Cuts have hit places with the most impoverished populations hardest. How might already stretched councils apply evidence-based policy to fix the wicked problems that some of their residents are facing.
The new Index of Multiple Deprivation has arrived, reminding us once again that the geography of poverty in the UK sits heavily upon the north.
The picture of deprivation becomes even starker when the most deprived places are cross-referenced with those that have seen the largest budget cuts since 2009. The places with the most impoverished populations are also in many cases the same ones that have lost the most resources. Cities Outlook 2019 found that, Wakefield and Liverpool have each seen their annual expenditure fall by 30% since 2009.
This means that the role of many councils has changed in the last ten years in some important ways. In protecting their statutory duty to provide social care, they have had to cut other services. A decade ago, just four cities out of the 62 spent the majority of their budget on social care, now half of them do. If this pattern continues, the only role for many councils will be to provide social care.
For the What Works Centre’s Disadvantaged Places project we visited two of these places – Grimsby and Wakefield.
We realised that the impetus to fix the problems in these places runs up against budgets and staff that are overwhelmed with the work in front of them. A plethora of new piecemeal initiatives every budget cycle add their workload. Too often these policy approaches are lacking evidence that they are effective.
The What Works Network is instead offering some resources to help places make incremental improvements in the policies that they are already using. On 16 October the What Works Centre will be publishing guidance for councils to aid thinking more critically about how to prioritise a long list of competing objectives, make better use of the data available, and decide when is the best time to try to help an individual.
We will be also offering some advice – backed up by rigorous evidence – about how to:
The hope is that this will lead to a larger commitment to helping places tackle deep rooted problems that have been generations in the making.
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