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community profiling

On this page we suggest some basic and quick steps you can take to gather information about about a particular neighbourhood in Britain or Northern Ireland.

contents: introduction · quick statistical profile · census material · local authority statistics and other material · crime · other searches · your local library and agencies in the area · further reading

The picture of Gibson Gardens, Stoke Newington is by Fin Fahey and is reproduced here under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licence.

The best and easiest starting point with regard to data about the community you are interested in profiling is the web. Most of the basic statistics and background you need can be obtained by a few keystrokes (hopefully!). Below we set out the first steps you need to take. From there we go on to look at the sort of paper information that might be available in your local library and via local agencies.

For a quick statistical profile

For quick and easy profiling of the neighbourhood or community go to UpMyStreet (www.upmystreet.com). To access the database you will need to provide a postcode from within the area (it will recognize town names as well). You will then be able to review details concerning:

One of the useful features is the ability to compare one area with another.

The Office for National Statistics neighbourhood statistics site provides a range of information - often on a ward basis for England and Wales. Enter the postcode in the Neighbourhood Summary box.

The main headings are:

Some of it dates back to the last census, but a significant amount comes from up to date data sources.

For Scotland go to Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics and put the post code in the quick profile box.

More detail - the census

The next step in profiling your community is to access data for the neighbourhood from the 2001 Census (England and Wales) (http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/default.asp). You can get local area statistics (often based on wards or a similar size area) by going to neighbourhood statistics and entering the post code (in the left hand box "Find statistics for an area"). This will bring up a map of the area covered and detailed statistics concerning, for example:

Figures are compared with the overall figures in your borough/council area and the national average. You can also access up-to-date figures on employment from Nomis (http://www.nomisweb.co.uk/).

Scottish figures can be obtained from Scotland's Census (http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/grosweb/grosweb.nsf/pages/censushm), more local figures from Scroll (http://www.scrol.gov.uk/scrol/common/home.jsp). Northern Ireland's census results can searched according to postcode from the frontpage of the be found on the NISRA site (http://www.nisra.gov.uk).

Local authority data and information

You can access your local authority website via UpMyStreet (see above) or via the Directgov gateway (http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/index.htm). You will be able to examine different aspects of the council's work such as housing, social services, planning, education and so on. You can also usually search the site for information about particular areas and examine the minutes of different committees. They may even have produced profiles of different communities/neighbourhoods.

Some things worth typing in include the name of the area plus:

From the Directgov gateway it is also worth trying the powerful advanced search option. You can search over 2000 government sites (and 1.5 million documents). This will access your local authority databases as well as central government sites concerning the area.

Crime statistics

It is now possible to get information on crime and antisocial behaviour on neighbourhoods in England or Wales via CrimeMapper. You can search by village, town or postcode. In Scotland you need to go to the Scottish Government Crime and Justice Statistics for the overall situation.

More routes into government data

The government has also begun to encourage people to develop ‘apps’ that make the data they collect more accessible. You can find these at: http://www.data.gov.uk/data. You can also get at the main public government data sources here.

Pictures of your neighbourhood

For a view from the air go to Google maps (http://maps.google.co.uk/maps),  enter the place or postcode and then press 'satellite' in the map/image area. Zoom to the view you require.

For pictures of the area a search on Flickr (www.flickr.com), the photo-share site, can often yield interesting results.

Housing

Take a look at the property sites such as rightmove.co.uk. This gives a good idea of the non-social housing rental market and sales. You can get recent housing prices from nethouseprices.com.

Transport

One way into different sources is via the BBC site (www.bbc.co.uk)- just type a postcode into the Where I Live page - and see what comes up.

Other searches

Now it is time to go to Google (still the best search engine) or Bing. A good alternative is the metasearch engine ixquick.com (which searches Yahoo, MSN, AlttheWeb plus a number of other engines). It also has the advantage of being the only main engine, so it claims, to delete your personal data.

The secret with searching is to include some qualifying words e.g. Bermondsey+history, Rotherhithe+health. This should pick up some useful material. For hints on Google searching go to the essentials of Google search ; and for Ixquick check out their 'search like a pro'.

Your local library and agencies in the area

Much of the material available on the web might well be found in a good local library. What they will also have pre-internet material - and this can provide information that helps make sense of current developments and issues.

An often invaluable resource is the reports and materials held by other agencies. Frequently, they will be in a pretty unorganized state, but ploughing through what has been chucked in a box file or document box can sometimes yield gems.

Further reading

Hawtin, M., Hughes, G. and Percy Smith, J. (2007) Community Profiling. A practical guide. (Revised edition) Maidenhead: Open University Press. 256 pages. Practical guide with an annotated bibliography detailing UK examples of community profiles.

Chapters on the nature of community profiles; planning; involving the community; making use of existing information; collecting new information; survey methods; storing and analysing information; collating and presenting information; using your findings.

Acknowledgements: The picture of Gibson Gardens, Stoke Newington is by Fin Fahey and is reproduced here under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licence.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/albedo/474017426/in/set-72157600134031856/

© Mark K. Smith 2001-2009