In this issue ...
1. Welfare Reform Impact Monitoring report
The latest in a series of annual monitoring reports looking at the local impact of welfare benefit changes is now available. Based on a range of national data sources, the report looks at local trends in Universal Credit claimants; Council Tax collection; benefit capping; benefit sanctions; social housing waiting lists; homelessness and the use of foodbanks:
The report finds that reform of the benefits system continues to impact on thousands of residents. However, latest annual data indicates a reduction of negative impacts in many issues, offset by some areas of concern. As last year, there remain some geographical variations, with some district areas bucking general countywide trends. Overall findings include:
- With Universal Credit requiring a broader span of claimants to look for work, the out-of-work Claimant Count continues to rise. Somerset’s Claimant Count rate now exceeds the national average rate for the first time.
- Overall numbers of households subject to the Benefit Cap have fallen, following significant increases in 2017.
- Levels of use of foodbanks run by the Trussell Trust in the South West have remained consistently high, with benefit delays and benefit changes identified as some of the most common reasons for foodbank use.
2. Road Traffic Volumes
The volume of traffic on Somerset’s roads increased for the fifth successive year in 2017 according estimates from the Department for Transport:
A total of 4,321 million vehicle miles were travelled in Somerset during 2017, compared to 4,124 million vehicle miles in 2016 (an increase of 5%). Regionally and nationally the rate of increase was lower (at 3% and 1% respectively).
Historically, traffic volumes in Somerset rose steadily between 1993 and 2008, before declining through to 2012. Overall volumes are currently 9% higher than a decade ago and 33% higher than 20 years ago.
Meanwhile, additional data from the Department for Transport indicates that there are now 4,235.1 miles of road in Somerset, representing the 13th longest network of any local authority area in Great Britain. This comprises 32.6 miles of motorway, 442.8 miles of ‘A’ roads and 3,759.7 miles of minor roads.
3. Walking and Cycling statistics
Somerset residents are more likely to participate in cycling than their national counterparts according to figures from the Department for Transport, based on Sport England’s Active Lives Survey (covering November 2016 to November 2017). Participation rates in respect of walking are broadly in line with national averages.
- An estimated 14.5% of Somerset residents cycle at least once a week, compared to 11.9% in England as a whole. The higher Somerset rate is largely due to people who cycle for leisure purposes (as opposed to travel/work reasons).
- An estimated 71.1% of Somerset residents walk at least once a week (continuously, for at least 10 minutes), compared to 69.4% nationally. Walking for leisure purposes is higher in Somerset but this is offset by lower proportions walking for travel/work.
For the full dataset, see: www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/participation-in-walking-and-cycling-cw03
4. Parents’ Country of Birth data
The number of births in Somerset to non-UK born mothers declined for the second successive year in 2017, to 714, down from a peak of 780 births in 2015, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. Nationally, births to non-UK born mothers peaked in 2016, before declining in 2017.
One in seven births in Somerset are currently to mothers born outside the UK. Across England and Wales this proportion is one in four.
Of the 714 Somerset babies born to non-UK mothers during 2017, a total of 489 were to mothers born in Europe (of which 376 were ‘new EU’ countries); 97 were to mothers from the Middle East and Asia; 41 from Africa; and 54 from the rest of the world.
At a district level, Taunton Deane has the highest proportion of births to non-UK born mothers (at 15% in 2017). West Somerset continues to have the lowest proportion (8%).
5. Local Area Migration Indicators
The Office for National Statistics has published its latest annual dataset bringing together a range of migration-related statistics at local authority level. Figures include migrant NINo (National Insurance number) registrations, new GP registrations and estimates of the non-British population: www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/migrationwithintheuk
- In 2017, there were an estimated 33,000 non-British people living in Somerset.
- An estimated 42,000 residents were born outside the UK.
- South Somerset and Taunton Deane had the highest rates of migrant NINo registrations per head of working-age population in 2017.
- In 2016/17, there were 3,590 new migrant GP registrations in Somerset, with highest rates (per head of population) in Taunton Deane.
6. Stop Smoking Service statistics
A total of 867 people in Somerset successfully quit smoking in 2017/18 through Somerset County Council's Stop Smoking Service, according to statistics released by NHS Digital. This was from a total of 1,855 clients who set a ‘quit date’, giving a quit success rate of 47%. Successful quitters are those who, when assessed 4 weeks after their designated quit date, declare they have not smoked in the past two weeks.
In Somerset, the quitting success rate was highest amongst people who were retired (with 54% successfully quitting), followed by those in ‘intermediate occupations’ (a 52% success rate). The people least likely to successfully quit were full-time students (29%) and those who have never worked or who have been unemployed for over 1 year (with a 37% success rate).
7. Internet Access Survey
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published its latest assessment of household internet access and usage, based on interviews with around 3,000 households nationally:
- In 2018, 72% of adults accessed the internet ‘on the go’ using a mobile phone or smartphone, around the same proportion as in 2017, and nearly double the 2011 estimate of 36%.
- 44% of adults used the internet to obtain information from public authorities/services websites in 2018, up from 32% in the previous year.
- Smartphones continue to be the most common way of accessing the internet, although in the 65 and over age group tablets are most common.
8. Fire Statistics
In 2017/18, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS) attended 4,124 incidents in Devon and Somerset according to provisional figures published by the Home Office. Numbers of incidents have been in general decline for over a decade, although the lowest recorded annual figure was in 2015/16 (3,994 incidents).
There were 979 accidental dwelling fires recorded by the DSFRS during 2017/18, 54 more than in the previous year.
In 2017/18, DSFRS attended 1,427 deliberate fires, 45 fewer than in the previous year.
9. Suicide statistics
There were 48 suicides recorded in Somerset in 2017 according to figures from the Office for National Statistics:
In the three-year period 2015 to 2017, a total of 156 suicides were recorded in Somerset, representing an (age-standardised) rate of 10.9 per 100,000 population. This was above the national (England) rate of 9.6 per 100,000.
Nationally, males accounted for three-quarters of suicides registered in 2017, which has been the case since the mid-1990s.
10. Forthcoming Statistical Releases
The following are due for release at sub-regional geographies during September:
- 2016-based Household Projections in England (ONS)
- Council tax: stock of properties, 2018 (VOA)
- Personal well-being in the UK: April 2017 to March 2018 (ONS)
- Early years profile: 2018 update (PHE)
- Travel time measures for the Strategic Road Network and local ‘A’ roads (DfT)
- Census 2011: Working age UK armed forces veterans residing in England and Wales (ONS)