The Chamberlain Files | Homepage
Duncan Smith slammed over Birmingham benefits ghetto ‘smear’

Duncan Smith slammed over Birmingham benefits ghetto ‘smear’

🕔21.May 2013

druidsBrandwood, on the southern edge of Birmingham, had a rare five minutes of fame at the weekend when it was revealed, allegedly,  as one of Britain’s worst “welfare ghettos” where more than half of adults are out of work and claiming benefit.

That would be an appalling state of affairs if it was true. After all, there are 18,000 people living in Brandwood which would mean that 9,000-plus are propping up the local job centre.

In fact the claim by the Centre for Social Justice that 60 per cent of Brandwood’s working age population is unemployed and on benefit begins to look increasingly dodgy when scrutinised.

The CSJ, a think tank founded by Tory work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, based its research not on the entire ward of Brandwood but instead on a tiny Lower Layer Super Output  Area (LLSOA) – communities with an average population of just 1,600.

And the LLSOA so conveniently chosen by the Centre for Social Justice, number 121b, happens to contain several council tower blocks used to provide emergency temporary accommodation for homeless people, and a residential care home.

What the tower blocks and the care home have in common is that everyone living there claims benefit for obvious reasons and is likely to continue to do so. These are expressly not the type of people who, in Mr Duncan Smith’s estimation, could go out and get a job if only they could be weaned off benefit.

Brandwood Labour city councillor Dr Barry Henley can hardly contain his anger at the CSJ.

Dr Henley said: “This is a hugely exaggerated claim based on misleading statistics. It is classic Iain Duncan Smith territory. It’s a right wing smear to stigmatise an entire community.

“People move into the tower blocks in crisis, live there for a while and then move on. Of course they are going to be claiming benefit.

“What Duncan Smith’s mob has done is to selectively identify very small areas and then use that information to write off an entire ward. It really is a case of lies and damned statistics.”

Clearly, on examination, the choice of super output area 121b does not support the CSJ’s contention that this particular part of Britain has become a benefits ghetto.

The CSJ has also identified 48 other equally small super output areas in Birmingham in which more than 30 per cent of people are claiming out of work benefit.

As it happens, though, Birmingham City Council has been collating data from super output areas for some time in an attempt to understand where the worst levels of structural unemployment exist. Evidence from these “pockets of deprivation” is often brought forward to justify the existence of council neighbourhood offices in otherwise wealthy areas like Sutton Coldfield.

And while the CSJ’s rather cack-handed attempt to portray Brandwood as a benefits ghetto appears to have backfired, Dr Henley freely admits that decades of structural unemployment have left their mark on this working class suburb.

The emergence of Brandwood as an area in crisis may come as a surprise to many people who tend to assume that Birmingham’s Asian-dominated inner city wards have the highest levels of unemployment exacerbated by low skills levels and English as a second language.

But while problems are acute in areas like Washwood Heath, Nechells, Aston and Sparkbrook, it is in the largely white working class housing estates of Brandwood, Shard End and Kingstanding that communities can be found where generations have not worked. These areas are fertile breeding grounds for the extremist British National Party and, possibly, Ukip.

Chamberlain Files Weekly

Don't miss a thing! Sign up for our free weekly summary of the Chamberlain Files from RJF Public Affairs.
* = required field

powered by MailChimp!

Our latest tweets

Published by

Published by


Our community