Letter to Council regarding youth gangs
2 October 2011

2 October 2011

Earlier this year, Babcock, CLaSS and the Youth Service, when I had occasion to contact them about youth human rights issues, seemed to have no common agreed strategy or management to address the issues raised. Indeed, they seemed to operate independently iro their actions to assist WF deprived youth. This was my perception at the time. My perception, also is that Council connects neither with itself nor with the many marginalised WF communities, some indigenous, others recently arrived.
  • From the Independent Panel’s Report, 2009: “One of the major complaints that the Council has to deal with is that some communities believe they have been marginalised in setting priorities and taking decisions.”
  • Pitts, 2007 said: “It appears that gang-affected families don’t feel that their concerns are represented, or their predicament understood, by politicians and policy makers. As far as they are concerned we don’t exist, and even if we do, we are just some kind of problem that won’t go away.”
  • The Institute of Community Cohesion Report, 2007, comments: “Many members of the Muslim communities feel unrepresented by the Council and isolated from other statutory agencies: although there are 12 Muslim Councillors, they are all associated with the same Mosque and come from the same part of the Community.“ The report continues: “Similarly, Council officials from the Muslim communities are perceived by many to be partisan, and we understand that some have been placed under inappropriate pressure by Councillors or other members of their own communities.”
  • In 2002 WF council was failing. The Corporate Assessment, giving council zero stars, commented: “There is a history of low mutual confidence between members and officers which is not yet completely resolved.“

For whatever reason, this lack of staff confidence appears to continue to the present day. The officer sackings and resignations before and after the 2009 IP report have not helped raise staff morale, and Councillors still seem unaccountable for the actions of their officers. My 18 May 2011 letter to Martin Esom and the meeting with him, Althea Loderick and three councillors on 23 May, refer.

These inspection and panel reports show a common concern for the lack of WF community cohesion. Council’s lack of action and its unwavering identification with LGBT issues do nothing to mitigate the problems raised.

My feeling is that community fears should be publicly discussed, for it is only then that they can be assessed and solutions found. The Community Safety Board could be an ideal tool for this, if it included people from all parts of WF society. I find a worrying reluctance by council to properly address intercommunity differences.

Further, in the society we have constructed, politicians and policy makers fear but do not respect differences. More importantly, as was said at the WF Co-op meeting, we have no long term vision for the future of our society. We have instead, a political battleground of different ideologies, values and visions.

I concur with Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth who recently said: "I want to encourage reading in school, at home, on buses, on trains, in the street. We need to address illiteracy wherever and in whatever form it occurs to give young people a better future." Regarding youth and training, she went on to say: “I believe all of us would prefer to fly in an aeroplane with a well-trained pilot rather than a well-educated pilot. Our objective is to achieve the right blend of education and training to suit the vocational world. Investing in vocational education and training is also one of the best ways of combating youth unemployment.”

The central issue facing Waltham Forest education is how to include young people into our society, how to give them a vision of themselves and of their own futures – how to equip each and every single one of them with the skills and knowledge necessary to contribute to become part of society.