Financial wellbeing in the East of England
The East of England is one of the fastest-growing regions in the UK for population and economy. Yet there are many challenges surrounding financial wellbeing in the area, which in turn can have economic impacts on local businesses and communities. Our regional partnership manager for the East of England, Alan Nicholls, is here to help your organisation.
On the surface, the economic indicators for the East of England are on the up-and-up. It’s now the UK’s fourth most populated region, with 6 million residents, and is expected to rise to 7.5 million in 2031. The region also has a gross domestic product (GDP) of £196bn, which is around 8% of the UK’s total GDP (Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), 2020).
With close proximity to London and good transport links, a lot of this economic and population growth is being seen in the south of the region. More generally, the East of England’s prosperity is largely swallowed up by cities like Norwich, Colchester and Cambridge.
Between these urban centres, large rural landscapes make reaching the most vulnerable, pensioners, the over-indebted or those with low financial capability quite tricky.
Factors like this make for a population with checkered financial wellbeing, which in turn affects the output of employers, who, it’s estimated, lose £15 billion a year due to financial-stress related employee absences. (Neyber, 2019)
MaPS has been set up by government to help. We offer free, bespoke consultation and resources to boost financial wellbeing in your organisation, for your customers, colleagues and community. We also fund debt advice services, and offer money and pensions guidance online, by phone and in person.
Financial wellness statistics for the East of England
There’s no one particular way to measure financial wellness in a region, although here at MaPS, we define financial wellbeing as follows:
Financial wellbeing is about feeling secure and in control. It’s knowing that you can pay the bills today, can deal with the unexpected, and are on track for a healthy financial future.
In short: feeling confident and empowered.
We look at an array of data to sketch out how things are on the ground. That’s especially important to do in a region like the East of England, where it would be simple to label the area as ‘prosperous’.
Indeed, the region has performed well economically, but by taking a look under the hood, we find a few issues such as:
- high house prices caused by spillover from London, meaning the average cost of a home is £265,000 compared to the UK average of £231,000 UK
- a considerable proportion (15%) of children living in poverty or low-income households
- around 1 million people struggling to pay debt
- 200,000 pensioners are struggling financially
- average household debt stands at £11,900.
The region’s residents includes the second largest number of pensioners (after the South West) – the average of 19.9% rises to 28% of its population in some of its coastal areas, compared to the UK average of 19%. This demographic brings unique needs for support to plan for retirement, avoid pension scams, and to budget in retirement. (ONS, 2020)
Impact of coronavirus on financial wellbeing in the East of England
As with everywhere else in the UK, these trends have been compounded by the COVID–19 pandemic. Although our region is comparatively better off than other affected areas, the impact has still been severe.
Almost one-fifth of private sector jobs (16%) were furloughed from March 2020. We also saw 2% of job losses and 4% of workers had their hours reduced. (Gov.uk, 2020) For many employees in the East of England, this has meant lower incomes and a lot of stress.
Support your employees and customers to manage money during COVID–19 with our Coronavirus Hub.
Financial education will be a key part of improving the lasting barriers to financial wellness in the East of England and, in turn, mitigating the worst impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Of particular concern is the high level of debt, meaning education around borrowing is a particularly important step towards widespread financial wellbeing.
The aim is to ensure that the East’s growing prosperity is felt everywhere, by everyone – not just in its urban centres but its historic seaside towns and rural communities, too.
As the region’s population grows older and younger workers step in, financial literacy – like understanding how to borrow sustainably and manage debt, and pensions planning – will become vital for everyone.
Free financial education for the East of England
MaPS was established by the government to power up access to financial guidance in every region and nation in the UK. We offer a wide array of free support to businesses and their employees.
MaPS offers your organisation:
- free, impartial money and pensions guidance online, over the phone, webchat and WhatsApp
- cost of living resources including a range of articles, tools and calculators to support your customers and employees
- tools and calculators to help your employees budget and plan ahead, including personalised guidance in our Money Navigator Tool
- a selection of free money guides in print, Braille or audio formats
- a help for people going through redundancy and related pensions support
- pensions guidance to help employees plan for retirement and later life
- our annual Talk Money Week awareness campaign, which provides a platform to have a conversation about money between families and friends, at work, at school or any other walk of life.
At present, we find that awareness of our consumer services is low – especially in the East’s particularly vulnerable rural areas.
Employers can play a key role in helping us reach people across the region. Workers who have their finances under control are happier, healthier and more productive, meaning the benefits of financial wellness can be felt throughout our communities and economy.
Want to help employees manage their finances better? Signpost to our government-backed guides, tools and calculators for free.
Alan has extensive experience in the financial sector, having worked at Lloyds Banking Group for 14 years influencing their financial inclusion, financial education, credit union and Universal Credit multi-brand strategies. Contact Alan to find out how he can help your business support employee financial wellbeing and thrive as a productive and efficient organisation on firstname.lastname@example.org.