Do people experiencing deprivations face a quality-of-life dilemma?

Do people experiencing deprivations face a quality-of-life dilemma?

Guest blog by Dr Jamie O’Brien, UCL

Measuring levels of deprivations is often based on the Office of National Statistics’ Index of Multiple Deprivations (IMD). This index brings together 14 separate measurements of deprivation factors, relating to rates such as income- and employment-related benefits claims, health outcomes, and quality of the environment.

These measurements are aggregated and weighted to produce an overall score for levels of deprivations, ranging from 1 (lowest) to 100 (highest). In reality, the areas with highest deprivations in England have a score of around 80. Working with the IMD can provide a detailed impression of deprivation distributions at local or regional levels.

The IMD score also provides a useful snapshot of deprivation patterns, but the aggregated nature of the score may disguise particular factors affecting the experience of deprivations in certain areas. For this reason, Central London Forward (CLF) commissioned researcher Dr Jamie O’Brien, University of Liverpool, to look at a wider range of factors that might affect deprivations in central London.

The research project sought out quality-of-life factors not included in the IMD that could be linked to recorded deprivations. The research confirmed, for example, how rental costs put private rental housing out of reach for most people experiencing deprivations. Looking further into issues of housing, the research made use of Energy Performance Certificate ratings to give an impression of housing types in terms of levels of deprivations in their locations.

EPC ratings record the level of energy efficiency, as well as the building fabric and type of housing. The assessment data from EPCs were arranged, based on the IMD scores for their areas. They are shown in the graphs below with private rental housing rates shown on the left and social housing on the right.

We can see in these graphs how there appears to be a greater availability of social housing in multiply-deprived areas. However, householders seeking to make a move to areas considered better-off are faced with lower availability of social housing, or private rental costs many times greater than the GLA affordability threshold (£657.00 pcm). Moreover, rental costs are no measure of quality in housing.

While there is greater availability of private properties in lower-deprivation areas, there is a greater proportion of sub-standard accommodation as measured by energy performance assessments.  Looked at in the context of wider deprivations, the evidence highlights how householders face a quality-of-life dilemma. Householders may be forced to weigh up the challenges and pressures of living in areas of high deprivation, with the additional expense and impact on health of moving to worse housing in ostensibly better-off areas.

Questions remain about whether good-quality housing serves as a shield against the pressures of deprivations in the wider community. Does moving to a ‘better’ area have any positive impact on individuals and families when they end up worse off in terms of the quality of their housing? Local government would be better equipped to deal with the impacts of deprivations if the ‘quality-of-life dilemma’ were to be examined in detail. Policy-makers need to understand more about the factors in central London that anchor people to their communities, whether they relate to secure social housing or more to the ‘ties that bind’. Do these anchors inadvertently limit opportunities for social mobility? Can more be done to help householders seeking a healthier environment to make the transition while keeping their community ties intact?