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


Elderly bear the brunt of deprivation in the capital

Hands walking stick Kristo-Gothard Hunorshutterstock_162933494

Photo: Kristo-Gothard Hunor ┃Shutterstock.com

Elderly people in London are being left behind in the fight against deprivation.

Over the past 5 years a number of boroughs that were among the most deprived local authorities in England have reduced multiple causes of deprivation in many neighbourhoods. Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Haringey have pulled themselves above the bottom 20 boroughs in England since 2010.

But in these districts and others in the capital thousands of older people are living in income deprived households.  This is a particular problem for London. Of the 10 boroughs in England with the highest level of over 60s living in income deprived households, 7 are in London including the 3 with the worst record, Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Newham.

Local authorities with the highest proportion of older people in income deprivation
1 Tower Hamlets 49.7%
2 Hackney 43.1%
3 Newham 41%
4 Manchester 36.3%
5 Islington 36.1%
6 Southwark 34.3%
7 Lambeth 33.2%
8 Liverpool 32.7%
9 Knowsley 32.6%
10 Haringey 31.8%

5 more are in the 20 most income deprived boroughs for older people – Brent, Barking and Dagenham, Hammersmith and Fulham, Camden and Lewisham.

In Tower Hamlets nearly half the old people are living in income deprived households. The borough also has the worst record on children in income deprived households with 39% of under 16s affected.  In 6 other boroughs (Islington, Hackney, Barking and Dagenham, Enfield, Lambeth and Southwark) at least 30% of children are living in income deprived households.

These figures are revealed in data gathered for the Department of Communities and Local Government for the Index on Multiple Deprivation – the government’s measure of levels of deprivation across England. The index looks at 7 areas – income, employment, education, health and disability, crime, housing and the living environment.

The government measures deprivation in small areas called LSOAs.  Each of these neighbourhoods has around 1,500 residents.  There are 32,844 of them in England and 4,835 in London.

275 of these neighbourhoods in London are among the 10% most deprived in England. London has done well in reducing deprivation over the past 5 years, but the borough map shows a clear divide with much higher levels of deprivation in the east.

Deprivation borough map

The most deprived neighbourhood in the capital, according to the index, is an area of Hackney to the south of Homerton High Street and west of Mabley Green.  This neighbourhood is home to 1,300 people.

Of the 5 most deprived neighbourhoods in London, 2 are in Hackney, 2 in Westminster and 1 in Islington. The least deprived neighbourhood, according to the index, is in Bromley.

Source data

See also

Areas where pensioners most likely to be lonely identified

Low birth weight babies in Tower Hamlets 60% above London average

Elderly losing out in city with high levels of digital skills

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







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

Living Wage helps some but thousands struggling with low pay in London

poundsThe rebranding of the National Minimum Wage as the Living Wage with an increase to £7.20 per hour for over 25s announced in the budget by the Chancellor, George Osborne, gives no concession to the higher cost of living in London.

Around 1.4 million people in Britain are currently earning the National Minimum Wage of £6.50 an hour. About 3% of the London workforce is being paid at this rate, that’s 125,000 workers.

In giving this legal obligation on employers a new name Mr Osborne is borrowing from a long-standing campaign by the Living Wage Foundation, which has fought for both a UK-wide and a specific London Living Wage for many years. The current recommended London Living Wage is £9.15 per hour. While the Chancellor’s new legal Living Wage doesn’t come close to that it does close the gap that low paid people in London suffer to below £2 for the first time since 2010.

Living wage

The London Living Wage is calculated by the GLA and championed by the Mayor, Boris Johnson, now a Conservative MP and leadership hopeful. The GLA pays it and 400 employers have signed up. Since 2011, 20,000 workers have benefited from this voluntary scheme. But the GLA estimates that 800,000 workers in London are earning less than the London Living Wage.

Data from the Low Pay Commission shows that the largest number people earning the minimum wage are cleaners, shop workers, restaurant and bar staff. In its report in March this year it says that women, young people, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities are more likely to have minimum wage jobs.

The Chancellor’s new legal minimum may offer some help to these people, but the government is unlikely to want to intervene in the labour market to set costs higher in one part of the country.

Low pay, at minimum wage level and above it, will continue to be a challenge for many in the London workforce coping with the high cost of life in the capital.

See also

Jobs growth shows changing face of work

More than a quarter of UK tax revenue generated in London

Self employed map shows huge rise in parts of city

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