Council chiefs have moved to reassure residents they are doing everything they can to support communities after a new report claimed Dorset could be seriously affected by Covid-19 more than many other areas in England.

The county has been highlighted as being 'vulnerable' to both the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

Due to their elderly population, economic reliance on the tourism and hospitality industries and pockets of deprivation, research suggests coastal areas such as Dorset are among the areas at risk.

Areas such as Weymouth and Portland already rank highly in terms of overall deprivation, and the crisis could be set to make these inequalities with non-coastal areas even wider, it is suggested.

Research comes from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) which also stated that deprived areas where a greater number of children are living in poverty, mainly communities in the north, are likely to be adversely affected by Covid-19.

But is also found coastal areas are vulnerable in particular ways.

The research by the IFS, funded by the Nuffield Foundation as part of the IFS Deaton Review of Inequalities, also finds that, while there are some regional patterns in vulnerability, in many cases neighbouring local authorities are likely to have very different experiences of the crisis.

Due to this, designing policy to reflect these different local needs will require a highly co-ordinated response drawing on different services and layers of government, the IFS said.

IFS research economist Alex Davenport, author of the report, said: “There is a small group of local authorities in England where public health, local jobs and families are all more vulnerable than average. While several of these areas are in the North West, the group includes local authorities from Dorset to Northumberland."

Mark Franks, director of welfare at the Nuffield Foundation, said: “This report illustrates how different areas of England will be affected by the virus in a unique way, which means the impact on health, jobs and families will evolve differently within each area as we progress through the stages of this crisis.

“The Government needs to understand these localised differences in timescales and impacts in order to work effectively with local authorities to target the right support in the right areas at the right time.”

Cllr Spencer Flower, Leader of Dorset Council, said: “Dorset Council has worked extremely hard during coronavirus to support our residents and protect our businesses. Hundreds of staff have been redeployed. We’ve made more than 4,300 calls to vulnerable residents, delivered 1,160 prescriptions, 1,569 food parcels and made 450 emergency PPE deliveries to places such as care homes.

"Our schools and many childcare providers have remained open throughout for vulnerable children and key workers. We’ve provided emergency accommodation for nearly 200 homeless households and already allocated more than £100 million worth of grants to Dorset businesses."

Cllr Flower said the IFS report 'confirms what we already know': "That with a higher proportion of older and vulnerable people in Dorset’s population, and a significant number of local businesses affected by lockdown policy, there could be serious consequences associated with Covid-19 and any future outbreaks."

He added: “These are difficult times, but Dorset remains a great place to live, work and visit. Community spirit is very strong in Dorset, people have been amazing at rallying around to help each other. We are drawing up further plans with public sector partners to support our communities as recovery gets underway. Our priority will be to continue to support the welfare of our communities, and the local economy.

"This is a long term process, but our message this week, as our high streets have re-opened, is please stay local, shop local and support Dorset. We urge everyone in Dorset to remain vigilant and to carefully follow the current public health advice. It is particularly important that we maintain good social distancing and good hand hygiene as local shops and businesses begin to re-open."

Regarding Dorset Council's work with vulnerable children, Cllr Andrew Parry, Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Early Help, said: “Dorset Council has continued working hard to protect children and help families during the pandemic.

"Our social workers have carried on visiting vulnerable children and supporting families face to face, while keeping within the government guidance at all times. Vital early years support for families has continued through our Family Partnership Zones.

"We have also increased our use of technology to support families, for example we have kept in touch with vulnerable children and families who are shielding via video conferencing. Child protection work has also continued with health and police colleagues via video conferencing.

"We are concerned however, as new referrals to our social services often come via schools and some children who may need our help are currently not in school.

"I’d like to remind people that if you have concerns about a child, please contact us immediately, by calling 01305 228866 or visit: for more information. Your concerns will be treated in confidence.”