Welfare reforms hit the hardest in east Sheffield

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Struggling residents in the Firth Park area of Sheffield will have been hit five times harder by welfare reforms than those in Broomhill, a new study has revealed today.

The ward is the worst hit by changes to child tax credits, housing payments, the benefit cap and more – with households losing £800 a year compared to £160 in Broomhill.

Reforms are to impact ‘unevenly’ across the city when in full effect, according to the study by experts at Sheffield Hallam University.

Professor Steve Fothergill, who compiled the study with Professor Christina Beatty, said: “This is the first time we have really drilled down into the details of how welfare reforms have impacted across Sheffield.

“I think there is a similar impact in places like Leeds and Manchester but there is a big difference between Sheffield and some of the most prosperous parts of southern England which have escaped relatively unscathed.”

The report says a complex number of factors are at play, such as the number of students in Broomhill ‘diluting’ the impact, but stresses losses affect wards in the less-affluent east of Sheffield more than in the west.

It says the big losses arise there mainly because of changes to incapacity benefit for ill and disabled people.

One exception to the pattern is the freeze to and changes in child benefit, which has hit hardest in leafy Dore, Totley and Ecclesall.

Coun Alan Law, Sheffield Council Labour member for Firth Park, said he was ‘not surprised’ by the findings.

He said: “A lot of it is disabled people who have had their allowances cut, or the bedroom tax.

“Most people here are fairly resilient and think there is nothing they can do, so they try to cope how they can.

“Reforms are causing massive problems, we’ve worked long and hard to raise local people’s aspirations and hopes and this does not help.

“It’s a bit of a postcode lottery, it has been around a long time and trying to do something about it is difficult.”

The study – commissioned by Sheffield Council – showed almost half the financial losses fell on working households contrary to ‘popular misconceptions’.

Reforms to incapacity benefit accounted for the largest losses in Sheffield and single parents were hit particularly badly, expecting to lose £2,000 a year due to all reforms.

Experts estimated the city would lose almost £169 million a year – or £460 per adult a year – when reforms are complete, which is close to the national and below the Yorkshire average.

Coun Julie Dore, council leader, said the research would be shared with other organisations across the city.

She said: “We’ve known for a long time that welfare reforms are fuelling inequality, with the poorest places, households sick and disabled being hardest hit. This research is truly shocking but reaffirms this and shows the stark reality of how reforms are affecting people.

“The report also shows how almost half the financial losses arising from welfare reform are falling on in-work households.

“It’s a priority for me that we work together as a city to identify ways to help reduce the inequalities and protect the most vulnerable people.”

Sheffield has the lowest financial impact compared to other core cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham, but the report says the city’s loss is still ‘far and above’ the level felt in many parts of southern England outside London.

It summarises that reforms are unlikely to result in expansion of employment to offset the loss of income.