Poverty and inequality in Islington

Poverty is deepening and inequality is widening in the borough of Islington in north London, according to a new think-tank report. It says that after five years of economic uncertainty, public sector cuts and now 'welfare' reform, lower-income residents are under more pressure than ever.

The New Economics Foundation report looks at how life has changed for Islington’s lower-income residents in recent years, how people experience inequality, and what Islington might look like in 2020.

Key findings

  • Poverty is intensifying in Islington. People on low incomes feel insecure, with no control over their lives, and fear destitution. Social isolation and mental ill-health are worsening. Child poverty is particularly high, and likely to grow. Finding work is not always the answer: the London 'living wage' is in fact not enough for the majority of household types in the borough.
  • Middle-income families have been squeezed out of Islington because of soaring house prices and stagnating wages. Only certain groups on middle incomes – single people and couples without children living in flat shares – are finding it possible to stay.
  • By 2020, only the wealthiest will be able to afford to live in Islington. By then a family will need to earn more than £90,000 a year to afford market rents, and house purchase will be out of reach for almost all but the very top earners. This will leave Islington 'polarised', with very wealthy families at the top; a youthful, transient and childless sector in the middle; and those on low incomes at the bottom, living in social housing. The social consequences will include residents leading separate lives, a lack of understanding between groups, and social alienation.

The authors identify broad areas for action in response. Local action could make a difference by investing in mental health and well-being initiatives, supporting initiatives to reduce social isolation, enabling lower-income families to access alternative forms of credit, and supporting young people to develop their capabilities. In the longer run there is a need to advocate change both within and beyond the borough. This could be approached on an issue-by-issue basis, including: affordable and decent quality housing; and secure and well paid jobs and apprenticeships.

: Joe Penny, Faiza Shaheen and Sarah Lyall, Distant Neighbours: Poverty and Inequality in Islington, New Economics Foundation
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Publication date: 
Oct 3 2013