- Top GCSE grades, good pay and weather, close proximity to GPs and fast broadband place Hertfordshire as the best place to raise a family in the UK – according to the uSwitch Better Family Life Index
- The Index ranks 138 local authorities on 33 factors important to family life
- Top three regions are all in the East of England, with Cambridgeshire and Central Bedfordshire taking second and third places
- Scotland fares least well, with East & North Ayrshire mainland taking the last spot – due to higher crime, lower exam results, lower pay and less time spent with loved ones
- Second from bottom and ranked worst in England is Leicester with fourth worst employment in UK, fewer primary schools, high council tax and poor exam results
- Almost half of parents (49%) would consider moving to improve their circumstances and over four in ten (43%) worry they are not giving their family the best start in life
- com report suggests ways both public and private organisations can improve the quality of life for the UK’s 19 million families including better financial education, childcare and housing plus an investigation into parental stress.
The first Better Family Life Index from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service, officially names the East of England’s Hertfordshire the best place for families to live in the UK, and Scotland’s East & North Ayrshire mainland the worst.
The Index ranks the UK’s 138 local authorities on 33 aspects important to family life – including health, housing, crime, childcare, sleep, sunshine and time spent with family. Based on government data and new consumer research, it creates a comprehensive study of modern family life in the UK.
Best region for families
Hertfordshire boasts the third highest employment rate in England with 81% of residents aged 16-64 in work and earning a healthy average gross salary of £33,435. The area benefits from fast average broadband download speeds of 38Mbs and is seventh in the UK in exam results, with 64% of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grades at GCSE including English and mathematics.
Cambridgeshire is ranked second in the Index, with 80% of those aged 16-64 in the area employed and high average annual pay of £32,761. Central Bedfordshire takes third place with low levels of young people not in employment, education or training and just 4% of children in workless households.
All top three regions, situated in the East of England, benefit from their close proximity to local amenities. It takes residents an average of just nine minutes to get to their GP and just under ten minutes to reach their local primary school – compared to the average of almost 12 minutes.
Those living in the East of England also manage to spend more time with their loved ones than many other regions in the country, clocking up 4 hours 51 minutes of quality time on an average day. Locals receive two days more holiday than the UK average of 25 days and even say they sleep better than many of their regional counterparts, enjoying seven hours on an average night compared to the UK average of 6 hours 48 minutes.
Sun worshippers should also consider moving to any of these top three ranking areas, which all see an average of 4 hours 34 minutes of sunshine every day, compared to just 3 hours 3 minutes in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
Worst region for families
East & North Ayrshire mainland comes bottom of the rankings with higher crime rates (115 crimes per 1,000 residents), poorer exam results with just 35% of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grade GCSE-equivalents and just 67% of those aged 16-64 in employment. Those living in the region also earn less, with an average annual salary of £26,962. As well as having less sunshine, locals say they sleep less than anywhere else in the UK, getting just 6 hours 37 minutes’ sleep on the average night.
The area suffers from poor 2, 3 and 4G mobile signal coverage and slower average download speeds of 19Mbs. On a positive note, residents benefit from relatively low average annual council tax at £1,171 and low car insurance premiums of £380 a year.
Scotland dominates the bottom of the league table, driven by a high percentage of young people not in education, employment or training and poor mobile signal coverage. Higher crime rates also pull Scotland down the rankings with Glasgow City reporting 235 crimes per 1,000 population – more than in any other region. But Glasgow City does have a high number of GPs per 1,000 residents and good mobile phone coverage.
Second from the bottom, and worst in England for family life, is Leicester, with the fourth worst employment rate in the UK and higher council tax at £1,599. Residents in Leicester may also struggle to find childcare as the area has a low number of nurseries per 1,000 residents compared to other areas, and they also spend the least amount of time with their family and friends at just 4 hours 14 minutes each day. Just half of pupils achieve five or more A*-C grade GCSE-equivalents and there is one primary school per 4,178 people – compared to one primary school per 773 people in the Shetland Islands. However, the area does enjoy good average download speeds of 37Mbs and low CO2 levels.
Parents’ money matters
The study shows that life can feel pressured and hectic, with almost half of parents (49%) considering moving to improve their circumstances and over four in ten (43%) worrying they are not giving their family the best start in life. Money is very much on the minds of British families, with more disposable income (57%), cheaper cost of living (53%) and cheaper bills (52%) the top three things that parents believe would enhance their quality of life.
Interestingly, the fourth most important influence is better weather, with over four in 10 parents (43%) believing this would improve their lifestyle. So it’s no surprise that the East of England – the sunshine capital of the UK – is the best performing region in the study, taking over a quarter of the top 20 spots.
This report shows that life is far from equal for the nation’s 19 million families. As the UK enters a period of increased uncertainty after the vote to leave the EU, the Better Family Life Index provides some simple measures for families to bring greater certainty and stability to their finances. In collaboration with Chartered Educational Psychologist, Dr. Kairen Cullen, it recommends steps that both public and private organisations could take to further improve the quality of life for the UK’s families, including:
- Better financial education for adults and young people
- Community and private sector playing a greater role in childcare
- Increased government focus on family housing requirements
- Further investigation around parental stress levels across the UK.
Tashema Jackson, uSwitch.com money expert, says: “The Better Family Life Index shows that life is far from equal for families across the UK. Although there is much to celebrate in many areas, it’s not surprising that so many families are thinking about moving to a new region to improve their circumstances.
“For many consumers, the prospect of increased uncertainty in the run up to Brexit may be a turning point, leading us to re-evaluate both how we manage our household budgets and how we provide stability for our families in the future. Policymakers would do well to follow suit. With the new government yet to announce its budgetary priorities it is vital that positive changes are made to help give all families fair opportunities no matter where they live – whether it is access to a good education, childcare, housing, GPs or jobs. Quality of life should not be a postcode lottery.
“In the meantime households can take an honest look at their budgets to see if there are any savings they can make to improve their own standard of living. Even simple steps such as switching energy or your broadband provider could put hundreds of pounds back into the household kitty.”
Table 1: Top Ten Areas in the uSwitch Better Family Life Index 2016
|10||Calderdale and Kirklees|
Table 2: Bottom Ten Areas in the uSwitch Better Family Life Index 2016
(areas ranked from 129-138)
|130||Kingston Upon Hull|
|134||Clackmannanshire and Fife|
|135||Isle of Wight|
|138||East Ayrshire and North Ayrshire mainland|
Read more about the uSwitch Better Family Life Index here, along with our top tips to save money