London not a child friendly city and the exodus of families must be stopped, warns Coram children's charity

London is not a child-friendly city and more must be done to stem the exodus of families, the head of the country’s oldest children’s charity has warned.

Dr Carol Homden, CEO of Coram, said families in the capital are under more pressure from the cost-of-living crisis than those elsewhere, and urged the government to act to make London a more affordable place for families to live.

It comes after the Evening Standard revealed headteachers fear “ghost areas” are developing in London, where schools are closing because too few children live there.

London Councils forecasts that 8,000 fewer children will need school places in London over the next few years, caused by a 17 per cent drop in London’s birthrate, the cost-of-living crisis the pandemic and the lack of affordable housing, London Council said.

Dr Homden said: “The Standard’s investigation on school closures across London has set out a gloomy picture of ghost areas being created across the capital and suggests we are falling well short. Right now, this is not a child-friendly city.”

She added: “There have always been ebbs and flows in the city’s population, but when whole areas of the capital cannot sustain a school within their community, it is clear that we need to do things differently.”

Dr Homden called on the government to address the immediate problem of school closures, but also to tackle the root causes, including the high childcare costs London parents face, which she said are “considerably higher” than parents elsewhere have to pay.

She added: “As London’s longest-serving children’s charity, our work shows us daily that children and young people face substantial challenges, many longstanding and now exacerbated by the fallout from the pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis. While families nationwide are under pressure from the cost of living, these are much higher in the capital.”

She praised Mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to fund free school meals for all primary school children in London for another year, saying it makes a “huge difference” to families.

She added: “There are so many other measures we can take – around benefits, free school meals, per-pupil spending - that may start to reverse the current exodus of families – but only if the political will is there.”

Coram, which was established in 1739 as the Foundling Hospital, has already published a Charter for Children calling for a fairer economic settlement for young people.

It calls on the government to commit to a “triple key” of investments for children to give them the economic security the “triple lock” on pensions gave to older people.

It wants a fair share of the nation’s resources for children, including a guarantee that per-pupil school spending rises in line with the economy, reform of childcare and better access to special educational needs and mental health support.