The purpose of this report is to present a community profile of Hackney in London. When profilign a region such as this the focus is on using a variety of techniques in order to build up a clearer picture of a community or neighborhood (Barnados, 2004). The report here will firstly look at the history and general background of the Hackney area before going on to undertake a survey of local residents and traders. The aim of this is to gain an understanding of the needs of the community and the resources that exist within the community with a view to understanding what action plan could be implemented to improve the community and the quality of life of the people living in the community.
History and general background of the area
Hackney is one of London’s boroughs, having an estimated 216,000 residents, therefore being one of the smaller London boroughs. As Hackney Borough Council (2010) note, the population of Hackney began to grow in the 18th century with Hackney, prior to this, being pastures and farmland. As the railways opened, industries began to move in to Hackney, with workers needing accommodation. Recently, there has been an increase in Hackney’s population, with immigration to Hackney and an increase in the birth rate contributing to this population increase (Hackney Borough Council, 2010). There is a low proportion of 20-30 year olds in Hackney, with the population of small children in Hackney being higher than the national average and higher than in many other London boroughs (Hackney Borough Council, 2010). In terms of the ethnic and cultural diversity of Hackney, 60% of Hackney’s inhabitants are white; 4.2% are mixed race; 9% are Asian or Asian British; 25% are Black or Black British; and 3% are Chinese or ‘other’ (Hackney Borough Council, 2010). Hackney has a far larger Black population than either other London inner boroughs or the UK as a whole (20.9% vs. 16.4% and 4.4% respectively). By looking at the demographic and the way in which the growth has been established in recent years it can be seen that the region is dynamic and young. The demographic of a region is important as it may offer explanatory information in relation to why certain opinions are formed as to the options that are provided bv the region.
In terms of housing and neighbourhoods, Hackney contained an estimated 94,000 households in 2008, with further growth being expected in to 2016, with the average number of inhabitants per household being 2.28 (Hackney Borough Council, 2009). Half of the houses in the Hackney borough are social housing stock, with demand for this housing outweighing supply and average income across Hackney being well below the national average. Hackney Borough Council (2009) found that residents’ satisfaction with the Hackney area was high and that residents were pleased to live in Hackney and that part of this was because people from so many different backgrounds were able to get along with each other in Hackney. This is reflected in the fact that 65% of Hackney residents surveyed had lived at their current residence for more than five years and that residents’ sense of belonging to Hackney was high (Hackney Borough Council, 2009). The fact that many of the individuals living in the region are relying on social housing may be relevant in that expectations of the quality of housing may be of a lesser standing.
In regards to community safety in Hackney, crime has fallen in Hackney year on year, with 40% less crime in Hackney in 2011 than in 2006 (Hackney Borough Council, 2012). Local residents’ satisfaction with the police force and the fire service are the highest across London, although whilst the number of crimes has been reduced significantly, the number of crimes in Hackney is still higher than in other London boroughs, with 142/1000 crimes in Hackney, 111/1000 crimes in London as a whole and 89/1000 crimes in England as a whole (Hackney Borough Council, 2012). The most frequent crime in Hackney is burglary, with criminal damage and drug offences following. Violence against the person is also relatively high in Hackney, although this is one type of crime that has been reduced significantly in Hackney (Hackney Borough Council, 2012). Antisocial behaviour was identified as a problem area with anti-social behaviours such as drug dealing and teenagers running around the streets being the main cause for concern amongst residents (Hackney Borough Council, 2012). Despite this, fear of crime was low in Hackney residents, with the majority of residents surveyed saying that they felt safe during the day and relatively safe at night, both in their own homes and in the street (Hackney Borough Council, 2012).
It was decided, according to the community profiling tools provided by Christakopoulou et al. (2001), that the community profile should determine key aspects of the community and the lives of the people in the chosen community: what the area is like as a place to live; what the area is like as a social community; what the areas is like as an economic community; what the area is like as a political community; what the area is like as a personal space; and what the area is like as part of the city of London, in terms of the links between Hackney and the rest of London and what the specific local identity is that sets Hackney apart from the rest of London. By focusing on these key areas it is possible to more readily identify the main findings and thoughts of those within the region. On this basis, twenty survey questions were developed (see Appendix 1), with a view to using these survey questions to gain information from local Hackney residents as to their views of their community. The survey was presented to twenty local residents, who were approached as they walked down the street. Of the twenty residents who were approached, ten of them were willing to take time to answer the survey questions. The next section of the community profile will present the findings from the research, i.e., the responses of the ten local residents to the survey questions. The following section will then present an analysis of these findings; the final section will present an overall Conclusion for the community profile.
Regarding the first question, ‘What do you think about Hackney?’ the ten residents all had different opinions. Several mentioned that they loved to live in Hackney and that they were proud to live in Hackney. One older man mentioned that he felt unsafe in Hackney and was looking to move and this may be reflective of the different demands of age groups. He said he does not go outside his home at night as he fears the gangs of teenagers he sees on the streets. Another lady, a young mum, said that she loves Hackney but feels more could be done for young people in the area, and especially more for children. The young woman pointed out that she felt there were too few activities for children and that the outdoor parks were very badly maintained and often full of threatening teenagers, so that she did not use the parks with her children. Another person stated that they had lived in Hackney all their life and that they love Hackney, that they don’t se themselves ever leaving.
Regarding the second question, Do you think Hackney is a nice place to live?, eight of the people surveyed said yes, they felt that Hackney is a nice place to live and that they are happy living in Hackney. Two of them, including the old man, stated that they were not very happy living in Hackney and that they would prefer to live somewhere else. Regarding the third question, Do you like living in Hackney?, again, eight of the people said yes and two said no. The two people who said no said that they felt Hackney had become more unsafe and was not a safe place to live, that they often see drug dealers selling in the local parks and that the area could benefit from more policing.
In terms of the responses to the fourth question, Do you think Hackney is a satisfying place to live?, the eight people said that, yes, they felt Hackney is a satisfying place to live, with two people saying that it used to be but that now they did not feel it was the right place for them to be now. They noted that the rising house prices all over London made it difficult, however, for them to move, with this meaning that they felt they were marooned in Hackney. This is also evident in the fact that the region generally has a high level of satisfaction but this may be more reflective of the lack of alternative options rather than true satisfaction.
When asked, Do you, in Hackney, have access to all the facilities you need?, the ten people all had very different answers. Two, who appeared to be students, said that the rent was cheap and there were great cheap restaurants, that they were very happy with the area. Another said that, yes, the borough has sports facilities and parks and access to other London attractions. Others said that, yes, the community was strong and they were able to take part in community activities. When asked, Are you involved in the social life of your local area?, two of the local residents indicated they were, via a community gardening project and a community regeneration project. These two said that they felt this had made them feel more like a part of the local community.
When asked, Do you find your local community, in Hackney, supportive?, five said yes, four said they didn’t really no and one said no. The one who said no stated that they felt the police force could have a greater and more effective presence. The ones who said yes stated that they felt safe and welcome in the community. When asked, Do you feel Hackney has a range of socioeconomic conditions?, the majority said something along the lines of ‘we’re all poor here’, with one stating that Hackney has its ‘nice ends’ and its poor parts.
When asked, Do you think Hackney has a vibrant offering of local shops?, the people stated, yes, that they hardly ever have to leave Hackney to find something and that they loved the fact that there were so many international shops and restaurants. They all stated that they felt their local shop owners were part of their community and that they made an effort to make them feel welcome whenever they frequented the shop, noting that this made them feel more welcome to the community as a whole.
When asked, Do you feel well represented, politically, in Hackney?, the majority stated that they were unsure, with one stating that they felt the local politicians could do more to help Hackney. When asked, Do you feel the local politicians do a good job of managing Hackney?, the local residents stated that they were unsure but that, given the lack of complaints they had about the borough, the politicians must be doing their job well.
When asked, Do you feel, as a local resident, that you have a say in what happens in Hackney?’, the residents responded that they do not feel they have a say in Hackney, as they are but mere residents. One of the people, one of the ones who volunteer in the local community said that they felt their commitment to Hackney mad e them feel more a part of Hackney.
In response to, Are there community organisations in Hackney?, two said yes, they were part of these community organisation and the remainder said they were unsure. For the next question, Are you involved with community organisations in Hackney?, again, only two stated that, yes, they were involved; the remainder stated that no, they were not involved.
In response to the question, Are you very attached to Hackney?, eight said yes, they were, one said no and one said they weren’t sure. When asked, How long have you lived in Hackney?, the average answer was 18 years; the longest was 68 years and the shortest 8 months.
When asked, Do you have special memories of Hackney or of local people?, a variety of answers were given, all of which were very special and particular to that person as an individual. This suggested that the people did have very personal connection to Hackney.
When asked, Do you feel like Hackney is part of London?, the people stated that, yes, Hackney is part of London. When asked, Do you feel there are good linkages between Hackney and the rest of London?, all of them replied in the positive. The fact that Hackney is so close to central London was an attractive point for many of the respondents.
When asked, What do you feel distinguishes Hackney from the rest of London?, several answered that they felt the rest of London is less personal and welcoming than Hackney, with several others saying they feel Hackney is like a little village in London.
Analysis of findings
In terms of the analysis of the findings from the survey and the background quantitative analysis of Hackney borough, it can be seen that Hackney is a very vibrant and multicultural, multi-ethnic, borough. Hackney is appreciated by its residents for its special qualities and sense of community, meaning that residents feel welcome in Hackney. The survey found, for example, that the majority of people were very happy in Hackney and that they were so happy they had stayed in Hackney for a long time. One cause for concern, however, was the lack of children’s facilities and the safety and security of the area in general. Overall, however, the findings suggest that residents are generally very happy with Hackney and intend to stay in Hackney. Despite this there is some suggestion that the responses are reflective of the perceived inability to move to any other area and the fact that having a broad range of cultures makes those that would otherwise feel like they are in the minority feel relatively comfortable in the environment.
Community profile of Hackney
The community profile that has emerged for Hackney is of a smaller London borough that has a population of small children in Hackney being higher than the national average and higher than in many other London boroughs. Hackney is multicultural, with Hackney having a far larger Black population than either other London inner boroughs or the UK as a whole. Hackney has a high number of social housing stock, with demand for this housing outweighing supply and average income across Hackney being well below the national average. Crime is a concern in Hackney, as is antisocial behaviour; this was apparent from both the quantitative analysis and the survey.
This report has presented a community profile of Hackney in London, i.e., a description of the particular community or neighbourhood chosen using a variety of techniques to build up a picture of the community (Barnados, 2004). The techniques that were used in the construction of the community profile was a look at the figures associated with the region to provide details of the history and general background of the Hackney area and a survey of local residents and traders to gain a more subjective understanding of the area. These two approaches were used to gain an understanding of the needs of the community and the resources that exist within the community with a view to understanding what action plan could be implemented to improve the community and the quality of life of the people living in the community.
In terms of the understanding of the needs of the community, the community profile has shown that Hackney has a high number of children and young people with tee survey showing that their needs are currently unmet. This means that a huge section of Hackney residents have unmet needs; this means that the quality of life of this section of the community could be improved. Additionally, crime and fear of crime is high in Hackney, with the surveys showing that fear of crime stopped at least one resident from leaving their home at night, this severely impacting their quality of life. In terms of what could be done to improve the quality of life of residents, then, as quantitative analysis and survey have shown, providing more activities or spaces for children and young people would help them and possible reduce antisocial behaviours. Providing more police would possibly help to reduce crime and the fear of crime.
In conclusion, the community profile shows that Hackney is a very nice place to live, in general, but that it has some aspects that could be improved and, by improving them, this would improve the quality of life of residents. As has been discussed, the findings suggest that residents are generally very happy with Hackney and intend to stay in Hackney. Overall, then, the community profile has found certain problems with Hackney borough but has found that these problems are not viewed as particularly serious by residents; residents seem to love Hackney and love the fact that Hackney welcomes them with open arms, regardless of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, religion or creed.
Barnados, 2004. Community profiling. Available from http://www.barnardos.org.uk/communityprofiling.pdf [Accessed 6th May 2013].
Christakopoulou, S., Dawson, J. and Gari, A. (2001) ‘The community well-being questionnaire: theoretical context and initial assessment of its reliability and validity’, Social Indicators Research, 56: 321–51.
Hackney Borough Council, 2009. Hackneys housing. Available from http://www.hackney.gov.uk/Assets/Documents/hackney-Housing.pdf [Accessed 9th May 2013].
Hackney Borough Council, 2010. Hackney’s population. Available from http://www.hackney.gov.uk/Assets/Documents/hackney-Population.pdf [Accessed 9th May 2013].
Hackney Borough Council, 2012. Hackney’s community safety. Available from http://www.hackney.gov.uk/Assets/Documents/community-safety.pdf [Accessed 9th May 2013].
Appendix 1: Survey questions
What do you think about Hackney
Do you think Hackney is a nice place to live
Do you like living in Hackney
Do you think Hackney is a satisfying place to live
Do you, in Hackney, have access to all the facilities you need
Are you involved in the social life of your local area
Do you find your local community, in Hackney, supportive
Do you feel Hackney has a range of socioeconomic conditions
Do you think Hackney has a vibrant offering of local shops
Do you feel well represented, politically, in Hackney
Do you feel the local politicians do a good job of managing Hackney
Do you feel, as a local resident, that you have a say in what happens in Hackney
Are there community organisations in Hackney
Are you involved with community organisations in Hackney
Are you very attached to Hackney
How long have you lived in Hackney
Do you have special memories of Hackney or of local people
Do you feel like Hackney is part of London
Do you feel there are good linkages between Hackney and the rest of London
What do you feel distinguishes Hackney from the rest of London