• Study of 550,000 families shows 15% of London’s low-income households can’t pay the bills week to week
  • The biggest growth in cash-strapped families since 2016 was in Sutton (79%), Southwark (43%) and Camden (40%)
  • The number of London families who can’t pay the bills is expected to triple to 238,000 by 2021 if nothing changes

A new Living Standards Index for London tracks the financial security of 550,000 low-income families to reveal the pockets of poverty in our nation’s capital. Policy in Practice, the socially-minded software company behind the nation’s leading benefits calculator, has built the tool using data drawn from 18 London councils. The latest findings, released today, show that 1 in 7 (15%) of the London low-income families studied can’t pay the bills. The tool makes it possible for anyone to analyse one of the largest data samples about low-income Londoners which will be regularly updated with new information.

Policy in Practice’s Index identifies Enfield, Barnet, Camden and Sutton as ‘poverty hotspots’ with the highest proportion of families in dire financial straits. 20% of low-income families in Enfield and 25% in Barnet reported a regular cash shortfall. The data suggests much of the hardship is driven by rising rents in the private sector. In Enfield, 47% of low-income families rent privately and 45% of families in Barnet do, the highest rates in London.

Policy in Practice Director Deven Ghelani says his firm found a concerning rise in the number of cash-strapped households in the last two years. Using data from 18 participating councils, analysts were able to track the soaring financial insecurity of low-income households on a monthly basis and forecast their living standards into the future given rising rents, frozen benefits and comprehensive Universal Credit rollout.

“The data we’ve brought together through our London Living Standards Index shows what a lot of councils and community organisations have been saying: rising living costs and frozen benefits have combined to push more families into real hardship – where they simply don’t have enough money to pay the bills each week.

“This Index allows service providers and charities to see what low income families are experiencing in their area, and to see the pockets of need that are currently below their radars.”

Mr Ghelani says that between 2016 and 2018 the number of London families in the sample facing a weekly budget shortfall has risen by 21% to 81,000. The sharpest rises have been in Sutton (79%), Camden (40%) and Southwark (43%).

“Too many families facing a cash shortfall are one bill away from being evicted or running into dangerous debt. This is a wake-up call for councils and housing providers.”

Mr Ghelani says the index will be useful for London-based volunteers, charities, change campaigners, as well as London’s councils.

“Our leaders should harness this information to drive how they spend resources to reach those families in most need and prevent shortfalls from leading to hardship or homelessness. If the trends we’ve identified continue, London is going to see an extra 157,000 families at the end of their financial tether by 2021, putting strain on support resources, local authorities and charities.”

Deven Ghelani says many of the 18 councils involved in the project, which is funded by the Trust for London, are already using the Index and its tracker tools to better target support to families in need. He says more councils should get on board with sharing and using data to target and support families in need, given the benefits freeze and the impending rollout of Universal Credit.

Londoners themselves can also use Policy in Practice’s award-winning Benefit and Budgeting Calculator to get a free and anonymous personalised assessment of support they may be eligible for.

London’s poverty hotspots

London’s poverty hotspots as revealed in our new Living Standards Index for London

Register for an upcoming webinar

TitleDateStart TimeDurationRegister
How Autumn’s income shocks will hit low income families The factors that have kept many low-income families out of poverty in the past year are changing, meaning many thousands will be worse off.

Families are set to be hit by big income shocks with the ending of furlough, the reintroduction of the Minimum Income Floor, the loss of the £20 a week Universal Credit increase and the ending of the Benefit Cap's grace period. New data analysis from Policy in Practice predicts significant losses for some families who will struggle to cope and who will need the support of frontline organisations to help them through.

In this webinar we will explore what the Autumn may bring for low-income households and how support organisations can work now to prevent hardship and prepare for an increased demand for services.

Join this webinar to learn:

- How much different households are set to lose when Covid supports are withdrawn
- What support tools are available for individuals and organisations
- Best practice advice from a frontline organisation

We will be joined by Monica Kaur from the Money and Pensions Service.
29/9/202110:30 BST1.3 hours
How Kent County and district councils collaborate with data to tackle poverty Covid has turned our world upside down. Many residents in Kent, as elsewhere, have experienced financial hardship whilst, for organisations, the pandemic has been the catalyst energising them to work differently.

In summer 2020 Kent Districts and Communities Recovery Cell set up a group to focus support to residents at risk or already experiencing financial hardship because of the pandemic. Residents unused to facing financial hardship suddenly needed help to navigate support and advice systems. The group knew that things are likely to get worse for Kent's residents before they get better as furlough ends and families who were just about managing are tipped over the edge.

In a first for local government, Kent county and district councils have boldly chosen to collaboratively share their data to get powerful cross-county insights that will drive their poverty prevention activity. The information will help them to target of a wide range of campaigns to residents such as employment support, free school meal take-up, public health interventions, housing initiatives and benefits take up.

Importantly, the project has transparency built in so that councils can very easily benchmark with each other to identify and share best practice in a safe, collaborative way.

Join this webinar to hear:

- Kent County Council's vision for greater collaborative working with districts
- Maidstone District Council's drivers for districts to collaborate with their data
- Folkestone and Hythe District Council's impact achieved so far from data-led poverty prevention campaigns

We will be joined by guest speakers, Zena Cooke, Corporate Director Finance at Kent County Council, Steve McGinnes, Director of Mid Kent Services at Maidstone District Council, and Jane Worrel, Revenues and Benefits Senior Specialist at Folkestone and Hythe District Council.
20/10/202110:30 BST1.3 hours
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