The impacts of welfare reform on residents in Brighton and Hove

Inclusion was commissioned by Brighton & Hove City Council to:

  • Assess the cumulative impacts of the Coalition Government’s welfare reforms;
  • Explore how residents and services have responded to these changes; and
  • Advise on the design and delivery of future support.

The research was conducted between Spring 2014 and January 2015. It involved 35 in-depth interviews and three focus groups with residents; twenty interviews, an online survey and workshops with key stakeholders; and workshops and in-depth engagement with Council staff and partners. It also included a new approach to modelling financial impacts of reform – combining Inclusion’s previous ‘top down’ model with a new ‘bottom up’ approach using household-level Council data. This has enabled the first true cumulative impact assessment to be produced – i.e. modelling household-level impacts according to characteristics, geography and combinations of benefits at the same time.

The report finds that the financial impacts of reform in Brighton are among the highest in the country, driven in particular by very high private sector rents and low household incomes. Larger families, disabled people and young people are all disproportionately affected, with non-financial impacts on health, housing, nutrition, child wellbeing and family and community networks. Services are responding – and are often praised by residents – but are grappling both with rising demand and declining resource.

Looking ahead, the recommendations focus on ways that partners can improve monitoring and identification of those in need, engagement with services, the targeting of support, and building resilience for the future – particularly across income, housing and employment support.