, create transport links.”

View the full press release

View the accompanying case study