The West Midlands neighbourhoods set to suffer most as a result of coronavirus have been named.
They are the “left-behind” areas that suffered from poverty and poor health before the pandemic, and are now likely to suffer more from the economic and health impacts of the Covid pandemic than other areas.
But they are also missing out on government funding designed to help communities recover from the pandemic – because the cash tends to go to town and city centres.
The 31 areas have been named in a new report by MPs from different parties. They say that 11% of working age adults are now unemployed in these West Midlands council wards, compared to 6.4% across England as a whole, while youth unemployment is 16% in these wards , compared to 9% across England.
And these areas had high levels high-risk health conditions before the coronavirus crisis began. For example, 12% of the population are obese, compared to 9.8% of the population generally, and 8.5% had diabetes, compared to 6.8% generally.
The areas most at risk are:
Bartley Green Birmingham
Hodge Hill Birmingham
Kings Norton Birmingham
Shard End Birmingham
Stechford and Yardley North Birmingham
Stockland Green Birmingham
Binley and Willenhall Coventry
Hateley Heath Sandwell
Princes End Sandwell
Kingshurst and Fordbridge Solihull
Smith’s Wood Solihull
Bloxwich West Walsall
Darlaston South Walsall
Bilston East Wolverhampton
East Park Wolverhampton
Camp Hill Nuneaton and Bedworth
Gorse Hill Worcester
Brookside Telford and Wrekin
Abbey Hulton and Townsend Stoke-on-Trent
Bentilee and Ubberley Stoke-on-Trent
Blurton West and Newstead Stoke-on-Trent
Meir North Stoke-on-Trent
Meir South Stoke-on-Trent
The areas are named in a report produced by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for “left behind” neighbourhoods. It says they face a combination of deprivation, a lack of social facilities and low levels of community activity, and already had relatively worse health, education and employment outcomes before the pandemic. There are 225 “left behind” areas in total across England, according to MPs.
The data, compiled by Oxford Centre for Social Inclusion (OCSI) and charity Local Trust, gives an early suggestion that these areas, often located on the edge of towns and cities, risk falling further behind as government investment focuses on delivering improvements to town and city centres.
Organisations in these neighbourhoods received less than half the funding per head in Covid-related grants than other deprived areas, and around a third of the average levels of England as a whole.
The All-Party group will examine ways to support these communities to ensure they are more resilient and have better prospects in the future.
West Bromwich East MP Nicola Richards (Con) is the group’s vice-chair. She said: “I’ve seen, first-hand, how COVID-19 has impacted communities across West Bromwich East, particularly the damage it has caused the local labour market and my constituents’ livelihoods. This report lays bare that damage, and the need to ensure we protect those areas hardest hit by the virus.”
Birmingham Northfield MP Gary Sambrook MP (Con) is a member of the group. He said: “The work of this All-Party Parliamentary Group is going to play an important role in generating ideas that will contribute to the Prime Minister’s levelling up agenda. Seeing how COVID has impacted on neighbourhoods across the West Midlands, and in my constituency of Birmingham Northfield, it’s vital that we support these left behind areas so that they can build out of this pandemic, and prosper in the months and years ahead.”
Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden (Lab) is also a member. He said: “If we are serious about extending opportunity and giving some of the lowest income neighbourhoods a better chance, then it has to be about people as well as buildings and physical investment. We have to give people the best possible chance of succeeding in today’s labour market and that means a real emphasis on educational opportunity, starting from the very earliest years. If we don’t do that, we are very unlikely to bridge these gaps.”