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In our Public Service Strategy, we committed to face and tackle inequalities head-on.
Throughout the first half of 2022, the Council will develop our EDI Strategy. This will be co-created by residents sharing their expertise and lived experience to help the Council tackle structural inequalities.
Last autumn, a mass engagement process took place to build on the State of the Borough by understanding the lived experience of residents from groups who have the most structural inequalities. This engaged with 550 residents through a mixture of workshops with groups who are most impacted by inequalities, ethnographic research, face-to-face outreach and an online survey.
This engagement, alongside the State of the Borough report, was used to inform conversations at the Summit event, which took place from Saturday 5 March to Sunday 20 March. 32 participants came together to identify solutions to the scale of inequalities that many residents in the borough face around making a living. Based on the 4 themes identified from the engagement, they came up with a set of 15 recommendations. We will respond to these through the EDI Making a Living Strategy and action plan, which will be published in July 2022.
The State of the Borough report brings together the evidence we have highlighting structural inequality. This, along with residents’ feedback, is the evidence base for our new Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Strategy. We know that reports and data only go so far and we must work with all voices in the community to open dialogue and co-create actions to make the borough a fairer, equal place.
Many of the inequalities insights presented in this report are stark and sobering. It may seem overwhelming to face these realities, but the purpose of this report is to face the evidence head on, with the intention of provoking deeper conversations and inspiring action. This is a national issue and will require big shifts in national policy, but communities in Waltham Forest have been trailblazers before and we must use this evidence to build on previous work and act with greater determination. This is just the first step in the Council’s goal of developing a new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy which will reflect the everyday experiences of Waltham Forest residents.
“You learn to put a ‘white voice’ on, so you can fit in. I’ve changed my name on applications, so I sound less foreign. I know it is why I wasn’t getting interviews.”
From education to finding a job, from earning a reasonable wage to drawing a pension, there are some in Waltham Forest who face persistent and often insurmountable inequalities that affects the capacity to make a decent living.
“My experience of school is that it doesn’t prepare you very well for real life. I never could really understand how learning about Henry VIII would help me get a job. It meant that I switched off from school and got attracted to other things, which is what led me to get involved in gangs and crime.”
As a child in Waltham Forest, achievements in school, feeling included at school and the capacity to maintain a healthy lifestyle all differ drastically depending on the place, family and community into which we are born.
“The pandemic has affected some people worse than others. People from minority backgrounds know people talk about how the pandemic has helped create community, but the reality is that it’s hit the poorest people hardest, and this can only increase inequality.”
The likelihood of living well in comfortable homes, achieving good physical and mental wellbeing, plus the very length of our life itself is unfairly affected by identity and background, and where someone lives. Over just a few miles, there is a significant impact on life chances.
“I have asked my son if he knows his rights if he was stopped and searched by the police. I shouldn’t be having that conversation with him, he’s not a criminal. But we need to know. Because he’s a target. And we shouldn’t see colour.”
Across the borough, certain groups are far more likely to unfairly face punishment, be victims of crime or harassment, or feel isolated from the rest of the community simply because of who they are.
“The people that make decisions don’t necessarily really understand disability. I’ve seen this on many levels. This reflects the disadvantages that disabled people have and it is a vicious circle because it also leads to poor decisions, lack of opportunities, barriers and discrimination.”
The unequal distribution of power influences every area of life and means that decisions are made without fair representation and that the opportunities to progress available to some groups are significantly inhibited.
This acts as a vicious cycle in that there is a lack of representation of certain groups in powerful positions which reinforces the lack of representation in decision making and leads to unfair advantage for some over others in Waltham Forest and beyond.