London Councils has commented on London's Poverty Profile 2020, published by Trust for London.
Cllr Muhammed Butt, London Councils’ Executive Member for Welfare, Empowerment and Inclusion, said:
“London had the worst poverty in the UK ahead of the Covid-19 outbreak – and boroughs are hugely concerned that the pandemic’s economic impact will make the situation even worse.
“Across London, boroughs see more and more people needing help. Too many Londoners already live lives plagued by insecurity, including low-wage work and homelessness, but Covid-19 has only ramped up the pressures further. We’re extremely worried by the relationship between coronavirus and health inequalities, with emerging data suggesting a particularly severe impact on BAME communities.
“Boroughs are committed to tackling poverty and inequality and to achieve this we need strengthened powers and resources from central government to improve local support in our communities. The current crisis can’t be a distraction from this crucial national agenda. Reducing poverty and promoting opportunity will be essential to the UK’s economic recovery – and addressing London’s appalling poverty rates must be a key priority.”
London faces the most severe homelessness crisis in the country. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, more than 56,000 London households lived in temporary accommodation – accounting for two-thirds of England’s total.
To address the chronic shortage of affordable housing in the capital, boroughs are seeking improved support for council housebuilding. This requires an end to all national restrictions on the use of Right to Buy receipts, so that every penny raised from council house sales can be reinvested in replacements, and confirmation of long-term social rent levels.
London Councils is also calling for local government to be given an enhanced role in the welfare system. Boroughs have asked for full Universal Credit data sharing with local authorities – including notification when a claimant is sanctioned or affected by the Benefit Cap – and a restoration of national funding for Local Welfare Assistance to pre-2015/16 levels. This boost to Local Welfare Assistance funding is particularly important for councils increasing support for local residents facing financial hardship during the Covid-19 pandemic.