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Brent’s Poverty Commission determined to change the story on inequality

22 June 2020

Brent Council’s Poverty Commission, set up before the coronavirus hit the UK, continues to hear evidence on how to tackle poverty in one of the worst affected boroughs in London. 

COVID-19 has exposed inequalities in the borough that have been decades in the making. A third of people live in poverty, including 43 percent of children, and 15 percent of families are in fuel poverty.

Unsurprisingly, the Commission is focusing on themes of:

  • Housing: Poverty rates increase from 17% before housing costs to 33% after housing costs

  • Economy and jobs: Low pay is a significant problem. Around a third of (29%) employees in Brent earn below the London Living Wage – fifth highest of the London boroughs

  • Financial inclusion: One in three (29%) households claim housing benefit compared with 18% in London and 13% nationally

  • Local welfare: High levels of fuel poverty. 15% of households are in fuel poverty compared with 12% across London

Brent’s Poverty Commission is determined to get to the heart of how people in Brent are experiencing poverty, and how organisations, including the council, can make the most difference. 

The Commission has already been hearing evidence from residents, politicians and expert organisations. The aim is to provide the council with practical and evidence-based recommendations for consideration by Brent’s Cabinet.

Lord Richard Best, Chair of the Poverty Commission said: "We live in a very unequal society. The recent years of austerity have had severe consequences for those on the lowest incomes. The coronavirus pandemic has worsened the situation, which for many was already critical. Food banks have had to expand their work to meet basic need; housing costs have outpaced incomes and homelessness has risen; local authorities have struggled to sustain essential services. 

“I am honoured to be chairing the Commission. I hope very much that it will draw some significant conclusions, make some valuable recommendations, and lead to better lives for those in the borough who currently face real hardship every day."

Cllr Eleanor Southwood, Cabinet Member for Housing and Welfare Reform, who commissioned the work said: “People here were already really struggling, and, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, they now face even greater financial hardship. We must take tangible and prompt action to help. Too often, we focus on the individual factors that impact people’s income and quality of life. This commission will consider the lived experiences of poverty in the borough to better understand the cumulative impact of rocketing housing costs, precarious employment and a welfare system which puts process before people.”

“No one should go hungry or face homelessness. My hope is that our Poverty Commission will give us some clear and evidence-based recommendations to improve things.”