Southwark Council: Strength in numbers – Helping a council count the uncountable

ESRO and Southwark Council

Synopsis

Immigration is among the most emotive of topics in politics, and yet reliable figures on its scale are elusive. This presents a real challenge to councils – particularly those in densely populated and diverse urban areas like Southwark, for whom robust data on the size and characteristics of local populations is vital.

In particular, Southwark felt that the Census alone was providing neither accurate numbers nor sufficient insight with regard to certain sections of its migrant population. Specifically, it was thought that the population may include a significant proportion of undocumented migrants who might be living their lives beyond the reach of public services. For Southwark, better understanding these hidden populations is crucial in order to deliver services that meet the needs of local communities at a time of reducing resources, and to make the case to government about the hidden demand and cost pressures that can present themselves in the most diverse parts of London.