London, Borough of Islington
Mapping for Change will work with disadvantaged adults in the London Borough of Islington. Taking information from State of Equalities in Islington Annual Report 2018:
- Islington’s total population is 233,200.
- It’s the most densely populated local authority area in England and Wales, with 15,524 people per square km. This is almost triple the London average and more than 37 times the national average.
- 32% of residents were in Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups and 20% of residents “Other White” in 2018.
- 56% of lone parents are not in employment while just 21% are in full-time employment - half the figure for the wider population.
- Poverty is an issue in every part of the borough: there is a neighbourhood in every ward in Islington that is among the poorest 20% of neighbourhoods in England.
Within Islington, the specific focus will be the Mildmay Ward, which sits on the boundary with the borough of Hackney. The area, like many in London, has been subject to many changes over the past few years, with gentrification being a cause for friction among residents. Many residents in social housing feel that their neighbourhood, and even their homes are under threat of development as the cost of housing continues to increase.
New, more affluent people are moving in to the neighbourhood and the local character is slowly changing to reflect this. The high street now offers more patisseries and artisan food stores than affordable traditional bakeries or green grocers. The products on offer are not typically affordable to those on a low budget, reducing the choice of food for ‘long-term’ locals to supermarkets and fast food outlets. Not only does this have health implications, but also social ones as the spaces where people used to interact whilst shopping and eating are becoming ‘out of bounds’ or have just disappeared. As property prices increase and social housing stock is reducing and being sold off to private individuals and investors, affordable housing is a rarity. Where once several generations of a family would be neighbours, sharing care responsibilities and resources, the young generations are now not able to find a property in the area. This is breaking up families and leaving older people and young parents with no natural support network. This further increases the level of deprivation experienced by vulnerable and disadvantaged adults. The divide between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ is on the rise as the different lifestyles and daily routines can mean very little interaction between the two worlds. As a result, disadvantaged adults can feel powerless, frustrated, left behind and angry.
A number of local residents have lived in the neighbourhood all their lives and to some extent have become self-governing. Whilst this has its benefits at a hyper-local level, when decisions are made at a borough-wide or regional level, there are no systems in place to encourage participation in the process. The greatest obstacle will be to challenge the powerlessness felt and overcome apathy.
Mapping for Change is based within the heart of the ward, in Mildmay Community Centre which is managed by Mildmay Community Partnership whose sole purpose is to engage with local stakeholders. Also based within the community centre are other non-profits including London Gypsies and Travellers; Room to Heal - a charity supporting refugees; and Creative Opportunities who provide support and mentoring for young adults to realise their full potential. A number of other local groups use the centre for regular events including football for under 5s, bingo, dominos and indoor bowling for pensioners, line dancing for elderly ladies and a weekly group lunch for refugees and migrants. Despite the Centre having an active schedule, there is much more potential for involving a wider target group. Social events held at the Centre tend to attract the same core group of residents even though all are welcome. More recently a yoga class for Turkish women has started which is a positive sign, but the class is not well attended. By establishing the reasons for not being able to reach a wider group we can begin to address this and start to build relationships and reduce isolation, prejudice and division. By using our existing networks we can hope to understand the deeper issues sooner, and establish tools and methodologies for various target groups. We will research how our work can complement and enhance existing projects in order to ensure genuine buy-in and a mutual benefit, beyond knowledge exchange, for all participants.