Bridging the growing inequality divide in London

In a city of 33 bridges London is internationally renowned for the many architectural constructs that gracefully line the River Thames. But one divide the city has long struggled to bridge is that between the most well off and those enduring significant hardship in the capital.

London is increasingly becoming a tale of two cities. According to the most recent Social Attitudes Survey, eight in ten people think that the divide between social classes is wide or very wide, whilst public perceptions of how easy it is to move between social classes have worsened since the start of austerity measures.

The roll out of the government’s flagship welfare programme Universal Credit has contributed to the growing divide, with councillors in Tower Hamlets deeming the scheme “dehumanising” for its residents. It also piles significant pressure on charities and services, who bereft of central government funding have been met with a double whammy of increased caseloads and little help.

Which is why the City Bridge Trust’s announcement that it has awarded grants totalling £4.1 million to 51 charities tackling inequality and disadvantage across London in its latest round of funding comes as a much-needed relief.

The trust, which has given away £390 million since 1995, is now in a new five year strategy called Bridging Divides which plays on the theme of bridges. Speaking to The London Economic, Alison Gowman, Chair of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust committee, said it is becoming clear that there are “so many divides and clear inequalities” in the capital that will likely “become bigger and clearer if things continue without some kind of engagement”.

The awards distributed in this round of funding range from funding for programmes supporting survivors of sexual abuse, therapy sessions for children with life limiting conditions and community activities to improve the health and wellbeing of older people. There is also increased legal aid been sought for people looking to find out more about their rights, and that is being supported through several grants.

Gowman said: “We have given quite a few grants to projects offering legal advice and support. Many of these organisations are being funded for expansion which demonstrates there is a high demand for such expertise”.

There are also clear concerns that despite such measures the level of inequality in London is becoming more pronounced. According to Gowman, their research shows charities are becoming increasingly concerned with the the drop in funding from government and from local authorities which comes at a time when their ability to help is becoming more acute because there are more issues and problems for them.

Although “there’s a lot of good will and there’s a lot of working together” demonstrated through the many charitable services City Bridge Trust support, one feels like they are plastering over increasing cracks in the fabric of British society.

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