Falling numbers for free school meals but rates still among highest in country

children legsThe number of pupils claiming free school meals is continuing to fall in London. However, there is a greater proportion of children in nursery, primary and secondary schools claiming free lunches here than in many other parts of the country.

New data from the Department of Education shows that nearly 17% of London pupils are receiving free school meals in nurseries and primaries – more than two percentage points higher than the average in England.

Only the North East and West Midlands regions have a higher proportion of youngsters on the free meal scheme.  In Tower Hamlets and Hackney more than a third of under 11s are receiving free meals. The Merseyside borough of Knowsley is the only local authority with a higher rate.

In Southwark, a fifth of children are claiming free meals, a slight increase on last year.  But the numbers are down in Lewisham and Westminster, and the largest decrease took place in Islington where 29% of pupils are claiming school meal benefits, down from 38% last year, but still the third highest rate in the capital.

Free school meals primary

The trend is similar among secondary school pupils. On average, 13% of children over 11 are on the free meal scheme across England. The rate is similar in Outer London but significantly higher within inner London, with more than 40% in Tower Hamlets and 30% in Hackney and Islington. In Camden and Lambeth it is around a quarter of secondary school children.

Free school meals secondary-2

London varies hugely with outer areas pushing the capital average down.  Boroughs in the South West score as low or lower than many other parts of the country, with both Kingston upon Thames and Richmond upon Thames averaging less than 9% for students below the age of 16 claiming free school meals.

Free school meals are available to children from families who are claiming other types of benefit for unemployment or low income.  In 2013 the government extended the scheme so that all children in reception, year 1 and year 2 at state primary schools, ie all children under 8, receive free meals.  From year 3 onwards families must register and make a claim.

Entitlement to free school meals is commonly used as an indicator for children living in poverty. But many who are entitled to the benefit do not claim, a reluctance sometimes attached to social stigma. In London this year 215,000 children are judged to be eligible but only 180,000 are receiving free meals.

Source data

See also

105,000 extra secondary pupils pose huge challenge for capital’s schools

85% of children in private school in one area of West London

Schools data reveals ethnic mix with fall in proportion of white British pupils


Unemployment down but what’s really happening in job market?

shutterstock_131096951-1-2The unemployment rate in London fell slightly in the last quarter but the city still has the second highest rate of joblessness in the UK at 5.9%. Behind this headline rate is a more complex picture of the jobs market in the capital.

The unemployment rate for the whole of the UK for January to March this year was 5%, the lowest level since 2005, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics.  At 5.9% London has the second highest rate along with Yorkshire and Humberside and only the North East of England has a higher rate – 7.3%.

This means 280,000 people in London are without work.  But only 85,000, of them are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, the benefit for the unemployed.

Despite having one of the highest unemployment rates, the benefit claimant rate is among the lowest in the country.  Only the South East and the East of England have lower proportions of benefit claimants and these regions also have the lowest unemployment rates.

Yorkshire and Humberside has the same unemployment rate as London but 2.8% claiming benefits compared to 1.8% in the capital.

Uemployment and claimants

There are a number of reasons for the difference between unemployment and benefit claimants. Many of them will be common for the country, some of them may be more peculiar to London.

The most obvious difference between the two rates is who is included. The unemployment figures include all those able to work between the ages of 16 and 64 but those under 18 are, in most circumstances, excluded from claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance. In London this accounts for 9,000 people in the unemployed numbers.

Part time work is also a factor.  People working more than 16 hours per week cannot claim Jobseeker’s Allowance.  This may exclude people working in unpredictable and short term, part time jobs who may be unemployed for periods but not eligible for Jobseeker’s Allowance. People on zero-hours contracts may also be impacted by this.

The residence qualification may also be a factor, particularly in London.  To claim Jobseeker’s Allowance a person must be resident in the UK for at least 3 months. London has a high number of young workers from the EU, particularly southern Europe.  They would not be eligible to claim benefits when they first arrive to start seeking work.

The other key factor is the natural churn of the workforce.  The unemployment figures include people who have found work but not yet started. A number who are between jobs will not go through the process of making a claim for benefits.

London is the leading place in the UK for job creation. Since December 55,000 new jobs have been created. Over the same period the number of people who are economically active and available for work has risen by 50,000.

The Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility have a target rate of 5% for sustainable unemployment – the rate at which people who want a job have one and any lower rate may mean wage inflation.

London may be approaching ‘peak job’ but what may matter more to employers and employees are the quality of the jobs, the wages and the productivity.

Source data

See also

Jobs growth brings decade-high employment rate for young people

Success of creative industries is good news for jobs growth in the capital

Over 750,000 jobs pay less than the living wage in the capital


Single mothers in London are biggest group hit by benefits cap

children legs

Single parents have been the hardest hit since the benefits cap was introduced two years ago. More than 20,000 in London have had their weekly benefits cut.

The impact on lone parents has been felt more in London, where 62% of capped households are single parents, compared with 56% across the country. Nine out of ten lone parents are women.

Single parent households capped-2

The benefits cap was introduced in April 2013.  It limits the total weekly support to £500 for a couples, with or without children, and single parents. For individuals without a child it is £350. The weekly allowance includes income support, jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit and child benefit.

Many regions of the country have higher rates of people claiming out of work benefits than London yet 45% of the households capped over the last 2 years have been in capital. The benefits bill in London is pushed up by housing benefits claims that result from high rental costs.  90% of the families with two or three children that have been capped are in London. Elsewhere in the country it is easier for a family of this size to rent a home without housing benefit.  Outside London it is mostly larger families, with four children or more who are losing benefits.

The majority of households capped in London lost £50 or under from their weekly benefits but 119 have had £400 or more taken out of their claim.  Most of these were in Brent and Ealing, the two boroughs that saw most households capped.  The fewest capped households are in the more affluent areas in the south west of the city.

Benefits cap map-2

More families are likely to see their benefits cut this autumn when the cap is lowered. Currently a family can claim up to £26,000 a year. This will be reduced to just under £23,000 or £442 per week.

Source data

See also


Elderly show wealth divide – 75,000 not claiming pension, more rely on benefits

Families face the biggest premiums for renting homes in the capital

More “affordable” homes but the rents prove unaffordable for many


Sportiest Londoners live in the wealthier south west boroughs

running woman-2People living in south west London are the sportiest in the city with a far higher proportion taking part in regular physical activity.

More than a quarter of the residents of Wandsworth do some form of sporting activity three times per week or more, according to survey data from Sport England.  But across London, in Newham and Barking and Dagenham, it is half that. And in Brent just 12% of people are doing that level of activity.

The south west corner of London has 4 boroughs, apart from Wandsworth, with large proportions of sporty people.  The data for Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Richmond and Merton shows about a quarter of people doing 3 sessions per week.

But in Bexley and Greenwich it is just 15%. It’s 14% in Newham and Barking and Dagenham. Across the other side of the city, in the north west, it is 15% in Ealing, 13% in Hillingdon, but with 12% Brent has the lowest rate of people doing regular exercise.

sport particpation map

South west London is generally a more affluent area than other parts of the capital but the reason why people there are more active in sports is not clear. These boroughs also have low levels of obesity, while the proportion of people with severe weight problems is much higher in boroughs such as Hillingdon, Barking and Dagenham and Bexley, as previoulsy reported by Urbs.

The data gathered by Sport England through the Active People Survey also reveals that as a region London has the highest average rate for people doing 3 sessions or more of exercise.

Sport participation regional

The current rate of 18.3% is up from 17.2% 10 years ago.  While this growth has been modest the proportion of people doing no exercise has also seen little change, and remains stubbornly high. Across the capital 52% of the population does no sporting activity.  But in Newham it is 62% and in Barking and Dagenham it is 64%.

For these people, getting off the coach to take part in sport 3 times a week may be a very tall order.  A more modest achievement may be to find a way to get them to join the 38% of Londoners who take part in sport once a week.

Source data

See also

Sporty Londoners prefer solo exercise

Size matters – and it depends where you live

The way we spend our cash – more rent, less alcohol, healthier eating

Health and wealth – an East/West divide when it comes to a flu jab



98,000 not claiming their pension in a tale of two Londons


Photo: Lasse Kristensen ┃Shutterstock.com

The number of elderly people who do not claim their state pension has risen to nearly 98,000. That is 9% of those eligible, and it has increased since the end of last year.

The proportion of eligible OAPs claiming the pension fell across the country from 99% in November 2014 to 97% in May 2015. And these latest figures show that in London it is now down to just 91% from 93% in the same period.

This highest level of non-claimants is in the traditionally wealthy central boroughs, which may suggest that they feel that they have sufficient money so do not need the state pension.

Data from the Department of Work and Pensions shows that in the Kensington and Chelsea and in Westminster fewer than three quarters of eligible over 65s are receiving their state pension. The claim rate is below 80% in two other areas, Camden and the City of London.

Pension recipients

But the rate of pension recipients has fallen across the capital. The only boroughs with the same proportion as the national rate are the outer areas of Havering, Bexley and Bromley.

Pensions data underlines a tale of two Londons. The city may have the highest level of pensioners not claiming their entitlement, but it also has the highest rate in Great Britain of pensioners who are getting additional support through pension credits.

Pension credits are paid to those who have very low income, and as a reward to those who have modest savings or a small private pension to supplement their state income.

The latest data from the Department for Work and Pensions shows that 14% of over 60s across Britain receive a credit. That’s down 1% on last November. The rate has fallen by a similar proportion in London as well, but it is still at nearly 19%. The North East is the closest to London, but rates are significantly lower in all other regions.

The highest rate of pension credit claimants is in Tower Hamlets where 38.5% of over 60s are getting this support. Yet Tower Hamlets has the fifth lowest rate of pension recipients in the capital with 14% not claiming. This perhaps demonstrates the gap between rich and poor in the borough that contains both deprived areas and the wealth of Canary Wharf.

Pension credit claimants

Other boroughs with high rates of pension credit claims are Hackney with 35% and Newham with 33%. Only Richmond and the City of London have lower than 10%.

Pension recipient data

Pension credit data

See also

Younger workforce makes capital’s population pensioner poor

More than half a million Londoners have never used the internet

Women in London will live longer than anywhere in the UK

Cap on benefits hits London hardest

© Paop | Dreamstime.com - Protest Against Cuts In Public Spending Photo

Photo: © Paop | Dreamstime.com

The cap on household benefits, introduced 2 years ago, has had its biggest impact in London. And the plan announced in last week’s budget to reduce it by a further £3,000 will hit many more families in the capital.

The cap limits the benefits a household can receive to £26,000 per year, to keep it in line with the median wage in the UK. But the welfare changes announced in the budget included plans to reduce the amount to £23,000 in London and £20,000 elsewhere.

The latest figures from the Department of Work and Pensions for February 2015 show that 49% of capped households are in London. This is largely due to the high cost of housing which means that more households in London receive housing benefit, one of the benefits included in the cap.

Benefit cap households

While the 10,520 represents only 1.3% of housing benefit claims the proportion in London is 3 times higher than anywhere else in the country.

The £26,000 cap means a £500 weekly benefit limit for a couple or single parent, and £350 for a single person. London also has the highest number of single person and lone parents houseolds that have been capped.

See also

1 in 3 kids growing up in out-of-work households in parts of London

Elderly show wealth divide – 75,000 not claiming pension, more rely on benefits

90% of the families with one or two children who had benefits capped are in London. This is again due to housing cost. Elsewhere in the country families of this size and larger can find a place to live below the level of the cap. The largest number of benefit caps in London was on families with 3 children.

Of the 20 local authorities in Great Britain with the largest number of households affected by the cap, 19 were in London. Across the city Brent, Ealing, Enfield, Westminster and Tower Hamlets had largest numbers of benefit claimants with capped payments

benefit cap map

Brent and Westminster stand out as having the most households affected by large amounts. Each has had more than 250 households whose housing benefits have been reduced by £200 per week or more.

Since the cap was introduced in April 2013, 26,500 households in London have been affected. The number reached a peak of 13,500 in December 2013 and has come down to 10,500 in February this year.

Reasons why households are no longer subject to the benefits cap include moving home, becoming pensioners or moving into work. London has a higher proportion than the rest of the country of capped household moving to Working Tax Credits, indicating a shift into low paid work.

Source data

Elderly show wealth divide – 75,000 not claiming pension, more rely on benefits

pensioner coupleNearly 75,000 elderly people in London are not claiming their state pension. That’s 7% of the people eligible and a unique London phenomenon as claimant rates elsewhere are 99 or 100% and only in the South East of England does it fall below that, to 98%.

The majority of non-claimants are in traditionally wealthy boroughs, which may suggest that they feel no need of the benefit or that an itinerant lifestyle means it is difficult for them to claim it.

Data from the Department of Work and Pensions shows that in the Kensington and Chelsea only three quarters of eligible over 65s are receiving their pension, in Westminster it is 77%, in Camden 80% and in the City of London 81%. Through most of central London the proportion is a little over 90%. Only the outer boroughs of Havering and Bromley have the national rate of 99%.

Pensioners recipients

While London has the highest level of pensioners who don’t receive a state pension, it also has the highest proportion in the country of pensioners receiving a pension credit.

Pension credits are paid to those who have very low income, and as a reward to those who have modest savings or a small private pension to supplement their state income. 15% of OAPs across the UK receive a credit. In London it is nearly 20%.

See also

Younger workforce makes capital’s population pensioner poor

Welcome to the city of the super rich

The breakdown by borough underlines the divide between rich and poor across the capital, and some of the variation within boroughs. As the map above shows, Tower Hamlets has 9% of its pensioner not claiming a pension. But as the map below shows, it also has 40% on pension credits.

Pensioners credit

The borough includes some deprived areas but also the sparkling skyscrapers and riverside flats of Canary Wharf. In the neighbouring boroughs of Hackney and Newham 35% or more are receiving pension credit. In Richmond and the City of London it is under 10%.

Pension recipient data

Pension credit data

Income support rates fall sharply over 10 years to bring London in line

poundsThe proportion of adults receiving income support in London has fallen dramatically in the past 10 years.  The most recent data from the Department of Work and Pensions for the quarter ending in November last year shows that 2% of 16-64 year-olds across the capital receive the benefit.

The rate for London has historically been higher than the national average.  In 2004 it was 7.3%, higher than any region in the country.  The rate in London has declined more steeply than the national rate to a point where they have now converged. The national average is slightly lower at 1.9%

income support graph

Across the boroughs rates are relatively uniform with some difference between east and west. The highest rate is in Barking and Dagenham, the lowest in Richmond and Kingston.

income support map


Income support is paid to people who are lone parents, those suffering short or long term illness, and people with disabilities.  To be eligible, claimaints should be have no or very low income, be working less than 16 hour per week and not signed on as unemployed.  The basic level of payment is £73.10 for a single person over 18 and £114.85 for a couple.  Higher payments are made, depending on circumstances.

Source data

See also;

1 in 3 kids growing up in out-of-work households in parts of London

1 in 3 kids growing up in out-of-work households in parts of London

children legsChildren in Tower Hamlets and Islington are more than 4 times as likely to live in a home with parents who are out of work than those in Richmond.

A borough-by-borough breakdown compiled every May from data from the Department of Work and Pensions shows that 31% of children in both those inner London areas are living in homes where out-of-work benefits are claimed. The map below shows that this is not an exclusively inner city issue with 25% of children in out-of-work households in Enfield in the north, and 27% in Barking and Dagenham in the east.

In comparison, Richmond and Kingston in south west London have the lowest level of out-of work benefit households with children, followed by Harrow and Barnet.

Children out of work households map

338,00 children under 15 are in households claiming out-of-work benefits. London has a higher than average rate at 20%, compared to 18% for England, though since 2010 the rate has been declining and appears to be moving towards the national average. Unemployment rates in London have been static this year and are slightly higher than the national avearage, as reported by Urbs.

London is also seeing a reduction in the number of children being looked after by councils. While this has been historically high in London the rate has fallen below the rate for England since 2011.  It is currently 54 children per 10,000.  That means that in the last year a little over 10,000 children in London have been looked after by social services, children’s homes, foster parents or have been adopted.  Again there is a marked difference between the wealthier and poorer boroughs. In Richmond it is 20 children per 10,000. In Southwark the rate is 91 per 10,000 – that’s 550 kids.

Children looked after map

Source data

Children in Out of work households

Children in borough care