Thank you to everyone who made time on the 6th April to attend our meeting – over 100 residents took part in this event which was advertised to all those who had been in touch about this issue previously and on facebook. At the end of this email I have shared below the outcome of the discussion and the top three points made in each section by attendees for your information.
Thank you also to those working directly to provide services tackling these issues locally who came to hear the concerns of local residents. This included Deputy Mayor of London Sophie Linden, Cllr Clare Coghill – Leader of Waltham Forest Council, Superintendent Tania Coulson, inspector Chris Nixon, Daniel Phelps Director of Early Help, Elenora Clarke Head of Youth Justice, Cllr Grace Williams – Cabinet Member for Children and Community Safety, Jane Brueseke- Youth Engagement and Des Brown and the team at Spark2life.
Following this meeting and as a result of the decisions taken by attendees, my office and I are now working with a range of organisations to develop further the ideas around mentoring. We would welcome any offers of assistance local residents can offer to secure corporate funding from their employers for such a scheme for Walthamstow.
PROBLEM : WHAT CAUSES VIOLENCE ON OUR STREETS?
- 1) Traumatic events - predominantly experienced in childhood by the perpetrators and sometimes victims of youth violence. Particular reference was made to domestic violence and child abuse.
- 2) Parenting – the room discussed how issues such as poverty, racism, family breakdown, insecure and inadequate housing, domestic violence, deficits in emotional resilience, lack of boundaries, all undermine supportive and safe parenting which leaves children vulnerable to being groomed by gang associates and leaders.
- 3) Lack of resources – this discussion centred on the fact that there are now less spaces and youth support services for young people. One constituent pointed out that organisations who specialised in working with young Black men particularly, like Reach who provided Black male role models for young people, closed in 2010 following Government cuts. It was also noted that mental health services for young people had also diminished and more holistic, wrap-around support was needed for young people excluded from mainstream education.
SOLUTIONS: WHAT WOULD TACKLE THESE ISSUES?
- 1) School based work including mentoring – organisations like Spark2Life were heralded for their work in supporting young people exit youth violence and the room felt it necessary to increase their outreach and output in local schools. The need for mentoring and positive role models was cited as a priority and Spark2Life relayed that they are an organisation accredited in training mentors.
- 2) Youth Services – creating spaces and activities where young people feel engaged, empowered and supported. Community engagement and outreach by BME role models needs to be increased.
- 3) More relatable policing – more police on the streets and community led policing by a diverse range of police officers, including more BME officers. Participants and young people wanted more dialogue with the police to break down barriers and build trust. A police non-uniform day was also suggested!
PROCESS: TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN WE NEED TO?
- 1) Funding – more money is needed for mentoring schemes and to increase the capacity of organisations like Spark2Life, re-open community spaces, train the police to work more effectively with young people and to increase police numbers.
- 2) Adult mentoring scheme – for local professionals and activists to engage with young people and broaden horizons and opportunities so that young people can thrive.
- 3) Peer mentoring scheme – to build support networks, increase community capacity, address issues such as low self-esteem and celebrate BME identities.
RESPONSIBILITY: THE ONE THING WE CAN EACH DO TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN IS?
- 1) Mentoring – community members offered support in mapping skills, setting up mentor schemes, volunteering as mentors and fundraising.
- 2) More community meetings – to break down barriers and to engage with young people to promote a sense of shared ownership in the community.
- 3) Increased communication and interaction – commitment to raise the awareness among young people regarding the array of services presently on offer and of future events which promote community cohesion.