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Vital Signs North East: Living standards

Our ground-breaking study of the scale, dynamics and needs of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in North East England.

Living standards challenges

In October 2022 inflation was over 11%. The good news is that it’s now down to 2%. But prices haven’t stopped rising – it’s just happening more slowly. Which means the North East remains vulnerable, lacking the financial resilience that enables more prosperous areas to ride out hard times. More people here that are ‘just about managing’ could fall into financial difficulty, particularly while mortgage and credit payments remain high. Households on low incomes from work and/or benefits – who have endured huge increases since 2021 in the price of essential items like food (up 31%) and energy (up 66%) – will remain in or at the margins of poverty. That means demands on charities working in benefit and debt advice, mental health, family support and community cohesion will keep rising. And that will be at the same time as those charities themselves are likely to be struggling to meet the increased cost of delivering their work.

  • National challenges: structural economic issues with unequal prosperity across the UK; international tensions and environmental challenges with the potential to reignite inflation; rising poverty, falling disposable income and potential for more households to get into financial difficulties.
  • North East England challenges: low productivity and pay and high rates of economic inactivity and benefit dependence; high rates of poverty, especially child poverty; higher than average numbers of households in serious debt and at risk of financial difficulties; civil society organisations facing increased demand and rising costs.

Living standards indicator North East England South East
Weekly median full-time pay £614 £675 £724
% of households with income from employment 69 75 76
Median total household wealth £169,000 £308,000 £503,000
% change in median household wealth April 2016 – March 2020 – 6.6 – 2.6 + 8.2
% of people in households with less than 60% median UK income after housing costs (% children in brackets) 21 (30) 22 (30) 19 (25)
% of constituencies with a child poverty rate of at least 25% 89 70 44
% households with problem debt 5 4.5 4
% people reporting using support from charities/foodbanks due to increase cost-of-living 5 3 2

Living standards opportunities

Despite the challenges there are a number of opportunities in North East England via:

  • Commitment from devolved bodies and regional partners to address poverty.
  • Potential to increase prosperity and financial resilience through reinvigorated foundational economies and the ‘Green Industrial Revolution.’
  • Track record of charities helping people in poverty and financial hardship.

The Community Foundation believes philanthropy can have the most impact on the living standards in three areas:

Helping people, families and communities

  • by ensuring basic needs are met, that families and carers under pressure get help and that communities are encouraged to stick together through the problems they face.

Supporting charities and community organisations

  • as they face rising demand and pressure on their core budgets, so they continue to have the capacity and resources to help while staying financially sustainable and able to advocate and campaign for those they serve.

Building long-term resilience

  • by ensuring people, families and communities are better able to benefit from regional economic development and cope with challenges like the cost of living crisis

Vital Signs Reports

The most recent reports from Vital Signs are here