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Social research report for: London Borough of Waltham Forest: Community Cohesion Survey Findings – Executive Summary. 12 th May 2011. Executive Summary: Research Objectives.

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Social research report for:London Borough of Waltham Forest: Community Cohesion Survey Findings – Executive Summary

12th May 2011


Executive summary research objectives
Executive Summary: Research Objectives

  • In January 2010 Waltham Forest Council commissioned Ci Research to conduct a survey of secondary schools in the borough to understand more about the views of young people on extremism, gangs and community safety.

  • There were a series of objectives for the research which included:

    • To quantify and qualify the knowledge and understanding that Key Stage 4 (KS4) pupils had of extremism, gangs and community cohesion in Waltham Forest.

    • To understand how extremism and gangs were affecting the lives of KS4 pupils.

    • To understand the factors that might be influencing KS4 pupils to develop extremist views or join gangs.

    • To seek views from KS4 pupils as to how to prevent extremism and gang membership amongst fellow pupils and friends across Waltham Forest.

  • The outcomes of the programme of quantitative and qualitative research have included:

    • A representative sample from across the borough of the KS4 demographic.

    • An inclusive piece of research which has been sensitive to the issues which needed to be addressed and has produced valid results for all members of the community.

    • Evidence based recommendations for use in Waltham Forest’s Prevent Action Plan and associated strategies.

1


Research methodology quantitative survey
Research Methodology: Quantitative Survey

  • In order to design an effective survey which would add value to existing knowledge of issues of community cohesion in Waltham Forest, Ci Research facilitated a workshop with stakeholders from within the Council and representatives from local schools.

  • All schools in the borough were invited to participate in the survey and in total six schools responded, four in the last half term of 2010 and two in the first half term of 2011.

  • The questionnaire was developed in conjunction with the Youth Engagement Team at Waltham Forest Council and was piloted with a group of Young Ambassadors.

  • Questions were also included to allow comparisons with previous community cohesions surveys, such as the Tell Us Research conducted in 2008 and the Young Voice Survey conducted in 2007.

  • The questionnaire was finalised by Ci Research in accordance with the Market Research Society Code of Conduct. It was designed to take no longer than 15 minutes to complete under supervision within tutorial groups or during PSHE classes.

  • Each school was approached to ascertain whether they would prefer paper self-completion surveys or an on-line option. All the schools selected to complete the survey via the paper questionnaire approach.

  • Information packs were prepared for the teachers involved and each school was asked to select a full year group within KS4 to complete the survey.

  • Completed surveys were returned to Ci Research for inputting and data verification.

2


Research Methodology: Qualitative Phase

  • During the qualitative stage, research was conducted in seven settings:

    • A group of young advisers to Waltham Forest Council,

    • Three school-based groups with a representative mix of students from each school,

    • A group with Muslim students,

    • A Christian group at a local youth organisation, and

    • One to one interviews conducted at a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU).

  • Young Adviser Focus Group: Conducted at Walthamstow Town Hall with members of the Council’s panel of young advisers. 12 young people attended and were incentivised at their agreed hourly rate for their input to the Council.

  • School–based focus groups x 3: These were conducted with representative groups of Year 10s during PHSE, citizenship lessons or lunch time.

    • Heathcote School – 12 students

    • George Mitchell School – 14 students

    • Willowfield School – 10 students

  • Muslim Focus Group: Conducted with 6 Year 10 Muslims attending Madrassas. Students attended Kelmscott School and a cash incentive towards funding the end of Year Ball was provided for their participation.

  • Christian Focus Group: Undertaken with 9 young Christians attending a youth group at the Emmanuel Christian Centre. Cash incentives were provided.

  • One to one interviews at a PRU x 7: Conducted with Year 10s at the Davis PRU in Chingford during one visit to the Unit.

3


Key Findings: Participation, Decision Making and Communication

  • 75% of young people suggested that hanging out with friends was the most popular out of school activity.

  • This was supported by limited use of formal recreational facilities, with 63% and 52% instead suggesting their time is spent at friends or relatives houses respectively.

  • There was also limited travel, suggesting that young people of this age stay close to home and have limited experience of other areas or communities.

  • 77% of young people agreed that they can influence decisions within school, which is supported by activities such as pupil-led committees, school surveys and consultation events.

  • In contrast, 20% of young people indicated they did not know where to turn when dealing with issues that affected their local area.

  • Almost half (47%) of respondents stated they would speak to a parent about these issues rather than trying to engage with the Council or other professional advocates.

  • This was seen as contributing to a feeling amongst the young people surveyed that they could not influence decision making within the local area once outside the school environment.

  • Therefore, there was seen to be a need to help young people in this age category understand the channels available for expressing their views and to invest more in communicating how their views are used to change things in their local area.

4


Key Findings: Community Cohesion Communication

  • 90% of young people felt a strong sense of belonging to their friendship group as well as to others of the same age.

  • There was less sense of belonging to Waltham Forest as an area compared to London or their local neighbourhood.

  • Whist this may have contributed to a lower sense of civic pride compared to the Young Voice Survey in 2007, the qualitative feedback tended to focus on the issue of gang-related violence and its associated problems as being the main factors preventing young people feeling proud of their local area.

  • The cultural and diverse mix of Waltham Forest was identified as a strength of the area, with around 90% of young people indicating that they had friends of White, Black and Asian ethnicities.

  • 60% of the respondents strongly agreed that it was important that people should respect the culture and religious beliefs of other people and the fact that Waltham Forest was a place where people from different backgrounds could get along together was a key driver of civic pride.

  • Less than one in five of the respondents to the survey could not think of any example where they had helped out another member of their community over the last month.

5


Key Findings: Perception of Community Safety Communication

  • 93% of the young people surveyed indicated they felt safe on the journey to and from school as well as 90% feeling safe within school. However, in terms of perceptions of safety in other areas, they had concerns about walking on their own at night and in other areas of London.

  • Only 12% stated they felt safe on public bus journeys and expressed the potential of increased use of CCTV and community police officers on certain bus routes to increase safety for passengers.

  • 41% of young people suggested that physical or sexual attacks were ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ common. Emphasis was placed on isolated and poorly lit spaces as being regarded as dangerous. Sexual harassment or assault was a concern mainly amongst young females.

  • Gang members were perceived as the greatest risk to young people as indicated by 70% of participants. Furthermore, concerns were identified around the risks of being mugged or robbed.

  • Participants expressed little direct experience of being involved in physical or sexual assaults, suggesting that they just heard about these incidents.

  • On a positive note, over half of the respondents had not been involved in any form of crime. However, if they were to be, less than half felt confident about reporting crime to the police.

  • Based on responses to the qualitative consultation this seemed to be due to a perception of low police presence in certain areas and, in some cases, a view that the police were unwilling to deal with gangs and gang related crime.

6


Key Findings: Gang and Gang Related Violence Communication

  • Respondents felt that there were a high volume of gangs within the borough and 58% suggested an increased involvement of young people in gang related activities.

  • Perceptions of what defined a gang focused on territories, specifically certain postcodes or housing estates. Beyond that, they were seen as a group of people hanging around to cause trouble.

  • There was a belief that young people joined gangs to earn respect or because they were seeking protection or were looking for a sense of belonging.

  • With the exception of the PRU respondents and the Young Advisors there was a limited appreciation of the dangers of being involved in a gang and the serious nature of some of their criminal activities.

  • Gangs were frequently cited as being an underlying factor in relation to many of the physical attacks and muggings that took place in the borough. Gang violence and targeting was seen as being likely to occur throughout the day and in a wide range of locations.

  • On a positive note, schools were seen as relatively safe environments where gang boundaries and territories were set aside. The young people surveyed wanted to see more done to increase these safe areas, either through convincing gangs to disband and participate in more positive activities, or through providing more protection for those outside gangs such as supervised school bus services.

7


Key Findings: Formation and Nature of Cultural Beliefs Communication

  • Broadcast and digital media were cited as prominent sources of information that helped to form opinions, with 81% of young people citing television/radio and 77% the internet as their main sources of information.

  • However, there was a degree of understanding that these sources could sometimes exaggerate or ‘overblow’ an issue and that the internet in particular often contained misleading information which could be damaging to particular groups or people.

  • This was further emphasised by only 12% of young people who suggested that the internet or newspapers were trusted sources of information. Young people understood the bias of newspapers and the lack of credibility in the content of webpages.

  • 88% of young people agreed that people should have the right to chose whether or not to follow a religion and that men and women have should have equal rights. However, only 59% of young people agreed that it is OK to be gay. This suggested that whilst religious differences were tolerated there was not the same acceptance/understanding of sexuality.

  • There was strong consensus that violence was only acceptable in extreme circumstances, for example if there was a life at stake. Only 7% felt that violence was permissible in a situation where they were asked to do it by someone they liked or trusted.

8


Key Findings: Awareness and Perceptions of Extremism Communication

  • Just over a third of respondents felt that there were people who had beliefs that could lead them to harm other people in their local area.

  • When considering the nature of these harmful beliefs, the perception was that they were most likely to be about gangs or religion.

  • 48% of young people felt that it was ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ common for young people to also share these harmful beliefs, mainly because they had friends or family who held those views.

  • However, when put into the context of extremism young people demonstrated little understanding of what this was. Furthermore, their knowledge of extremist groups was limited to those known within the mainstream and was mainly based on anecdotal evidence.

  • Where young people had been given leaflets or materials about groups in the local area the highest recall was that the information had been about groups set up to promote sustainable/greener living or critiquing government spending plans.

  • If they were to attend an community group meeting, the young people surveyed were most likely to attend a group that took positive action to promote peace or that was campaigning for improved human rights.

9


Segmentation Model Communication

Six segments were identified using cluster analysis.

  • Segment 3:

  • ‘Civil liberty apathy’

  • (15% of respondents)

  • Displayed lack of agreement with statements on human rights

  • Higher feeling of safety when moving around the local area

  • Less likely to feel threatened by gangs

  • Unlikely to engage with the Council to discuss issues

  • Segment 2:

  • ‘No worries but conscious of civil liberties’

  • (21% of respondents)

  • Believe in human rights

  • Feel safe when travelling to and from school

  • Less likely to see the issues raised as beging of concern to them

  • More likely to be males

  • Segment 1:

  • ‘Well informed, but worried’

  • (18% of respondents)

  • Feel they can make a difference

  • Feel part of their community

  • Use a variety of sources to keep informed

  • Concerned about the issues raised about personal safety and violence in the community

  • More likely to be Muslim or Asian

  • Segment 6:

  • ‘Civil liberty apathy and less linked to wider community’

  • (11% of respondents)

  • Least likely to feel proud of living in Waltham Forest

  • Feel disassociated from their peers and wider community

  • Do not feel as much concern for personal safety

  • Less agreement with civil liberties

  • More unlikely to see WF as a place of successful multi-culturalism

  • Segment 4:

  • ‘Fearful, even of friends’

  • (20% of respondents)

  • Most likely to be fearful about threats to their own personal safety and to their homes

  • This included fears about violence from friends

  • Also most likely to be concerned about the threat of gangs

  • More likely to be female

  • Segment 5:

  • ‘Supportive of civil liberties but disenfranchised / disaffected’

  • (15% of respondents)

  • Agreed on value of civil liberties

  • Views based on informal sources rather than from people in authority

  • Concerned about gangs and increasing gang membership

  • Felt unable to make a difference

  • Felt distanced from their local communities.

  • More likely to be female

10


Segmentation Conclusions CommunicationBased on the attributes assigned to the segments it is possible to consider priorities for engagement based on key variables such as concerns about the local area, agreement with value of civil liberties or degree of disenfranchisement.

An example of this kind of model in provided below:

High concern for personal safety

Segment 1

Segment 4

Segment 5

Unlikely to engage with the Council to discuss issues

Likely to engage with the Council to discuss issues

Segment 3

Segment 2

Segment 6

Low concern for personal safety

11


Segmentation Conclusions CommunicationUsing the attributes assigned to the segments it is also possible to look for different ways of engaging with the young people within them based on their beliefs, values and current views of the value of civic participation.

Segment 1

Segment 2

Segment 3

  • Lack awareness of why these issues should be important to them

  • However, do value civil liberties so potential to build on these values

  • Not reliant on any one form of media for information or news

  • Currently unengaged and unaware of the issues

  • May be naïve in their perceptions of community safety issues

  • Unlikely to have links with the Council

  • Will require targeted information to show the importance and value of civic engagement

  • Currently use varied sources of media, therefore relatively easy to reach

  • Can use concern about safety issue to increase involvement

  • Believe in the value of their opinions

  • Potential role as ambassadors to engage other young people

Segment 5

Segment 6

Segment 4

  • Value civil liberties and human rights but do not feel they can make a difference

  • Need to set up communication channels with Council and other stakeholders

  • Provide example of how young people can get involved and make a difference

  • Need educating of value of civil liberties and their implications for them

  • Lack pride in their local area and require convincing of the benefits of living in Waltham Forest

  • Lack awareness of threats to personal safety as they are disengaged from main sources of information and are therefore at risk

  • Concerned about threats to personal safety but currently do not know who to talk to

  • Need reassurance about safe places to go

  • Role for developing trusted sources of information and advice

12


Conclusions Communication

  • Informal activities dominated out-of-school time for young people, particularly spending time with friends and families in their own homes.

  • In some cases this appeared to be linked to concerns about personal safety (especially when linked to travelling outside the borough). However, there were also comments made about a lack of facilities for young people to use.

  • Although young people felt safe at school, and able to influence their environment, this was not necessarily the case outside school.

  • In terms of dealing with issues in their local area, most young people turned to family and friends rather than thinking to engage with the Council or other authorities.

  • There was a lack of awareness of how to communicate with the Council and how young people could have an impact on their local area.

  • This was seen to contribute to lower levels of pride in living in Waltham Forest than had been identified in previous surveys.

  • This was also attributed to a lower sense of ‘belonging’ to the borough as opposed to their own age group, local area or even their affiliation to London as a whole.

  • However, it was clear from both the qualitative and quantitative work that the main issue affecting civic pride was the issue of gangs and the threat to personal safety this created.

  • The young people were all concerned about crossing into gang territory and were looking to the police to provide more visible interventions and the Council to provide increased CCTV and better lighting for public spaces.

  • However, what also emerged from the survey was a strong sense of the value that the young people placed on cultural diversity and living in area with a mix of ethnicities. This was seen as a recognisable and positive feature of living in Waltham Forest.

13


Conclusions Communication

  • Young people were reliant on broadcast media and the internet for news and information on current affairs. There was recognition of the dangers on using these sources to gain impartial views and, consequently, there was seen to be a gap where the Council and its partners could provide their account of local issues.

  • This was seen as important in relation to issues of personal safety where there were concerns that reports of incidents could be exaggerated or misreported leading to increased fear levels which may not be appropriate.

  • Most of the concerns expressed about personal safety and the threat of sexual violence or attack were based on anecdotal evidence. However, these stories had created heightened levels of fear amongst the young people to the extent that they were changing behaviours and not travelling around the borough.

  • Religious tolerance and a strong sense of the importance of promoting human rights and a peaceful society were clear from both the qualitative and quantitative studies. However, there was less understanding about different sexualities and the impact this could have on how someone may choose to live their life.

  • Religious extremism was not seen as an issue for the borough amongst the young people surveyed. However, extreme behaviour was a term used to describe people who belonged to gangs, especially those linked to violent activities or battles for territory.

  • The young people who took part in the survey were clearly very concerned about the growth of gang influence in their local areas and whilst they still felt safe from them in school this was not the case once outside the school gates.

  • Their main concerns were that they would be targeted by gangs during opportunistic attacks to steal mobile phones and other personal property. However, they were also fearful of getting caught up in more serious physical assaults by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  • Therefore, the young people were keen to feedback their concerns about gangs to the Council and its partners as the key issue which needed to be addressed to improve community cohesion and increase the sense of pride of living in the borough.

14


Recommendations Communication

Participation, Decision Making and Communication

Community Cohesion

  • There is a need to do more to show young people how they can get their opinions heard.

  • This could be done through building on the successful models used in schools to help young people extend their sphere of influence.

  • However, it would also be important to quickly demonstrate how the opinions and views expressed by young people are turned into action.

  • As young people currently rely on friends and family to discuss issues which are important to them this creates two possible routes of engagement:

    • Build more links with parents so that they can advise their children on how to get their voices heard.

    • Recruit more young ambassadors to promote the value of communicating with the Council and to publicise the outcomes of such consultation.

  • There is a need promote Waltham Forest as a location in its own right as at the moment young people do not have as strong an affiliation with the borough as they do with their local area.

  • Cultural diversity is valued and where this is supported and celebrated this creates pride and participation in cultural events. Therefore, the Council and its partners should do more of this.

  • Gang membership and fights over territories are damaging civic pride and reducing the extent to which young people feel ownership of local places and spaces.

  • Consequently, young people were looking for a more visible strategy/operation to address gang violence and to provide protection to young people.

15


Recommendations Communication

Perceptions of Community Safety

Gangs and Gang Related Violence

  • Opportunistic attacks such as muggings and petty theft were primary concerns for young people.

  • However, there were increasing fears about the threat of sexual assault, specifically from older males, which need to be addressed sensitively so as not to increase levels of fear where not substantiated by actual evidence.

  • There is a need to provide reassurance and also to provide young people with the tools to cope with unwanted advances.

  • This, combined with concerns about the threat of gangs, meant that the young people were looking for increased police presence, including more community support officers on public transport and in their local areas.

  • Young people also wanted more communication from the police to show what was being done and demonstrate how young people could report more of their concerns and fears.

  • Young people had two primary suggestions for dealing with gangs and gang related violence:

    • More visible policing of risky areas either through increased use of CCTV or police officers.

    • Positive engagement with gang members to give them something else to do e.g. youth events, talent spotting and creative activities.

  • There were concerns amongst this age group that younger children could get drawn into gangs without knowing how serious the issues were. Therefore, it was felt that more education in schools would be useful.

  • There was also seen to be a need to break down gang boundaries through positive community events that would help families and friends ‘retake the streets’ and feel more confident in moving around the borough.

16


Recommendations Communication

Formation and Nature of Cultural Beliefs

Extremism

  • There was agreement that it would be useful to have a source of objective information about current affairs and events in the local area and that there could be a role for the Council and its partners in developing this.

  • This may also involve the endorsement of certain social media sites as being backed by the Council or the Community Safety Partnership.

  • More broadly, there was a recommendation for more monitoring of social media sites to increase awareness of local issues and the concerns of young people.

  • There was a lack of understanding and awareness of issues of sexuality which may need to be addressed in order to increase tolerance and reduce the risk of potential discrimination in the future.

  • Ethnic diversity and promoting peaceful societies were strong cultural values amongst the young people surveyed and therefore could be used as a base from which to promote other human rights issues and encourage participation in civic activities.

  • The terms ‘extremism’ and ‘extreme behaviour’ were not widely used by the young people in this survey.

  • They were also not words linked to activities occurring in Waltham Forest.

  • Where young people felt that residents in the borough may have beliefs that would lead them to harm other people this was predominantly linked to gang membership.

  • Therefore, there is a need to be careful in introducing these terms, even if the intention is that through education the young people may be better prepared to deal with these topics in the future.

17


For Further Information Please Contact: Communication

James Gould

Youth Participation Officer

Waltham Forest Council

020 8496 8105 / 07807 035680


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