E : On state benefit, unemployed, lowest grade workers
Interviewers are required to ask questions to establish, the position rank or grade of the CIE and additional questions on the industry or type of company they work for, qualifications they may have and the number of staff they are responsible for as necessary. Interviewers are given training in categorising social grade and note down the responses to these questions and complete the social grade coding after probing fully in the field. Interviewers are provided with a booklet listing occupations and grades and their appropriate social grade. Where there is uncertainty over the appropriate occupational grading, for example, for engineers, managers or directors of companies, the number of employees in the establishment and the qualifications and responsibilities of the CIE are taken into account. Students who live at home and form part of that household are graded according to the CIE of that household. The same is true of lodgers and domestic servants that are categorised by the household that employs them. Households where there are no current earners or only those whose earnings are intermittent and on or below the basic minimum state benefit, retired people living on the basic state retirement pension, widows with only widows benefit and people who have been sick or unemployed for six months or more are graded as in the lowest category (E). An indication of the respondents’ occupations and their grading is given in Table 3.4.
In the Warnings and Lower Thames Surveys as compared to both Intangibles samples, a higher proportion of respondents were in the higher social grades (AB) and a lower proportion were in the lowest grades (DE) than is the case in England and Wales overall. This is probably due to the substantial proportion of interviews in the Warnings Survey and all in the Lower Thames study that were conducted in the Thames Valley or in affluent areas in the South East of England. The Warnings and Lower Thames samples were also different since they contained a larger proportion of people living in detached properties than both Intangibles samples. This may again reflect the greater affluence of the locations where the surveys took place.
Household income can be a contributing factor to social vulnerability. Questions about income are some of, if not the most sensitive items, to include in surveys in Britain. They are usually asked, as in the surveys in this study, as one of the last questions in the survey in order not to alienate respondents early on in the interview. They are asked in a broadly grouped and coded form in order to make them more acceptable to respondents. Respondents are shown a card with income categories listed with a random letter against each category so that respondents can answer without stating the amount of their income. Respondents are asked: ‘Please can you indicate which of the following letters represents your gross household income (before tax) per week, month or year. Just read out the letter that applies’.
Despite this approach, there is normally a high level of non-response to this question item because some respondents do not know the gross household income which involves knowing and adding together the income of all household members, and others refuse to provide the information.
Respondents in the Intangibles Survey and the Warnings Survey were asked to give their gross household income before tax. This question was not asked in the Lower Thames Survey. The key feature of the response to this question is the high level of non-response in both surveys; there was a 36% non response in the Warnings Survey with refusals at 27%, a key component. For the flooded sample in the Intangibles Survey, 24% were unclassifiable on income. For the at risk sample non response on income was 19%. These high levels of non-response reduce the value of the income variable for the analysis since the sample size is significantly reduced when this variable is used and because the non response may mean that the data on income and respondents giving it are unrepresentative of the sample as a whole.
Bearing these reservations in mind, Table 3.5 presents gross household income data for single person and multiple person households for three of the survey samples excluding the non-response. These data confirm what was indicated by the data on social grade: the greater affluence of the Warnings Survey respondents overall and those in multiple person households among them as compared with those in the Intangibles Survey both the flooded and the at risk. In all three samples, markedly more in the single person households had incomes falling in the two lowest income categories (under £800 per month) than did multiple person households.
Table 3.5: Percentage of respondents with a gross monthly household income level for one person and multiple person households
Non-response to the household income question is excluded from this Table.
As figures 3.2, 3.3 and 3.4 show, in all three survey samples, there was a strong association between income and social grade (Chi-square; p<0.001). Among the flooded in the Intangibles Survey, 62% of those in the DE social grades had gross monthly household incomes of under £800 per month; for the at risk, the proportion was 55% and in the Warnings Survey the proportion was also 62%. Thus, the DE social grade category, admittedly a small category in each of the surveys, encapsulates multiple vulnerabilities in economic and social terms.
Figure 3.2: Income by social grade: Intangibles Survey - flooded
Figure 3.3: Income by social grade: Intangibles Survey - at risk
Figure 3.4: Income by social grade: Warnings Survey
3.3.3 Tenure and length of residence The tenure situation in England and Wales
The tenure situation in England and Wales is complex and varies greatly depending upon a number of factors. One key difference compared to many European countries is that a higher proportion of people own or are buying their own homes. This will be highlighted in later Sections as an example of a context-specific indicator of social vulnerability. The national average for home ownership (including those buying on a mortgage) is 69% (Census, 2001). Around 9% of people nationally rent from a private owner or landlord. Around 13% of people nationally rent their property from their local authority or social housing provider. The term ‘social housing’ covers both local authority (‘council’) and housing association dwellings. In England, there are an estimated 3.93 million households in the social rented sector; of which 2.47 million are in local authority accommodation and 1.46 million in housing association accommodation (ODPM, 2005). By the early 1980s, problems associated with council housing were widely recognised and many estates had already acquired a negative reputation and had become the last resort for those on the lowest incomes (LGiU, 2004).
Over the last 20-30 years the proportion of Local Authority social housing has decreased due to a wide range of factors. ‘Right-to-Buy’ sales (sales to those who have been renting the property from the Authority for many years and who were offered the right to buy the properties for less than the market prices) were a significant factor. The right-to-buy legislation introduced in 1980 had an uneven effect, both across the UK and over the socioeconomic spectrum. Sales were higher in areas that already had the highest levels of home ownership, and were concentrated on the most desirable estates (LGiU, 2004). Other factors affecting the reduction in Local Authority social housing include ‘Large Scale Voluntary Transfers’ to registered non-profit Housing Associations (Registered Social Landlords) or trusts, and selling into shared ownership schemes. Local Authorities no longer build new social housing but they maintain responsibility for existing stock (i.e. that which has not been sold or transferred to housing associations etc.). According to government figures, the proportion of older households living in social rented accommodation increases with age (ODPM, 2005).
Tenure and length of residence in the Surveys
In all the samples apart from the ‘at risk’ sample in the Intangibles Survey, over 80% of residents owned outright or were buying their properties and higher proportions of those interviewed in those studies owned their homes outright (without a mortgage) than the national average of 29% (Table 3.4), in some cases this figure was significantly higher. The differences in the proportions owning their homes outright may reflect the high proportion of older people in the samples, who have had time to pay off their mortgages. High levels of home ownership may also reflect the affluence of the areas where flooding occurred.
In the study areas for this report apart from the at risk sample, fewer interviewees generally rented their property, except for the at risk sample in the Intangibles study. The proportion of local authority and housing association (social housing) tenants was lower than the national average. It may be that these differences reflect greater success in planning and locating local authority and housing association property outside flood risk areas and the fact that many older pre 1900 properties likely to be owner occupied are located in the flood plain. It is also possible that the difference is due to the fact that surveys that focus on those who have been flooded inside their homes or who are at risk from such flooding necessarily exclude those who live on the upper floors in blocks of flats or converted buildings. Local authority, privately renting and housing association tenants are more likely to live in such property and therefore to be excluded from the surveys as not at risk.
The at risk in the Intangibles Survey were strikingly different in terms of their tenure to the other samples, although the proportion owning or buying their property in this sample (67%) was closer to the national average than were the other samples. Many more of the at risk were renting their property privately than was the case in the other samples and than is the case nationally. There was an equally marked contrast in the length of residence in the flooded and at risk samples, with over 40% of the at risk resident for less than two years compared with 1% of the flooded. This may in part be accounted for by the requirements of the sampling, since those who had recently moved to the area would not have been affected by the main flood events of Easter 1998 and of autumn 2000, and would thence be eligible for inclusion in the at risk sample.
It is possible that these differences in age and length of residence reflect, in part, the age of housing in the flooded area, with younger people moving into more recently constructed properties that are built where the risk is lower. A further explanation is that younger people have since moved into rented accommodation that was flooded in the recent events when the owners no longer wished to live there. The data are consistent with such mobility following recent flooding. The other sample that is almost all of those at risk, the Lower Thames Survey, is more like those flooded in the Intangibles Survey and the Warnings Survey in tenure and length of residence. The majority of the residents in the samples other than the at risk sample had been resident ten or more years at their address. This apparent stability may again in part reflect the sampling selection procedures (since to be interviewed residents had to have been present at the time or a recent or worst flood which may have occurred some years earlier) rather than the mobility in the area as a whole.
Although home ownership was the dominant form of tenure for all social grade groups, there was a strong association between social grade and tenure among the flooded in the Intangibles Survey (Chi-square; p<0.001) and in the Warnings Survey (Chi-square; p<0.05) (Figure 3.5). In both surveys, the C2 and more particularly DE groups were more likely to rent from the local authority, a housing association or a private landlord than the AB and C1 groups. Because the ‘right to buy’ offers local authority tenants the opportunity to buy their homes at discounted prices, it has enabled local authority tenants who would not otherwise have been able to afford to buy, to become home owners and has thus widened home ownership. It has also introduced a mix of tenure types to estates and block of flats that formerly provided exclusively local authority rented accommodation.