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Our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

We’re working with our residents to develop our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Strategy based on feedback from residents as well as evidence highlighting structural inequality gathered in our State of the Borough report, published in 2021.

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.


Building inclusive workplaces: 

  1. Reasonable Adjustment Passports to remove the need to repeat reasonable workplace adjustment needs throughout working life, make it easier to start the conversation, reduce stress and simplify changing roles.
  2. Facilitating flexible working to get the most from employees, remove barriers to optimising work, enable a wider range of employees and make the employer more attractive.
  3. Make job adverts and application forms available to all by making digital and hard copies.
  4. Consultation with all staff to get their input for creating all-inclusive workplaces, including future proofing, acoustics, lighting, heating, accessibility, braille, inclusive toilets for male / female, gender neutral and disabled employees.

 Developing good quality jobs for all:

  1. Improve transport and public transport accessibility, affordability and parking so that more employees can access jobs in the borough and more customers travel to local businesses, leading to more sales, growth and economic opportunities.
  2. Encourage and support the creation of local internships, apprenticeships and enterprise programmes (preferably paid), as well as mapping and co-ordinating existing ones, resulting in a clear online and in person (within community hubs) directory for people to use. These programmes should be for everyone, but also with a large number specifically for marginalised and under-represented groups, as well as those that aim to fill gaps within the community’s needs.
  3. Employment support programmes tailored to different needs, for example for older people, back into work and young people.
  4. Council-funded mental health training for local employers (including the Council) developed in partnership with mental health services, so that employees can better support employees, provided by local practitioners. This will include information packs for all employees, advice on language around rejection, enabling people to work from home, and testimonies from people with lived experience.

 Learning, advice and skills for those who need it most:

  1. A physical local building hub that provides tailored support, which meets the diverse needs of the wider community and empowers people to access skills, support and interests, which can lead to social inclusion and / or employment.
  2. Dedicated youth hubs that help young people and employers to take on young people on employment programmes that are paid and advertised well with thorough support, life skills and knowledge that is essential to the progression to the future of young people in Waltham Forest. This could be face-to-face and on social media, with online integration.
  3. Evaluation of the wants and needs of under-represented groups, by signposting to relevant organisations, flow-ups to ensure the signposting is a success through monitoring and evaluation and through ambassadors from groups to represent and support them by holding all services to account and ensuring members of the community get adequate support without bias.

 Creating a fair and caring system:

  1. Creating a safe space where residents, especially those who are marginalised or vulnerable, can access a wide range of services and resources.
  2. The council to change its systems for accessing information and services so that people who are digitally excluded and/or housebound can easily access all Council services.
  3. There needs to be a system (with policies in place) that is fair towards hours, leave and makes it easier to raise issues regarding work conditions, across all sectors for marginalised groups – to include the whole community, new and old.
  4. The Council ‘goes to’ community spaces to engage with people who are prevented from, or unable to, leave their homes due to coercion or domestic violence to highlight available services rather than expected them to ‘come to us’ (the Council).

State of the Borough Report

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.

Download our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: State of the Borough Report in full (PDF)

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.

Making a living

“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.

Inequality headlines:

  • The gap in the employment rate between White residents and residents from a Pakistani or Bangladeshi background is 34.5%.
  • In London in 2019, 2.9% of all workers were in zero-hours contracts. However, this is the case for three times as many (8.8%) 16-24-year-old workers.
  • In 2020, the median hourly wage for men in Waltham Forest was 28% higher than women’s on average in comparison to 15% in London.
  • By the time a woman is aged 65 to 69, her average pension wealth is £35,700, roughly a fifth of that of a man her age.

Having a good start in life

“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.

Inequality headlines:

  • In 2018/19, Waltham Forest had a higher number of fixed term school exclusions than the London average, in which young Black and Asian pupils were overrepresented. Overall, Black pupils were almost three times as likely as White pupils to be excluded.
  • In Waltham Forest, 28% of children receiving free school meals are of African or Caribbean descent, while only 17% of the Borough population is from this background.
  • The exam results achievement gap between boys and girls has widened in recent years, with boys falling behind. The gender gap of pupils who achieved a standard GCSE pass in 2017-18 and 2018-19 has doubled (in favour of girls) from 6% to 12% in Waltham Forest, whereas in London the average gap between the two genders remained stable at 6% (in favour of girls) across that time

Living a Healthy Life

“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.

Inequality headlines:

  • A female baby born between 2013 and 2017 is predicted to live 6.8 years longer in the ward of Endlebury than her equivalent in Lea Bridge.
  • In Waltham Forest in 2016-2018 the rate of suicide for men was more than three times higher than for women (same as the national average).
  • Of those sleeping rough in Waltham Forest, the majority (80%) were men.
  • In London, only 3% of overcrowded households are occupied by White British people
  • The ethnic groups with the lowest health-related quality of life for people aged 65+ in Waltham Forest are known to be Gypsy and Irish traveller, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities

Living in equal communities

“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.

Inequality headlines:

  • The rates of Stop and Search in Waltham Forest in the last year per 100,000 people were 82.3 for Black people, 59 for Asian people and 33.7 for White people.
  • Across Waltham Forest, Black young people are around twice as likely to have a caution or conviction than White young people.
  • Waltham Forest has the fourth highest rate of Islamophobic incidents across the London boroughs.
  • 75% of domestic violence victims are women. Alongside this, more than half of the young people within the Youth Offending Service have either witnessed domestic abuse or been victim to it.
  • Around 7% of Waltham Forest’s population do not currently have access to the Internet. The proportion is higher in some groups:
    • 36% of the elderly
    • 23% of individuals with chronic health conditions or disabilities
    • 16% of individuals on low incomes

Exercising power and having influence

“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.

Inequality headlines:

  • In Waltham Forest Council, 59.6% of Chief Officers are White. 63.2% of Chief Officers are men.
  • Evidence from the Council’s Resident Insight Survey indicates that residents who have a disability are significantly less likely than non-disabled residents to agree that the Council takes account of residents’ views when making decisions.