Figures from the Department of Work and Pensions have revealed that while nothing seems particularly rosy about the state of Britain, there are some parts of the country in a steep and terrible state of decline.
In some areas the benefits bill (even after pensions and housing are taken out of the equation) is almost £150 million. But where are the most troubled parts of the country, and why?
Clearly the whole country has taken a beating, and over 5 million are now on out-of-work benefits. However, some are suffering more than others.
Worst areasThe figures reveal that the two areas with the highest benefits bills are in Merseyside - with Knowsley at the top, followed by Walton. The next two are in Glasgow (Glasgow East and Glasgow North East) and fifth on the list is Manchester Central.
The total of benefits claimed here was more than seven times larger than those areas with the lowest benefit claims. At this end of the spectrum the Western Isles topped the list at £20.1 million, followed by Orkney and Shetland at £22.1 million, North East Hampshire, Wimbledon and Henley.
The reasonsSo why are these areas in such severe trouble? These figures are dominated by unemployment and disability claims. Merseyside has been in trouble since the decline of the port in the 1970s when containerisation effectively put it out of business. At the same time the manufacturing industry was decimated and large swathes of the population were out of work. Glasgow, meanwhile, was hammered by a focus on heavy industry, which fell into rapid decline with the rise of competition overseas.
One of the problems is that 30 years after many people lost their jobs, many were never able to find work they were qualified for. They are now bringing up a generation who have never known anyone in the household work, and the cycle of unemployment continues. In many households there is simply not a culture of working.
Deserting the areaOf course, there are those who worked their way out, but in many cases they also moved out of the area, either to find work, or to more attractive areas. Once you have the income to afford it, it's tempting to move to leafy Wimbledon and Henley where you can add to the long list of residents who don't claim a penny in benefits. Meanwhile, those areas with higher levels of claimants sink still further. Once an area becomes one of deprivation and hardship it is hard for it to change it fate.
Government schemesEmployment minister Chris Grayling said: "These figures show how important the Government reforms are through initiatives like our new Work Programme, the benefit cap and Universal Credit. We are building a system that is much more fit for purpose."
But while there are lofty aims behind many of these initiatives, it's hard to see how an area can be changed with government initiatives. Will the estates ever be attractive, bustling places, where work is the norm and the aspiration? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
Biggest benefits billsKnowsley £146.1 million
Walton £131.2 million
Glasgow East £129.2 million
Glasgow North East £126.3 million
Manchester Central £124.8 million