The Waltham Forest Citizens' Assembly brought together 45 people representing the diversity of the Waltham Forest community during February and March 2020 to look at the issue of hate incidents in the borough.
The citizens' assembly aimed to find ideas for ending hate incidents and making the borough of Waltham Forest equally safe and welcoming for everyone. Assembly members were asked to respond to the following citizens' assembly question:
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?
Over the course of three weekends, the citizens assembly heard from a range of subject-matter and lived experience experts (alongside insights gathered through community surveys) who provided evidence on the current situation in the borough on the problem of hate, its impact on people and communities, and what kind of solutions might help create a welcoming and safe place to live.
After an opportunity to learn, deliberate and work together, assembly members were able to agree:
- A high-level statement on the impact of hate in the borough;
- A statement about what their vision was for a borough without hate which is equally welcoming and safe; and,
- A set of six recommendations for the council, community organisations and wider stakeholders to consider.
These were published in the assembly's report and presented by assembly members to the Council Cabinet in July 2020.
The Citizens' Assembly statement
The Waltham Forest Citizens' Assembly developed the following statement on the impact of hate on the borough and their vision for the future:
The impact of hate is far-reaching. Individual’s wellbeing is adversely affected. They can become fearful, disempowered, isolated and angry. Not only does the victim suffer, but this creates marginalisation and division in the community. It makes people feel unwelcome and unsafe and leads to pressure and distrust in public services. Without action, hate breeds more hate.
Waltham Forest should be a place of pride, where we celebrate and protect our diversity. One where we work to educate and understand each other in order to build a safer, stronger community. Institutions should raise awareness, promote mutual respect and reliably provide support and protection. It should be a place where people and communities are empowered to stand in solidarity and take action to combat hate.
The Citizens' Assembly recommendations
The Waltham Forest Citizens' Assembly developed the following six recommendations. All received high levels of support through a final ballot on day five of the assembly.
|Level of support
|1. We recommend a large scale multi-media information & awareness-raising campaign.
|2. Community solidarity and preventing hate crime through effective bystander intervention.
|3. Given the rise of hate crimes and incidents in London and our borough, we need to provide support services for victims and rehabilitation services for offenders.
|4. We the people of Waltham Forest believe that effective reporting of hate crime has benefits for the whole community in providing a safe and secure environment. Reporting of hate crime must be made easier. The data needs to enable the effective allocation of resources, identify hot spots and inform the location of safe zones.
|5. In order to support and deliver all the recommendations from the citizens' assembly, institutions must: provide adequate and sustainable resourcing; give clear leadership direction; review policies and processes which impact on hate crime and incidents and, work with a broad nuanced definition to ensure action is taken against all discrimination and prejudicial behaviour including that which may not constitute a hate crime or hate incident.
|6. We educate and empower young people in the community to recognise hate, with appropriate tools to reduce hate, to ensure a better future for all.
More detail on each of these recommendations can be found in the assembly report.
Members of the Waltham Forest Citizens' Assembly presented their recommendations to the Council Cabinet on 9th July 2020.
At the meeting, the Cabinet unanimously agreed an initial £150,000 budget to begin implementation of the assembly's recommendations. This would include:
- A bystander intervention programme to prevent hate crime & boost community solidarity;
- A large-scale multi-media information & awareness-raising campaign;
- The creation of a citizens’ panel working group to provide a role in decision-making.