IntoWork17 blog: Using data to investigate the causes and consequences of poverty for Londoners

11 July 2017

Policy in Practice is tracking the changing living standards on more than 444,000 low income households across London. At IntoWork 2017 Deven Ghelani told delegates how, by combining housing benefit and council tax support data from 14 London boroughs, captured on a monthly basis over two years, Policy in Practice is able to track the impact of welfare reforms and rising rents for over one million people in the capital.

With the lower benefit cap in place and more welfare reforms coming, homelessness applications and demand for temporary accommodation are set to rise. We need to better understand the drivers of poverty in London.

This research identify the characteristics of households in poverty, and tracks how they change over two years, revealing why some are able to escape but others are not.

Household level data across London

Policy in Practice works with Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support data. This is an incredibly rich source of information on the make-up and economic circumstances of each low income family within a borough, it is updated monthly and it forms the basis on which over £24bn of Housing Benefit is paid each year. We work with anonymised data to overcome data protection concerns, though the data can be mapped back by the local authority to support targeted and proactive support.

When asked what they would like to learn about the causes and consequences of poverty on low income Londoners, delegates said the prevalence and characteristics of households experiencing in work poverty. Understanding more about households with lone parents who move into work, as well as households with children in poverty, were also high on the list.

Building the case for better use of data at the central and local government level 

Whilst the findings of the project are interesting in their own right the project also serves a strategic purpose.

Pooling data on low income residents across 14 London Boroughs is no small achievement, and we wish to thank the London Boroughs already taking part for their support and for sharing their data on which this analysis is based.

Taking place over 18 months, the project has already demonstrated that legal and technical barriers around data-sharing can be overcome, laying the foundations for future collaboration across local authorities in London, and beyond.

Through this project Policy in Practice and Trust for London also aims to show central and local government exactly what is possible with household level data. The timing with Universal Credit and Real Time Information on earnings helps to build the case for better use of household level data across central and local government under Universal Credit.

To request the project findings and to get involved, email Deven Ghelani at [email protected]