Indices of Deprivation 2015

  • By Paul Honeyben

On 30 September 2015 the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) published the Indices of Deprivation 2015: the official measures of relative deprivation for small geographic areas within local authority boundaries called Lower-layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs) in England. The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) brings together seven indices into one overall index which ranks every small area in England from 1 (most deprived area) to 32,844 (least deprived area). This briefing summarises the initial outputs from the Indices, and what this means for London local government.


The English Indices of Deprivation 2015 (the Indices) is the fifth release in a series of statistics produced by DCLG, first published in 2000. The 2015 version is based on broadly the same methodology as the 2010 Indices, using 37 separate indicators, across seven “domains” of deprivation, which are combined to calculate the overall IMD.

Figure 1 shows the seven domains and the relative weighting each is given in the overall IMD. The data underpinning most of these indicators relates to the year 2012-13: the latest year that comparable figures are available across all domains at the LSOA level.

What are the Indices of Deprivation?

The Indices are designed to measure multiple forms of deprivation at the small spatial scale across England on a relative rather than an absolute scale. It is common to describe how relatively deprived a small area is by saying whether it falls among the most deprived 10 per cent, 20 per cent or 30 per cent of all small areas in England (although there is no definitive cut-off at which an area is described as ‘deprived’).

While the Indices are primarily designed to be a small-area measure of deprivation, they are commonly used to describe deprivation for higher level geographies including local authority districts. LSOA figures are aggregated up to local authority level and ranked between 1 and 326 (1 being the most and 326 the least deprived districts in England). Summary measures are also available for upper tier local authorities, local enterprise partnerships and clinical commissioning groups.

What can’t the Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 be used for?

As they are a relative measure across England, the Indices cannot be used to measure the real change in deprivation in an area over time. For example, while an area can be said to have become more deprived relative to another area, it cannot be said to have become more deprived compared with itself in previous versions of the Indices, as it may be that all areas had become more deprived to a greater extent; so while deprivation may have increased in that area, in relative terms it may appear to be less deprived.

The Indices should not, therefore, be used to compare scores for an individual area with previous versions (2010, 2007, 2004 and 2000). However, as a relative index it is possible to compare rankings over time.

Other things the Indices cannot be used for include:

• quantifying how deprived an area is

• identifying deprived people

• saying how affluent a place is

• comparing with small areas outside England.


This section gives a brief overview of findings from the overall IMD and the seven separate indices for London boroughs. There are several ways in which the findings can be presented when comparing across local authorities, the most common are to report:

• the proportion of LSOAs within a local authority area that fall within the 10 per cent most deprived nationally; and

• the rank of average rank across each domain.

The first measure shows where there is high concentration of very deprived areas within a local authority; the other measure is useful for showing the average level of deprivation across an area.

Overall Index of Multiple Deprivation
Rank of average rank

The average rank measure summarises the average level of deprivation across the higher-level area, based on the ranks of the Lower-layer Super Output Areas in the area. Within the overall IMD, local authorities are then ranked 1 to 326 based on the average ranks. On this measure, 10 London boroughs rank within the 33 most deprived authorities in England (i.e. the 10 per cent most deprived on average): Hackney, Barking and Dagenham, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Islington, Waltham Forest, Haringey, Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham.

The proportion of LSOAs in most deprived 10 per cent nationally

Across England as a whole, Middlesbrough, Knowsley, Kingston upon Hull, Liverpool and Manchester are the five local authorities with the highest proportions of LSOAs among the most deprived 10 per cent. In London, Tower Hamlets has the highest proportion of areas within the most deprived 10 per cent nationally (24 per cent). It is ranked as the 24th most deprived authority in England on this measure; the next highest is Haringey (ranked 44th).

London’s most deprived boroughs have seen some significant reductions when compared to other parts of the country. For example, the proportion of highly deprived LSOAs in Hackney has reduced from 42 per cent to 17 per cent and in Newham from 31 per cent to 8 per cent, when compared with the 2010 Index. Figure 2 below shows the contrast of deprivation across London (the darker areas represent the more deprived areas).

IMD 2015 - Lower super output area map of London

Income, Employment and Education

Income and employment deprivation contribute the most weight to the overall Index (22.5 per cent each). Income deprivation measures the proportion of the population on low incomes, which includes people that are out-of-work, and those that are in work but who have low earnings and employment deprivation measures the proportion of the working-age population in an area involuntarily excluded from the labour market. The local authority districts ranked as most deprived on income deprivation generally also rank as most deprived on the employment deprivation domain.

London boroughs account for 13 of the 33 most income deprived authorities with regard to the average rank; but only one of the most income deprived authorities with the highest proportion of LSOAs in the 10 per cent most income deprived in England (Tower Hamlets). So, while London has fewer really deprived areas on income deprivation, it does have a wider spread of general income deprivation.

Within the employment domain, only one London borough (Barking and Dagenham) features in the top 33 local authorities in terms of average rank, and none in terms of the proportion of LSOAs in the 10 per cent most deprived nationally.

London is also comparatively less deprived on the education domain, which measures a lack of attainment and/or skills, with only one (Barking and Dagenham) featuring in the most deprived in terms of average rank, and none within the 33 most deprived authorities in terms of proportion of LSOAs in the 10 per cent most deprived nationally. In fact, nine boroughs feature in the 10 per cent least deprived on both the rank and high proportion of most deprived LSOAs measures.

Health, Crime, Barriers to Housing and the Living Environment

London boroughs compare well with other areas on the health and disability deprivation measures, which look at morbidity, disability and premature mortality. No boroughs feature in the 33 most deprived on either the average rank measure, or the high proportion of most deprived LSOAs measure.

However, London shows high levels of crime deprivation, measured by high levels of crimes categorised as, violence, burglary, theft or criminal damage. London accounts for 14 of the 33 most deprived authorities on average rank nationally, and nine of the top 33 in terms of the high proportion of most deprived LSOAs measure.

London also has high levels of deprivation within the barriers to housing domain, which measures road distance to facilities, homelessness, overcrowding and housing affordability. London boroughs account for 20 of the 33 most deprived areas on average rank, and 9 of the top 33 as measured by the high proportion of most deprived LSOAs.

Finally, within the living environment domain (measuring housing in poor condition, housing without central heating, air quality and road traffic accidents), London accounts for nine of the top 10, and 16 of the 33 most deprived authorities on average rank; and 9 of the 33 most deprived authorities on the high proportion of most deprived LSOAs measure.



Measuring deprivation across geographic areas is not an exact science. Deprivation is a subjective term. Whether and how different aspects of deprivation can be measured is subject to debate. However, as a general indication of different aspects of deprivation across small areas, the Indices of Deprivation are the most widely used dataset in England.

There are several emerging messages from the 2015 Indices with regard to London. In terms of concentration of really deprived areas within a local authority (i.e. those with the highest proportion of LSOAs that fall within the 10 per cent most deprived in England), London boroughs have become less deprived in comparison to other parts of the country. However, with London boroughs comprising 10 of the 33 most deprived local authorities on average, general deprivation remains widespread across particular parts of the city.

Across the individual domains of deprivation, London compares relatively well on measures of education and employment, reflecting the higher rates of employment and qualifications of its inhabitants. However, the fact that income deprivation is comparatively high suggests there could be an imbalance between wage levels and the cost of living in some areas. It is also unsurprising that London boroughs are amongst the most deprived within the crime, access to housing and the living environment domains, reflecting some of the broader issues inherent in highly built up urbanised areas.

What does this mean for London local government? While some areas use the Indices in their local schools funding formulae, measures from the Indices are not currently taken into account within core funding allocations to local government. The Indices were used in some parts of the calculation of the old formula grant, however under business rates retention funding baselines have been frozen until 2020, and it is not clear that the Indices will continue to be used when these are recalculated.

More important for London local government is the question of how changing levels of deprivation and different aspects of deprivation, impact on the type and extent of public services residents require. Pockets of deprivation are becoming more entrenched within certain boroughs. Residents of deprived areas are most likely to have complex needs and to access local authority services.

With funding reductions set to continue at a similar rate as the last parliament and rapid population growth set to increase pressure on public services in London, understanding the makeup of the local population will become even more important for authorities in identifying likely areas of high demand for local services: in this respect the indices are a valuable tool.

London Councils will undertake further analysis of the Indices of Deprivation, which contain a wealth of detailed information, in order to highlight the key trends and messages that are likely to impact on specific local government services in London.


Paul Honeyben, Strategic Lead: Finance, Performance & Procurement

[email protected] (T: 020 7934 9748)