A new report from the Cripplegate Foundation – Invisible Islington – highlights the experiences of poor people in Islington, and the way different agencies are trying to tackle this.
Islington has far above average levels of lone parent households and of mental health problems. Both absolute and relative poverty are problems here: Islington has some of the most extreme polarisation between rich and poor in the country.
We already know about the health inequality in London, that GP services in poorer areas are underfunded, that half Islington’s children are growing up in poverty, and that 1 in 10 households are on waiting lists for affordable homes. It’s a terrible verdict on 11 years of Labour government, with Gordon Brown in Downing Street throughout. But the statistics don’t always have an impact the way individual stories do.
Cripplegate’s report covers real individuals in depth as well as looking at the policy headlines. It focuses on debt, unemployment and poor health as key problems – but also praises the crucial role family and close friends play in people’s lives. One reason why housing policies which keep family and community networks in place is so important in Islington.
Writing in the Evening Standard, Nick Cohen says:
“Around the corner from its Georgian terraces is some of the worst poverty in Western Europe: people of all colours who are crushed by debt and joblessness.
“The Cripplegate Foundation, which commissioned the study, dates back to 1500 and there is a medieval feel to the inner London it describes. On the one hand, we have super-gentrifiers in Barnsbury who are among the top earners on the planet. One hundred yards away in the King’s Cross estates are men with the lowest life expectancy in London.
“Perhaps we will soon feel more affinity with them. The chaos in the markets has made all but the most secure realise how precarious their wealth and status are, and how easy it could be to lose everything. Millions have had a reality check. About the only good thing that could come out of the crash is the realisation that poverty isn’t a joke.”