Tower Hamlets is the third most deprived local authority in England based on Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD). This is the most important factor explaining poorer overall health outcomes in Tower Hamlets than elsewhere. 79% of residents (compared to 26% London average) live in the 20% most deprived areas in England. 16 out of 17 wards are ranked in the 20% most deprived in the country and 12 in the lowest 5%. (Tower Hamlets Annual Public Health Report, 2010, p.10)
Deprivation and Housing
Tower Hamlets is comprised of some of the poorest wards in the country. It has amongst the highest rates of unemployment, inactivity and social housing in the country.
The population density is amongst the highest in the UK and overcrowding is common, the borough is ranked second in the country for the proportion of houses that are over-crowded. Tower Hamlets previously had the most social housing with the least amount of owner-occupiers out of any UK borough, however there have been significant shifts in the rental markets over the last 10 years with the 2011 census recording an increase in private renting, which has more than doubled since the census in 2001 growing from 18.5% to 32.5%, a figure now above the London average. The total percentage of rented properties has remained fairly constant but the shift has been from social to private. Such a trend implies a rise in living costs for vulnerable families as more affordable social housing has been transferred to the private market where rents tend to be higher, particularly in light of the high poverty levels in the borough. A significant amount of housing is high-rise blocks; 89% of housing is in flats/apartments or maisonettes in Tower Hamlets while the London average is just 52.2%.
The ramifications of deprivation and poor housing on children’s development is well known (see Bradley & Corwyn, 2002; Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn, 2000; LBTH Child Poverty Needs Assessment, 2010), affecting their health, academic achievement and a community’s social cohesion. A family’s investment in a child’s sporting education is also likely to be affected by such factors as costs of sporting equipment and coaching as well as transport and entry to competitions and events can be restrictive for families with low available income.
‘Children who live in poverty experience disadvantage in many aspects of their life and are more likely to suffer from poor health, die younger, reach a lower level of educational attainment, be the victims or perpetrators of crime and end up out of work of in lower level jobs. This is a tragedy for those children and extremely costly for the rest of society’ (LBTH Child Poverty Needs Assessment, 2010)
Tower Hamlets has the highest levels of child poverty in the country.
Using the National Indicator 116 measure (the proportion of children who live in families in receipt of out of work means-tested benefits and those families in receipt of tax credits where their reported income is less than 60% of the median income) 48% of children in the borough live in poverty. Other sources put this figure as high as 66.5%. Alongside this, two-thirds of children live in low income households, a statistic to which the Child Poverty Act 2010 made a commitment to reduce to 10% nationally.
Although 50% of children in Tower Hamlets are in benefit dependent families, over half of those living in poverty are in households where at least one of the adults works, suggesting that low wage levels are a factor to be considered. However, the borough does have a high level of worklessness, one of the highest contributing factors to poverty levels. Furthermore, the borough’s free school meals entitlement (52%) is the highest nationally.
Some other key Tower Hamlets child poverty related data includes:
33% of families live on less than £20,000 per year
Bangladeshi families and other ethnic minority families are more likely to live in poverty
The number of children living in poverty has been increasing since 2004/05
Overall, Crime in Tower Hamlets has fallen by around 25% in the last 10 years. In the context of other similar boroughs crime rates are broadly average, even though there is still a perception amongst residents that crime is high. Therefore, crime prevention schemes and the continued development of a productive relationship between police and the local community remain a priority.
Anti-social behaviour and gang issues are still seen as a big problem and despite a decrease in the proportion of young people receiving custodial sentences, there has been a regular increase in the number of young people entering the Youth Justice System for the first time.