Improving the Life Chances of all our residents

20 September 2018
Life Chances Commission
  • Life Chances Commission report published as young people in Waltham Forest feel the lack of work experience opportunities is the biggest blockage to meeting their aspirations

Waltham Forest’s Life Chances Commission, established in 2017 by Leader of the Council Clare Coghill to examine the obstacles which prevent some of our young people reaching their full potentials, has today published its report that analyses the experiences of young people in Waltham Forest, and their journey into adulthood.

The Commission was chaired by Conor Ryan, formerly of the Sutton Trust and advisor to Tony Blair’s Labour government, and comprised youth advocates, social workers and education experts. Alongside the commission’s report, Waltham Forest Council has also published its response which will form part of a long-term plan to ensure every service it delivers puts improving residents’ life chances at its core.

The commission’s report and Waltham Forest Council’s response to it was launched at Kelmscott Secondary School in Walthamstow today (Thursday 20 September). Schoolchildren heard from European 100m silver medal holder and Waltham Forest resident, Reece Prescod. He was joined by Danielle Morris, a looked-after child who overcame adversity to study at Brunel University and now works in Waltham Forest’s child care services, and Philip Stone, who followed the apprenticeship route and is now Training Strategy and Development Manager with Eurostar.

To ensure our young people’s voices were heard, over 2,500 of them took part in the Big Youth Conversation - our largest ever engagement with young people, through lessons in schools, local events, as well as via online surveys. Their experiences and views have been used to compile the council’s response to the commission’s report.

The ‘Creating Futures for Young People’ plan brings together all council services involved with young people to ensure we do everything we can to support them during each stage of their development.

The Life Chances Commission looked at three stages in a young person’s development: the early years; their time at school, and then post-16 when they choose to continue in education, pursue an apprenticeship or find work. The Commission made recommendations for each stage of a child’s development, including suggestions for Waltham Forest Council as well as our partners.

Our response to the Commission sets out the solutions that the council and its partners will develop to deliver improved outcomes for young people. We want to see the ‘school readiness’ of our youngest children improve, better attainment and progress in school, greater awareness about careers options, increased attendance at top universities, greater uptake of apprenticeships, and better paying jobs locally. We will measure these outcomes and we will report on them, adjusting our approach until we succeed.

Waltham Forest Council is now working to help young people access the opportunities they need, through an Opportunity Bank that will link them to work, training and educational opportunities, and provide housing and health advice.  Other areas of work currently underway are to increase the take-up of free pre-school support, including nursery places, as evidence shows this can boost a child’s development, and developing the borough’s apprenticeship scheme that will help get our young people into the careers they want.

This will be a new way of working - a collaborative approach between Waltham Forest Council, our partners and our young people to improve the life chances of all. Over the coming months and years we plan to work to improve the life chances of all our residents by breaking down the barriers that impact our young people across education, housing, transport, social care, crime, jobs to name just a few.

Waltham Forest Council Leader, Clare Coghill, said: “The ultimate role of government of all forms should always be about improving the life chances of residents.

“Despite the national austerity programme that has driven people into poverty, slashed school budgets and dramatically reduced our funding, we continue to see our services improve and our young people succeed and thrive. Our schools are improving year-on-year and employment is the seventh highest in London.

“However, there is still more we can do. It’s not within the power of a local council to completely transform our local economy, but our work in response to this report does have the potential to change the lives of the young people we work with. This report is the first major step in empowering our young people and putting our residents’ life chances at the very heart of everything Waltham Forest Council does.“

Conor Ryan, Chair of the Life Chances Commission, said:  “Waltham Forest is a borough with great potential. But reaching that potential means addressing challenges over the next decade that could prevent many of its children and young people from succeeding.

“These challenges are not unique to the area but what is unique to Waltham Forest is the vibrancy and willingness to change and listen both within the council and the wider community.”

Lucia, owner of Lucia Loves beauty products, said: “I became a LBWF Carer 5 years ago after my mother was in a car accident. That’s why I started Lucia Loves when I was 14 – to help others with Afro hair and to show young people that with the right support you can succeed even in the face of adversity.

“The council’s work on Life Chances is really important to make sure every young person has the opportunity to follow their dreams – my message to young people is that even when the odds seem stacked against you, with support of family and friends there’s no limit to what you can achieve.”

You can read the full report and the council's response here.