How we are tackling gang issues

Our approach has been informed by the ‘From Postcodes to Profits’ report we commissioned, produced and published in 2018 by London South Bank University. The study aimed to better understand gangs in Waltham Forest to develop an evidence-based approach to tackle the harm they cause. It found gangs today are more money-orientated and ruthless, and less linked to postcodes than they were a decade ago.

To tackle the drugs trade operated by gangs, we funded our first ever financial investigation function to seize criminal assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act. In April 2019, the Gang Prevention Programme commissioned four new services to support young people involved in and affected by gang violence:

  • Abianda works with young women affected by gangs and county line activity;
  • Spark2Life will be recruiting and training local residents as community mentors, to support young people vulnerable to gang activity. The organisation will also deploy youth workers to hotspots to work with young people involved in youth violence.
  • Change Grow Live will support members wishing to leave gangs, supporting them in the community and as they exit prison.
  • We Can Work Out will recruit and train residents to act as ‘Ask Me’ ambassadors, to address concerns around gang activity at a community level.

Waltham Forest Gangs Prevention Programme

The main objectives of our newly commissioned Gangs Programme are to:

  • provide outcome-based and personalised engagement to people who are, may be or have been gang members. The same applies to those who've been victims or survivors of gang activity.
  • develop a community narrative around gang involvement that seeks to pose positive viable alternatives.
  • support people to improve and maintain their life chances and wellbeing, and develop the resilience to make positive choices.
  • work collaboratively with partners, and in particular services in other organisations working in this area. This includes social care, housing and community mental health.
  • provide services that reflect best practice, innovation and strategic policy and respond to legislation and changes on the ground.

Ask Me about gangs

This programme builds on the existing model for mobilising communities to tackle domestic abuse and tests it in a gang and youth violence context. The existing “Ask Me” programme is a response to domestic abuse. It works on the principle that every point of interaction with a survivor is an opportunity for intervention.

A key element of our gangs programme is the locality model, which is characterised by community-level dialogue. This helps to gather intelligence and also ensures accurate and up to date information is spread out into the community.

'Ask Me' about gangs links with this approach. Trained ambassadors are liaising with the programme about risk relating to people and places in their local area. Ambassadors get  timely information which supports myth-busting and helps challenge views in their daily interactions with the community. 

This programme is being delivered by We Can Work It Out, a dedicated transformational change consultancy.

Community mentoring

The aim is to build trusted relationships between vulnerable young people and community members with backgrounds which match their ambitions and interests.

Evidence suggests that mentoring targeting young people with moderate relational difficulties, rather than severe or no difficulties, can be particularly effective. This can create trust and lead to more positive outcomes.

The focus is on young people in education experiencing challenges and displaying problematic behaviour and/or may have been a victim of gang violence. They are age between 11 and 16. It forms part of a group of schools-focused universal and targeted interventions or pathways. The mentoring relationships take place in the community, rather than in the school environment.

This project is being delivered by Spark2Life a local organisation delivering services to young people in Waltham Forest. 

Adult casework

The aim is to provide combined adult case work, prison and through the gate support for adult gang members in the community or returning from custody. We want to enable them to build positive relationships and get a job or back into education. Many prisoners reach their release date without their immediate resettlement needs having been met, or even recognised. These needs could be around debt, accommodation, employment or assistance with specialist education or training.

This programme is being delivered by Change Grow Live (CGL) a voluntary organisation specialising in substance misuse and criminal justice intervention projects. 

Detached outreach project

This project is supporting people who are getting into gangs to understand why that is happening and work with them to support a different lifestyle. This involves working with them in their environment, whether that is on the streets or in places they gather.

This project is being delivered by Spark2Life a local organisation delivering services to young people in Waltham Forest. 

Gender mainstreaming

This programme is facilitating training, capacity building, case consultation and critical review services. It is embedding gender responsive service delivery across all programme areas. The aim is to develop an awareness of, and capacity to respond to, gender based violence and exploitation across all gang prevention programme activities.

The increasing involvement of women and girls in the activity of gangs was highlighted in our recent study. This has further emphasised the need for all services in and relating to, our gangs programme to be gender responsive. That means services must ensure they meet the needs of women and girls.

This part of the programme ensures that services understand how gender affects their activity and tailor their delivery appropriately.

This service is embedded within the gangs programme to ensure gender mainstreaming activity is business as usual for all services.

This part of the programme is closely linked to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) Pan-London County Lines Project.

It is being delivered by Abianda a social enterprise that works with young women affected by gangs.

More information

For more information about the above services, or to find out how to access them, please email: