Targeting resources and interventions in deprived areas using small area level indices of deprivation in the UK and South Africa
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Oxford
Unit of AssessmentSocial Work and Social Policy
Summary Impact TypeEconomic
Research Subject Area(s)
Mathematical Sciences: Statistics
Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Summary of the impact
Since 1999, researchers at the Department of Social Policy and
Intervention (DSPI) have undertaken a programme of research to produce
small area level indices of deprivation, in the UK and South Africa. These
indices are widely used in these nations by central and local government,
regional bodies, civil society, academics and others, to analyse patterns
of deprivation, to identify areas that would benefit from special
initiatives or programmes, and as a tool to determine eligibility for
specific funding, enabling governments and other bodies to target their
resources more effectively. The methodology developed for England was
subsequently used to produce indices for the other countries in the UK, as
well as South Africa, and is increasingly being applied elsewhere in
Africa and Asia.
This research has been led by Professor Michael Noble, Director of the
Social Disadvantage Research Centre (SDRC) and the Centre for the Analysis
of South African Social Policy (CASASP) at DSPI. Other researchers
involved in the Oxford team include:
- George Smith (Senior Research Fellow, 1999-2010)
- Dr Gemma Wright (Senior Research Fellow, 1999 to date)
- David McLennan (Senior Research Fellow, 2002 to date)
- Dr Helen Barnes (Research Fellow, 2003 to date)
In England, a new methodology for the creation of small area deprivation
indices was developed in 1999 by SDRC. The work was commissioned by the
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions for the purpose
of distributing regeneration funds. The new conceptual model of multiple
deprivation developed by SDRC is based on the idea of distinct
uni-dimensional domains of deprivation (e.g. income, employment, health,
education, housing and crime) that are recognised and measured separately.
The domains are combined, with appropriate weighting, into a single
measure of multiple deprivation: a weighted area level aggregation [Section
3: R1, R2]. The index differed markedly from previous measures that
had been in existence since 1981 not only because of the methodological
innovations but also because of the use of administrative data rather than
Census data, including a ground-breaking administrative resource of
recorded crime data from all police forces in the country (data that no
other researcher has been granted access to before or since) [R1, R2].
SDRC was also commissioned to produce the first indices of deprivation in
each other country in the UK (2000-2003). These were updated on several
occasions and SDRC was either commissioned to do the work or acted in an
advisory capacity (2003-2011). SDRC (with the University of York) also
produced a child well-being index for England (2008), describing patterns
of child well-being across England [R3]. In each of these cases,
the datasets providing a ranking of small areas on the separate domains
and overall indices are the main tools utilised by users of the research
for targeting resources and interventions, as detailed in the next
The methodology and outputs of the programme of research have been
subjected to intense scrutiny. The English Indices of Deprivation 2004 and
2007 were peer-reviewed by Professor Bradshaw (University of York) and
Professor Alcock (University of Birmingham) respectively, while
independent analysis relating to particular elements of the methodology
(e.g. the weightings) has been undertaken and has broadly confirmed the
methodology. The most recent versions of the UK indices have been
designated as either official or national statistics. This involves a
rigorous quality assurance process (see http://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/national-statistician/types-of-official-statistics).
This methodology was subsequently used internationally by CASASP. The
first indices of deprivation for South Africa were developed in
collaboration with Statistics South Africa and the Human Sciences Research
Council (HSRC) (2006) [R4]. An index of multiple deprivation for
children was also undertaken with HSRC (2007) [R5]. Updates of the
South African indices were commissioned by the South African Department of
Social Development. CASASP developed a new small area statistical
geography for South Africa, similar to the geographical units used
latterly in the UK index work. Both total population and child indices
were produced at this spatial scale (2009), allowing for a more
fine-grained analysis of deprivation, exposing high levels of deprivation
in the former homelands [R6].
In addition to the above indices, CASASP has recently been commissioned
to produce indices of deprivation for Oman and Namibia. Other Southern
African countries - Zambia and Mozambique - have also expressed an
interest. This research is still quite recent and has not yet had a chance
to have impact, however both CASASP and SDRC take a partnership approach
to their research and regularly work with external policymaking bodies,
providing an opportunity for co-designed and produced research.
References to the research
This programme of research has produced 17 reports and accompanying
datasets for government and other organisations.
[R1] Noble, M., Mclennan, D., Wilkinson, K., Whitworth, A., Exley,
S., Barnes, H. and Dibben, C. (2008) The English Indices of
Deprivation 2007, London: Department for Communities and Local
[R2] McLennan, D., Barnes, H., Noble, M., Davies, J., Garratt, E.
and Dibben, C. (2011) The English Indices of Deprivation 2010,
London: Department for Communities and Local Government.
[R3] Bradshaw, J., Noble, M., Bloor, K., Huby, M., McLennan, D.,
Rhodes, D., Sinclair, I. and Wilkinson, K. (2009) A Child Well-Being Index
at Small Area Level in England, Child Indicators Research, 2(2):
[R4] Noble, M., Barnes, H., Wright, G. and Roberts, B. (2009)
Small area indices of multiple deprivation in South Africa, Social
Indicators Research, 95(2): 281-297. doi: 10.1007/s11205-009-9460-7.
[R5] Barnes, H., Noble, M., Wright, G. and Dawes, A. (2009) A
Geographical Profile of Child Deprivation in South Africa, Child
Indicators Research, 2(2), pp.181-199.
[R6] Noble, M. and Wright, G. (2013) Using indicators of multiple
deprivation to demonstrate the spatial legacy of Apartheid in South
Africa, Social Indicators Research, 112(1), pp.187-201.
Key grants awarded to Professor Noble in the REF period include:
•English Indices of Deprivation 2007 (2007-2008, £157,150) [R1]
•English Indices of Deprivation 2010 (2009-2010, £205,160) [R2]
•Local Index of Child Well-being (2006-2008, £28,240 out of total
project budget of £98,670) [R3]
(all above projects were funded by the UK Department for Communities and
•South African Indices of Multiple Deprivation (2007-2009,
£176,520) funded by DFID for the South African Department of Social
•City of Johannesburg poverty analysis with HSRC (2007-2010,
R472,900) funded by the South African Department for Science and
•Namibian Indices of Multiple Deprivation 2001 (2010-2011,
US$83,400) funded by UNDP Namibia.
•Omani Child Well-being Index (2011-2014, £151,740) funded by
UNICEF Oman (awarded to McLennan).
Details of the impact
The research of Noble and his team has informed policymaking and practice
in a number of countries, however, it has been of particular value in
helping governments and other organisations in the UK and South Africa to
target resources and improve living conditions in deprived areas.
Each of the UK indices was initially commissioned by central government
for a particular purpose, e.g. the first English Indices of Deprivation
(2000, 2004 and 2007) were developed to identify the most deprived areas
of England to inform targeting of regeneration programmes such as the
Single Regeneration Budget and the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund.
The following are selected examples of uses of the indices:
Targeting funding: £1.5 billion (2008-09 to 2010-11) Working
Neighbourhoods Fund (WNF) was allocated to local authorities on the
basis of levels of deprivation in their constituent neighbourhoods, as
determined by the 2007 Indices [R1; Section 5: C1]; £30 million
(2011) of Community First funding was allocated to the most deprived
neighbourhoods identified using the 2010 Indices and other sources [R2;
C2]; the 2007 Indices and the Local Index of Child Well-being are
being used to estimate the number of troubled families in each local
authority for the allocation of £450 million (2012-2015) of funding [R1,
Funding formulae: the NHS has used the English Indices as part
of its weighted capitation funding formulae to calculate allocations of
funding to primary care trusts and deprivation-weighted additions to GP
salaries e.g. £85 billion was allocated in 2011-12 [e.g. R1; C4];
the disadvantage uplift in 16-19 education funding is calculated using
the 2010 Indices [R2; C5]; the Local Index of Child Well-being
is used in a funding formula for allocating £25.4 million (2010-11) for
under-18s drug and alcohol treatment [R3; C6].
Targeting programmes: the Community Energy Saving Programme
(2009-2012) contributes to the government's Fuel Poverty Strategy by
targeting geographical areas selected using the income domain of the
indices. [R1; C7].
Further impacts: the indices appeal broadly to charities,
voluntary organisations, businesses and the general public. For example,
many National Lottery grants are targeted at deprived areas using the
indices, as are other charitable funds, such as the Church and Community
[R1, R2; C9].
Public consultations on methodology, data sources and outputs were held
for each of the UK indices to ensure that the outputs met the needs of the
user. The indices attract media attention (e.g.
The English Indices 2007 report was the most downloaded document from the
Department of Communities and Local Government's website from 1 April to 8
December 2008 with 182,000 downloads
Building on recognition afforded to the research by Universities UK (as
one of the top 100 discoveries and developments in UK universities), in
2008, the UK government gave formal recognition of the impact of SDRC's
various UK indices by awarding Professor Noble a CBE for services to
research on poverty and deprivation, in particular his work on the English
Indices 2007. A University of Oxford spin-out company called Oxford
Consultants for Social Inclusion (www.ocsi.co.uk)
was established in 2003, amongst other things to assist local government
and voluntary organisations with the analysis of deprivation in their
local areas using the indices; they have worked with over a hundred public
South African Policy
CASASP's South African indices were undertaken in collaboration with
stakeholders in South Africa (Human Sciences Research Council, Statistics
South Africa, and the national Department of Social Development) who
contributed to the development of the research. These indices were
promoted widely by the Department of Social Development, which, in
recognition of their value, provided financial support to update the work.
The indices have been used to inform and target a range of strategies and
Sources to corroborate the impact
[C1] Use of the English Indices of Deprivation 2007 to allocate
Working Neighbourhoods Fund:
[C2] Use of the English Indices of Deprivation 2010 to determine
Community First funding:
[C3] Use of the English Indices of Deprivation 2010 to calculate local
authority financial support for troubled families:
[C4] Use of the English Indices 2004 and 2007 as part of funding
formula to calculate NHS Primary Care Trust funding and GP salaries
see especially pp. 36-9, 64, 72,
[C5] Use of the English Indices 2010 to calculate the disadvantage
uplift funding for 16-19 education: http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/e/explanatory%20note.pdf,
[C6] Use of the Local Index of Child Well-being in a funding formula
for under-18s drug and alcohol treatment: http://www.nta.nhs.uk/news-under18s-funding.aspx.
[C7] Use of the English Indices to inform the Community Energy Saving
Programme (2009- 2012): https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/ofgem-publications/58763/cesp-final-report-2013final-300413.pdf
[C8] Use of the South African Index of Multiple Deprivation as part of
funding formula to calculate the City of Johannesburg's programme of
subsidies for the poor: http://www.joburg-
Integrated Development Plan (2012- 2016) (http://www.joburg-archive.co.za/2012/pdfs/idp/idp201216.pdf,
pp 14, 47, 62, 66, 221).
[C9] Department of Communities and Local Government, UK (English
Indices of Deprivation).
[C10] Department of Social Development, Republic of South Africa
(South African Indices of Multiple Deprivation - see also the statement in
[C11] Department of Health and Social Development, City of
Johannesburg (South African Indices of Multiple Deprivation).