Lewisham needs to enable local people to access decent work, reduce the number of children living in low-income households and tackle the housing crisis if it is to combat poverty in the borough, according to a new report.
The Lewisham Poverty Commission, a group of local councillors and poverty experts, are calling for these issues to be addressed and aim to strengthen the support within affected communities.
Their analysis and response came in a report released on October 16 with 52 recommendations. Councillor Joe Dromey, Cabinet Member for Policy and Performance and Chair of the Lewisham Poverty Commission told EastLondonLines: “Lewisham is a great place to live. But despite being situated in the heart of London, one of the wealthiest cities in the world, tens of thousands of our residents live in poverty.
“Lewisham has a proud record of tackling poverty, but there is much more we can do. Despite the Government’s decision to cut two thirds of our funding, we are determined to make a big difference locally.”
Lewisham Poverty Commission have also proposed the creation of a “Lewisham Deal”, which would provide more apprenticeships, promote the real living wage, and create more opportunities for local businesses to trade. They have recommended the council and public sector partners to closely work together to achieve these goals.
The Lewisham Poverty Commission aims to tackle poverty in several ways, including bringing together local stakeholders and national experts, looking for innovative ways to make a difference in people’s lives, listening to the views and experiences of local residents, and learning from successes of other councils.
According to Trust for London, 26 per cent of Lewisham residents are living in poverty, compared to the London-wide rate of 27 percent. There is an unemployment rate of five percent, 21 percent of residents receive low pay, six percent are homeless, and 24 percent are in temporary accommodation.
The impacts of poverty range from affecting students’ GCSE scores and likelihood of attending university to poor physical and mental health. The borough of Lewisham has the worst GCSE results in London, and the group of students performing the lowest were black, white, and disadvantaged students. Many single parents also struggle to work because they have to look after their kids or can’t afford to hire a nanny.
To address these issues, Lewisham Poverty Commission have recommended the council to increase flexible work opportunities, help parents develop skills to obtain these jobs, and make sure parents with childcare responsibilities have access to this.
Another factor of poverty is unaffordable housing. In Lewisham, the median house price is 14 times more than the median income received in the borough. Although the council is delivering 2,000 new affordable homes by 2018, Lewisham Poverty Commission are recommending more social housing as well as new types of housing to accommodate disability and older residents.
In 2012 Lewisham became the joint-first living wage accredited council in the country. The council have also begun a business rate incentive that promotes the London living wage, and the number of accredited employers has in result risen by 560 per cent in the last 18 months.
The full report by Lewisham Poverty Commission is available to read here.