Waltham Forest Citizens Assembly

Audience at Citizen Assembly

Alert

Stopping hate in Waltham Forest

Waltham Forest is one of the most diverse boroughs in the most diverse city on the planet. Our differences aren’t just something that should be tolerated, they should be celebrated. However, as we’re seeing an unprecedented rise in incidents of hate across London, we are determined to address these at a local level.

Faced with the question of how we can work with our communities to stop hate and ensure everyone can feel equally welcome and safe, we held the first ever citizens assembly by a local authority on the topic of hate earlier this year.

Over the course of five days in February and March, a representative 45-member panel considered how we can work together to ensure everyone feels equally welcome and safe in Waltham Forest.

Citizens Assembly Recommendations

A report has been created that captures the findings and recommendations made by the Citizens Assembly over the course of those five days:

The Council has mobilised a team that is working arm in arm with the local community to deliver on the recommendations from the Citizens Assembly.

Addressing hate incidents

Waltham Forest has a proud history of welcoming people to live here, with 86% of residents agreeing that this is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together.

Against a backdrop of tension and division often dominating the news, it is our responsibility to provide leadership and champion the diverse voices of this borough in a new approach to address hate. The delivery of the recommendations from the Citizens Assembly will help our community come closer together, find a common ground and stop the hate that damages our society.

Research and engagement ahead of the Citizens Assembly

From the outset we recognised that we cannot stop hate alone or in isolation and that a shared response that capitalised on the strengths of our diversity, our partners and the council itself would be necessary.

We, therefore, sought the views of as many individuals and community groups as possible to gather evidence from local people who have experienced hate in some way, so the assembly would be well placed to address the issue.

What followed was a series of surveys, in-depth focus groups, video interviews with young people and workshops with organisations who help victims. You can read a research report prior to the assembly:

Experiences from the Citizens Assembly

A series of presentations and other videos from the Citizens Assembly are available on our YouTube channel:

We have compiled a series of frequently asked questions that help explain a Citizens Assembly in more detail.

1. What is a Citizens Assembly? 

A Citizens Assembly is a way of bringing residents closer to the decisions we make so they have more of a say over them. It brings together a representative group of people from across the borough to look at a specific issue.  

Residents on a Citizens Assembly learn about the issue, discuss it openly and make recommendations for the future. To help with this, they hear first-hand from experts, local people and organisations with different views and perspectives.  

The idea is to try and find things they all agree on so any future plans can get public support.  
 
2. Have Citizens Assemblies been used before?  

Citizens Assemblies have been used in countries such as Ireland, Canada, Australia and Belgium, as well as in the UK for topics such as Brexit. Some councils have also used them to consider topics like climate change, social care and regeneration. 

3. Why is Waltham Forest Council holding a Citizens Assembly? 

We want people to have more say over decisions that affect them and we want to learn more from their experiences, views and ideas to make Waltham Forest an even better place to live and work. 

The Citizens Assembly will bring together a sample of 45 people representing the diversity of our community to look at the issue of hate incidents in the borough. The aim is to try and find ideas for ending them, so everyone feels equally welcome. 

4. Why is the Citizens Assembly focusing on stopping hate? 

Waltham Forest has a proud history of welcoming people to live here, with 86% of residents agreeing that this is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together. 
But there’s been an unprecedented rise in hate incidents across the UK.

We know that our diversity is our strength in Waltham Forest and it’s our responsibility to champion the diverse voices in the borough to stop hate and build a community where everyone is equally welcome and safe. We hope the Citizens Assembly will help us do that. 

5. What will happen as a result of the Assembly?  

The recommendations that the Citizens Assembly comes up with will be presented to the council and its partners in June. We will then use those recommendations to help find ways to address the problem of hate incidents. The members of the Assembly will be involved and updated as we try to do this. 

6. How can I get involved? 

We’ve already asked anyone who has experienced a hate incident in the borough to complete a survey. We’ve also held a series of workshops and interviews with people and groups across the borough.

You can still apply to observe the sessions. An observer can watch evidence being given, and the facilitated deliberations of the citizens. 

Due to the nature of the topic, and the need to ensure candid and safe discussion, the observers will not be present in the hall but will be in a separate room where the proceedings will be displayed live. An observer cannot take part in conversations, present evidence, or interact with members of the Assembly. 

7. Who are the Council’s partners in the Citizens Assembly?

We are working closely with various partners on this, including the police, health service, schools and colleges.

8. Are there plans for more Citizens Assemblies in Waltham Forest?

It’s really important to us that we engage residents and the community in the decisions we make. We’re determined to find ways to do this more. Citizens Assemblies are one of the ways we are looking to bring residents and the community together and closer to the decisions we make, but there are no specific plans for more Assemblies at the moment.

9. How many Assembly Members will there be?   

There will be 45 members of the Assembly. An independent organisation called the Sortition Foundation, known for its expertise in getting people to play a bigger part in democracy, has helped us select people that accurately represent all parts of our community.  
 
10. Will they be paid for their participation?  

We’re asking people to give up their valuable time so Assembly members will get £375 if they attend all five sessions. We’ll reimburse all reasonable transport costs and lunches and refreshments will be provided during the sessions.  

11. How have they been recruited?  

We approached a random 10,000 residents to be on the Assembly. An independent organisation called the Sortition Foundation, known for its expertise in getting people to play a bigger part in democracy, sorted through those who were interested to impartially select 45 people who properly represent the diversity of Waltham Forest. 

Unfortunately, if you haven’t been selected you won’t be able to attend the Assembly. With a population of more than 276,000 it was never going to be possible to include everyone who may be interested. However, we did ask anyone who had experience of hate incidents in the borough to complete a survey. The survey is now closed but we will be keeping you updated on our website, via social media and in our resident newsletter Waltham Forest News. 

You can also apply to be an observer at the Assembly sessions by completing this expression of interest form

We obviously wanted to make sure the Assembly reflected Waltham Forest’s population and to do this independently and impartially. So, we first worked out a representative profile of Waltham Forest’s population by things like area, age, gender, disability and ethnicity. Then we asked the Sortition Foundation to recruit people from across the borough, making sure all parts of our community were represented. 
 
12. Why do you need a representative group of Assembly members?  

People’s experience of hate incidents can be very different depending on who they are. By making sure the Assembly reflects Waltham Forest’s population accurately we’ll be able to capture as many of the issues as possible that need to be addressed.

13. Will the Citizens Assembly be a safe space for people who have experienced hate and discrimination? 

We want all Assembly members to speak freely without any fear of repercussions. All Assembly members will be expected to keep the specific discussions private and not identify other people involved. Anyone breaking these rules will be removed from the Assembly.

Any views, evidence or testimonies provided to the Assembly will be anonymised to protect the people who submitted them. 

14. Do assembly members need to be experts to take part?  

The Assembly is all about giving residents the opportunity to have their voice heard and shape the future of the borough, so Assembly members are not expected to be experts on hate incidents. They’ll be given plenty of time to meet with experts, ask them questions and learn from their knowledge and experiences.  

15. How will you ensure the Assembly sessions are accessible? 

We’ll make sure the venue is fully accessible and if people require interpretation, hearing loops or any form of additional support we’ll do everything we can to provide it. 

16. What question will the Assembly consider and why?  

We tested a series of questions around hate incidents with staff and residents, as well as an advisory panel of experts and came up with: 
 
‘Waltham Forest is a diverse and vibrant borough, however hate incidents are on the rise across London. How can we work together to stop hate and ensure everyone can feel equally welcome and safe in our Borough?’ 

17. Can I come along to the sessions?   

Assembly members have been carefully recruited to be representative of Waltham Forest as a whole. In order to maintain this representation, we’re unfortunately not able to allow those who haven’t been selected to attend as members. 

With a population of more than 276,000 it was never going to be possible to include everyone who may have been interested. However, we did ask anyone who had experience of hate incidents in the borough to complete a survey. The survey is now closed but we will be keeping you updated on our website, via social media and in our resident newsletter Waltham Forest News. 

You can also apply to be an observer at the Assembly sessions by completing this expression of interest form.

18. Are any other organisations involved in running the Citizen’s Assembly? 

We’re working with three independent organisations to deliver the assembly:

  • The Democratic Society (‘Demsoc’) is a UK-wide not-for-profit organisation that promotes participation and dialogue in democracy. Demsoc will run the Citizens Assembly and write a report on the outcomes for the Council
  • The Sortition Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that promotes the use of randomly selected groups of people in decision-making. They’ve been responsible for recruiting a group of people that represents Waltham Forest’s diversity 
  • The Involve Foundation is a UK-wide public participation charity. Involve are providing oversight for the event
  • Breaking Blue is a research and insight company which has run the survey ahead of the Citizens Assembly for us to gather evidence from people who have experienced hate incidents in the borough

19. How will you keep various groups from being over or under represented? 

To make sure the evidence is balanced and represents Waltham Forest’s demographic accurately we’ve met with and gathered evidence from local organisations and community groups. This will be submitted to the independent

Advisory Panel who will consider what to present to the Citizens Assembly. 

20. How have people been identified, informed and invited to take part in the process?  

A detailed mapping exercise was done at the start of the process to identify the key groups and organisations at local, regional and national level that the Council would look to engage with as part of the Citizens Assembly.

We then approached a random 10,000 residents to be on the Assembly.

While it will only be possible to have 45 members of the Assembly, we asked anyone who had experience of hate incidents in the borough to complete a survey. The survey is now closed but we will be keeping you updated on our website, via social media and in our resident newsletter Waltham Forest News.  

We’ve also held a series of workshops and interviews with people and organisations across the borough to gather evidence and there will be more opportunities to get involved later in the year. 

All of the evidence presented to the Assembly will be publicly available.
 
21. If any of the 45 Assembly members drop out will they be replaced?

No, they won’t be replaced but the possibility of some people dropping out has been factored in and we are confident the membership will still accurately reflect the diversity of Waltham Forest.

22. Is the Assembly process impartial and independent?  

The organisations helping deliver the event are independent from the Council.  For example, Demsoc and Involve will provide impartial and independent advice on the structure of the Assembly sessions and they’ll be responsible for the process.  

The Assembly members are not experts but will receive evidence from experts on the issue and there is also an independent Advisory Panel to support Assembly members. 

Political figures will be excluded from taking part in the Assembly as members or providers of evidence. 

23. What is the role of the Advisory Panel?  

The role of the Advisory Panel is to review the content and structure of the Assembly so those taking part get the information and evidence on all the issues and can deliberate them properly. 

As a panel of experts, it will provide advice and oversight to make sure the Assembly’s plans, evidence and materials are accurate, balanced and unbiased.  Their specific tasks include: 

  • Advising on evidence for the Assembly, including suggesting experts and materials and making sure the evidence is fair and balanced 
  • Acting as a sounding board for potential activities or decisions about the process or content, including advising on the scope of the Assembly 
  • Acting as an informal ambassador for the Assembly and helping promote it within and outside Waltham Forest

24. Who is on the Advisory Panel and how were they selected? 

The core members of the Advisory Panel are:  

  • Professor Liz Kelly - Professor of Sexualised Violence at London Metropolitan University 
  • Dr Aaron Winter - Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of East London 
  • Emily Cherry – Internet Watch Foundation 
  • Professor Graham Smith - Professor of Politics at the University of Westminster
  • Superintendent Waheed Khan - Metropolitan Police Lead Responsible Officer for Hate Crime 

They were invited to be on the panel because they are experts either on hate crime, intolerance, online discrimination or in participatory democracy. 

They will also draw upon a wider range of experts throughout the process to make sure expertise is provided across key areas. 

25. Will members of the Advisory Panel or observers be able to reveal or discuss the Assembly’s deliberations during or after the process?

It is vital that the Assembly members view the sessions as a ‘safe space’ for them to express themselves freely. For that reason, we are asking anyone involved in the process to refrain from sharing details outside the Assembly.

26. How will speakers be selected to ensure independence from the council?  

The independent Advisory Panel will select speakers to give evidence and provide testimonies to the Assembly. Assembly members will be presented with balanced evidence on the issue so they can hear a range of different views and perspectives first-hand.
   
27. How is the Assembly process being publicised and promoted?   

There’s a page on our website about the Assembly which will be regularly updated and we’re publicising it on social media and in our resident newsletter Waltham Forest News. 
    
28. You say political figures are being excluded from taking part in the Assembly. How are you defining ‘political’?

We have defined ‘political’ to mean ‘elected representatives from any level of government or paid employees of any political party’.

FAQs - Hate incidents Click to get info

29. What is a hate crime or a hate incident? 

A hate crime or hate incident refers to an act of victimisation that you feel was targeted directly towards you because of who you are. This might include acts such as:

  • Verbal abuse 
  • Threatening behaviour / harassment in person 
  • Threatening behaviour / harassment online or by phone or text 
  • Deliberate damage to property 
  • Physical abuse 
  • Being ignored, overlooked, or not given a service due to your status in a minority group 
  • Being treated as if you were ‘stupid,’ or being ‘talked down to,’ 
  • Being deliberately left out of conversation or activities 
  • People avoiding you or physically moving away from you 
  • Being treated rudely or disrespectfully  
  • Your ideas or opinions being minimized, ignored, or devalued  
  • Being stared at by strangers 

30. What can you do if you are a victim of a hate crime or incident? 

If you’ve experienced a hate incident or hate crime you can report it to the police. You can also report it even if it wasn’t directed at you. For example, you could be a friend, neighbour, family member, support worker or simply a passer-by. 

Whether you’re a victim, witness, or are reporting for someone else, you can call: 

  • 999 for emergency police assistance or 
  • 101 if it’s not an emergency 

When reporting the incident or crime you should say whether you think it was because of disability, race, religion, transgender identity, sexual orientation or a combination of these things. This is important because it makes sure the police record it as a hate incident or crime. 

The police can obviously only prosecute when the law is broken, but they can also work with other organisations to prevent the situation escalating. 

We’d also encourage residents to seek help from organisations like Victim Support or local community organisations set up to assist victims of discrimination and abuse.  

For help, support and advice in the face of hate or intolerance please contact us:

Email: report-it@Walthamforest.gov.uk