Local Voices

What is Local Voices?

Local Voices is a long term project delivered by disabled people, for disabled people within Tower Hamlets, that gives disabled residents and people with long-term health conditions a say in how the council and other local services support them. Local Voices is an independent group, funded by Tower Hamlets Council, made up of disabled people from across the borough.

It is currently lead by a steering group who meet regularly at Jack Dash House, supported by Real. Real is a local disabled people’s organisation run by disabled people for disabled people.

Where did it come from and what does it do?

The council understands and recognises the barriers that may prevent disabled people engaging on equal terms in and across Tower Hamlets. We want to challenge prejudice targeted towards disabled people, help reduce pressure from welfare reform changes, and identify and remove obstacles to increase disabled accessibility across the borough.

Working with local disabled people, people interested in disability issues, and local partners and service providers we want to develop the Local Voices Network and build its capacity to represent disabled people whilst working with the council to address the issues affecting disabled people from all backgrounds across Tower Hamlets.

What has local voices done so far?

In its first year (2012) the Local Voices Project organised focus group sessions, surveys and the Local Voices steering group, made up of disabled residents, over 400 people were asked their views on a number of issues and the things they worry about most.

Disabled people said they are particularly worried about; the impact of welfare reform, accessing appropriate social care, and discrimination, stigma and negative attitudes directed towards disabled people.

Between 2013 to 2018 the Local Voices project has continued to listen to, and address the needs of local disabled people. The steering group has grown in size and confidence, we have delivered a wide range of events and activities, taken part in many consultations and conducted our own research. We have produce an annual report each year to track the progress of our work, along with some shorter focussed reports.

What does the council and Local Voices plan to do next?

The project is currently funded until the 31 March 2020. We aim to continue to facilitate the Local Voices Network run by local disabled people for local disabled people, to provide a forum to discuss issues of interest and relevance to the disabled community, to organise a range of events and activities, conduct further research studies and consultations, guided by the social model of disability.

We are keen to hear the views of all disabled people and are committed to involve as many people as possible. If you’re interested in being involved in Local Voices, we’d love to hear from you.

Please contact mark.healey@real.org.uk or rob.Johnson@real.org.uk at Real. More information is available on the Real website.

An easy read and summary report from the first year of the project is provided below along with a summary that sets out the council’s initial response to the findings of the report which highlights how the council and Local Voices planned to work together.

Annual Reports covering the next four years of the project are also available for download.

Women, work and worklessness

The 2011 Census results show that Tower Hamlets has the second highest proportion of women who are not in formal employment in the country, at 13.2 per cent, compared to just 1.3 per cent of men.

The life experiences, decisions and choices that lie behind this figure are complex, ranging from high levels of unpaid care for children and adults with poor health, low levels of skills, lack of access to support and experiences of discrimination. We know that many of these factors affect women from all backgrounds, but some groups are more likely than others to be workless such as the Bangladeshi and Somali women.

For the last five years the council, working with partners in the voluntary and community sector, education and employment services and academic and research organisations has sought to better understand the drivers of high levels of economic inactivity as well as what factors help and support women who want to access the labour market.

Through qualitative and quantitative research and action learning and engagement with key stakeholders we have developed significant knowledge and intelligence about these issues. Key pieces of work include:

Life choices, life chances

This research report was based on in-depth qualitative interviews with 35 women from the Bangladeshi community and 29 from the Somali, using a loose life history approach. These were supplemented by interviews with key professionals working within the community and the council to promote women’s access to work. The aim of the research was to provide detailed qualitative insights into the factors that impede and facilitate access to paid work among women from these two communities. Report and a Factsheet can be found below.

Statistical analysis carried out by Mayhew Harper Associates synthesized data from a number of administrative data base to estimate factors predicting the risk of economic inactivity within the borough. These included: being of Bangladeshi origin, being female, living in social housing, not having English as a first language, having no qualifications at diploma level or higher and suffering poor health.

Tower Hamlets Council Employment Strategy 2011: The strategy recognised the need to better understand the reasons for high levels of economic inactivity among women in the borough and included an objective to ‘Work with partners to respond to the high economic inactivity rates amongst women, particularly Bangladeshi women and to take up recommendations from recent research to design interventions based on the report findings for Bangladeshi and Somali women'.

The Overcoming the Barriers project was a pilot project funded by the employment team in the council to respond to the findings of research set out above. The project ran between 2010 and 2012 and aimed to break down the barriers to employment faced by Bangladeshi and Somali women. Three third sector organisations were commissioned to support participants into sustainable employment, as well as gain a better understanding to ‘what works’ in providing the support needed to help women from these communities enter employment. An independent evaluation of the project is currently being carried out by Accendo Consultancy.

Changes to Welfare benefits

Upcoming changes mean that it may become impossible for families to afford to live in the borough if adults in the household do not work. The need to identify what factors influence the engagement of Bangladeshi and Somali women with labour market in the borough has therefore become all the more pressing.

Work Start programme

Since 2012, the council has put in place a Work Start programme (WSP) which has helped support hundreds of women to either gain skills that prepare them for work or gain employment.

The programmes to support women in to employment are:

  1. WSP-Women in Health & Childcare,
  2. WSP-Women in Health & Social Care
  3. WSP-50+.

In April 2017, Tower Hamlets also set up an innovative, one-to-one employment service, WorkPath to assist local residents into work. For further information, please visit the WorkPath section.