The impacts of welfare reform in Oxford

Inclusion was commissioned by Oxford City Council to assess the impacts of welfare reforms introduced since 2010, and the implications of these for the future.

The research involved 40 in-depth interviews and three focus groups with residents, conducted between January and March 2014; nine interviews with stakeholders and eighteen responses to an online survey; analysis of national and local data on the impacts of reform (including Council data); and a workshop and in-depth engagement with Council staff and partners.

The report finds that the financial impacts of reform in Oxford are among the highest in the country – with 15,000 households seeing their incomes reduced as a result of welfare reform by on average £1,600 per year. These large impacts are driven in particular by very high private sector rents in the city.  

Disabled people, single earner households and in particular lone parent families all faced disproportionate impacts, along with those with more complex needs around health, addictions, poor social networks or poor language or literacy. The research found significant financial impacts – residents going without, borrowing money and not paying bills – as well as a range of non-financial impacts – particularly on health and families.

The research identifies future priorities around financial, employment and housing support, as well as a need to support residents to navigate the system and complexity of benefit changes. It makes sixteen recommendations around four themes: monitoring local impacts; identifying those at risk; engaging effectively, and delivering support.