Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the London Borough of Newham (CP 12)


  The forthcoming research commissioned by Newham Council "Poverty and Deprivation in Newham: report on the findings of Year 1 of the Newham Household Panel survey" by University of Essex has identified that "Newham suffers extreme levels of deprivation and poverty." Two-thirds of local children are living in poverty.

  The report assesses what the Newham Household Panel Survey can tell us about poverty in Newham. The report focuses on both measures of income poverty including financial debt and measures of hardship or deprivation including housing quality. It also considers state benefit use; and it looks at subjective measures of poverty and respondents' prognosis concerning their financial situation.

  The report uses standard poverty lines of 50% of national mean income and 60% of national median income to demonstrate the extent to which Newham is deprived relative to the country as a whole. Results are compared for Britain, based on the British Household Panel Survey, and Newham with the national estimated derived from the Department for Work and Pensions' "Family Resources Survey" and which are provided in the annual "Households Below Average Income" series.

Percentage of individuals in poverty by age, Britain 2001 and Newham 2002.

Poverty rates in Britain 2001
Poverty Rates in Newham 2002
Aged 0-14
Aged 15-29
Aged 30-44
Aged 45-59
Aged 60-74
Aged 74+
All individuals

  Other key findings are:

    —  A fifth of Newham benefit units are supported by Income Support or Minimum Income Guarantee compared to 10% in Britain.

    —  30% of people in Newham are on an income-related benefit, which is approximately one-and-a-half times the national rate.

    —  The percentage of households for which a loan is a burden is 54.5% in Newham, compared with 35.8% in Britain as a whole.


  Newham Council launched their Quids for Kids campaign in July 2003 to ensure that parents claim all the tax credits and benefits they are entitled to. According to Department for Work and Pensions estimates, 50% of disabled children are not getting the Disability Living Allowance they are entitled to and under the old Tax Credits system one third of working families were missing out on Working Families Tax Credit, the predecessor of the Working and Child Tax Credits. Many parents are also missing out on Housing and Council Tax Benefits and free school meals. Newham's campaign is part of the Local Government Association's national Quids for Kids initiative which encourages local action.

  The first phase of Newham's campaign includes the following:

    —  A borough-wide publicity campaign through our Quids for Kids Leaflet summarising all benefits/tax credits. This has been distributed via schools and will be promoted at all of the Community Roadshows in July and August as well as at many school and other community events.

    —  Displays in Local Service Centres and libraries in July-August and posters on the Council's JC Decaux poster sites during July.

    —  Library bookmarks during July and August.

    —  Introduction to benefits and tax credits training sessions for front-line workers who work with children, including Sure Start staff starting in July 2003.

    —  Magazine and newsletter articles

    —  Talks for groups and stalls at events.

    —  Tax credit publicity through the SRU Employer CD-ROM on tax credits and targeting Council staff through staff events, newsletters and the Intranet.

  Specialist flyers on to encourage Child Tax Credit claims by students and Working Tax Credit by pregnant women are being targeted via colleges, universities and the health service.

  The Social Regeneration Unit are working in partnership with the Council's Early Year's Unit and the Children's Information Service on this phase of the campaign

  A specialist phase of the campaign will be launched in the autumn on disabled children, particularly aiming to address low take-up of Disability Living Allowance. The campaign will start at JFK Special School. Parents of disabled children who are assessed in the new inter-agency joint assessment will also be offered a benefit check by the Council's Social Services Welfare Benefits team. Plans are currently being developed to target disabled children in mainstream schools.


  We would like to see local initiatives like the Newham Quids for Campaign rolled out nationally, with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Inland Revenue working in partnership to make resources available and establish challenging take-up targets.

  The Inland Revenue could have a valuable role nationally in working with employers to encourage employers to promote tax credits to their employees. The Newham Council campaign to encourage take-up of tax credits in 2001-02 resulted in a 10% increase in the value of WFTC claimed. I have sent by post a copy of the LB Newham Employer CD-ROM which includes many resources such as sample payslip messages, staff magazine features and links to the Inland Revenue website and has recently been sent to 150 local employers in the borough. We have approached the Inland Revenue to share this information with them but have been disappointed that they are uninterested in doing this sort of work with employers.

  The Department for Work and Pensions need to develop a take-up strategy to address the 50% underclaiming of Disability Living Allowance and improve their customer service operations so that there is established a local service who can help with form completion, on the lines of the local Pensions Service, where home visits can be requested and local surgeries are organised.


  Two changes are needed to reduce child poverty:

    —  We support the Child Poverty Action Group's campaign to increase levels of Child Tax Credit by £5 a week. An extra £5 will make a real difference to meeting the Government's child poverty target for 2004-05 and to eradicating child poverty within twenty years.

    —  A higher Working Tax Credit childcare element for London is needed to address the higher costs of childcare in London.

Celia Minoughan

10 September 2003

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