Jennette Arnold
London assembly member for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall

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The practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been illegal in the UK since 1985. Yet we know it continues. For this reason the London Assembly is undertaking a scrutiny on FGM and it is my privilege to lead it. We kick started the process with a conference at City Hall in January. We brought together frontline practitioners from across the capital, to share best practice and talk frankly about the challenges faced in eradicating FGM.

For me, the journey had started nearly 45 years ago, when I witnessed the impact of FGM for the first time. As a nurse in training I was in the middle of my obstetric placement and was about to help a mother deliver. What I saw shocked me to the core; mother had undergone what I would eventually come to know as a type 3 FGM procedure[1].

I actually fainted, but when I came round there was more to come. The lady’s husband was on the medical team and was about to operate on her, to facilitate the birth and re-stitch her afterwards; and senior staff around me assured me that there was nothing to worry about. I was invited to move to other duties for the rest of the day. Bizarrely, the only record of the event that showed any concern, was the accident report I completed, detailing the cause of my collapse. I did hear later that the lady’s husband had been persuaded not to proceed with his role but I never saw her again.

A key outcome for me from that day was the beginning of a lengthy involvement in the campaign to eradicate FGM. In that time, there has been huge progress. As suggested the process is now illegal; and from 2015 there is a mandatory requirement on health, social care and teaching professionals to report any cases they identify to the police. But, we know in London that new cases of FGM are still being discovered amongst young girls; and there are thousands of women of all ages who are survivors of the practice.

For the Assembly scrutiny, I was delighted that Hibo Wardere agreed to be an adviser to me and my team of officers. She also agreed to Chair the conference. Hibo is a Somalian born campaigner against genital mutilation. She is also a community educator and author[2]. The key aim of the conference was to provide a safe space for professionals to share best practice and talk frankly about the challenges and barriers to tackling FGM.

Key professionals from health, social care, education and policing set the scene and provided statements on their roles and responsibilities and the issues that needed to be addressed to promote better joint working.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said that tackling FGM will be an important part of his mayoralty. His Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden, gave the keynote address at the conference, concluding with a promise to work in partnership with all appropriate agencies to bring about an end to FGM.

Delegates then worked in small groups to answer a series of questions that would help inform and strengthen London’s response to FGM.

I am now reviewing all the material form the day and we will develop specific recommendations for action. Let me thank all who gave their time to contribute so well to the event and let me thank especially Hibo Wardere.

As we progress towards our goal of making London a ‘Zero Cutting City’, the City Hall conference was an important step for me. It ensured the Assembly scrutiny would remain grounded in real life; and it allowed me to re-connect with the current generation of frontline staff.

The generation I was part of managed to secure the legislative base to fight FGM. It was difficult. But I suspect that the current generation of frontline staff in many ways has a harder job. They need to deliver against a high level of expectation; retain the trust of the families they work with whilst ensuring the safety of the children involved; and do all this at a time when our public services are under greater pressure than ever. From what I saw at the conference, the process is in good hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/overview/en/

[2] Wardere, H – Cut: One Woman’s Fight Against FGM in Britain Today – 2016 -ISBN: 9781471153983

Last week I was delighted to see my Twitter feed filled with people celebrating International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. More than 130 countries around the world held events to recognise this special day.

But despite the growing dialogue around homophobia and transphobia, sadly the number of crimes committed against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) people in London has risen significantly.

And though Boris Johnson is said to be ‘committed to tackling hate crimes in all its forms’, he needs to significantly up his efforts in his final year as mayor if we are to eliminate these horrendous acts.

Figures from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) show that since 2012 transphobic hate crime has grown by 72 per cent. Meanwhile, last year alone saw the number of homophobic hate crimes reported in London rise by 20 per cent, with over 100 incidents reported every month. Not only are these figures very alarming, it deeply saddens me to see people being attacked because of who they are.

Boris Johnson once said that he wanted London ‘to be the safest global city on earth’. If he is to achieve this aim he needs to place tackling homophobic hate crime amongst his top priorities. Only by doing so will Londoners have the confidence to report these crimes, safe in the knowledge that the police will have the capacity to respond appropriately to their needs.

The mayor’s Police and Crime Plan acknowledges that levels of hate crime are high and there remains a significant issue with under reporting. I welcome the mayor’s plan to appoint designated Hate Crime liaison officers in every borough.

Dedicated officers, working with LGBT communities, have huge potential to improve public confidence, which in turn could see more people reporting hate crime. Boris Johnson set 2016 as his deadline to appoint these officers in every London borough, and I’m going to be pushing him to make sure he delivers.

Boris Johnson talks the talk when it comes to eliminating hate crime, but his delivery is somewhat patchy. In December, the Mayor’s Hate Crime Reduction Strategy for London was published following discussions with the Crown Prosecution Service and Met Police. The Strategy aims to improve public confidence and increase reporting of hate crime. And whilst it contains 29 actions points set out to achieve just that, with no timetable for delivery it’s very unclear whether we will see any positive results any time soon.

The mayor can pay all the lip service he has to tackling hate crime, but unless the police have the correct resources their chances of eliminating these abhorrent offences will be limited.  To improve their chance of success, it’s imperative that police officers receive the appropriate training to help carry out action against hate crime perpetrators and provide support to victims of hate crime.

With £800 million worth of cuts expected over the next few years, there is a risk that their efforts will be significantly undermined. It is the mayor’s responsibility to ensure that these cuts do not fall too heavily on any particular group.

We live in, arguably, the most diverse city in the world. It is difficult to comprehend that homophobic and transphobic hate crimes are still inflicted on members of our community.

Boris Johnson has just one year left to serve as mayor. This is his opportunity to tackle hate crime. This is his opportunity to show he is more than just empty words. I sincerely hope he does not let LGBT Londoners down.

Renters are at the mercy of landlords after new Shelter figures revealed that 1 in 22 private renters in Waltham Forest; 1 in 33 private renters in Hackney; and 1 in 49 private renters in Islington face eviction each year. This comes six months after Boris Johnson launched his voluntary London Rental Standard (LRS) which, despite aiming to get 100,000 of London’s 300,000 landlords signed up to better protections for tenants, has only 13,499 landlords on board according to the most recent City Hall figures.

The new research shows that in total 2,249 privately renting households in Hackney; 2,066 in Waltham Forest and 1,307 in Islington faced claims of eviction last year. This means 1 in 33 households facing eviction in Hackney; 1 in 22 in Waltham Forest and 1 in 49 in Islington. Waltham Forest, Hackney and Islington have the 5th, 6th and 25th highest eviction rate in the England, respectively.

The report from housing charity Shelter found that the high cost and volatile nature of the London house rental market meant that “it can take just one thing, like losing your job or falling ill, to put your home at risk.” Since 2011 private sector rents in London have soared by 21% and recent estimates found that 39% of private rented sector tenants now live in poverty – a larger share than in either the social or owner-occupying tenures.

The number of people facing dramatic rent rises and evictions showed that the capitals rental market wasn’t working for many Londoners. The Mayor of London’s voluntary approach to landlord regulation is not working and I call for stronger statutory protection for private renters.

The fact that up to 1 in 22 renters across my constituency have faced eviction in the last year shows how challenging it can be to rent in the capital. Boris Johnson pledged to get 100,000 landlords signed up to his minimum standards scheme yet to date only 13,500 landlords have joined.

With 40% of private sector renters living in poverty, rents rising and complaints soaring, Boris’s soft touch approach does little to help the majority of London’s renters. Without proper statutory protection, many renters are left at the mercy of landlords.

Instead of another empty voluntary initiative we need to see real action to ensure decent standards and fair treatment in the private rented sector. Things like longer tenancies and caps on rent increases would make a real difference to the people who call Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest their home.

Whilst most landlords treat their tenants properly these figures suggest that renters have very little protections and too easily face the threat of eviction.

Notes

The latest Shelter report, Repossession and Eviction Hotspots, including borough by borough breakdowns is available here.

The numbers of accredited landlords are available on the GLA’s London Rental Standard web page.

The London Poverty Profile 2013 (p.7) found that 39% of private renters now live in poverty.

The Valuation Office Agency states that between June 2011 and June 2014 private rents in London rose 21%

Shelter reports a 47 per cent increase in private sector tenant complaints in London in the last five years (to 18,700) (p20)

Latest figures show that forces in Hackney face a 8% vacancy rate; Islington 8%; and Waltham Forest 11%. This leaves Hackney without 17 sergeants and 35 constables; Islington without 9 sergeants and 38 constables; and Waltham Forest without 19 sergeants and 53 constables. Figures also show a £13.7m Met underspend on police officer pay, suggesting that that vacancies have been sitting open as part of a cost saving exercise.

New figures obtained by my colleague, Labour London Assembly Member Joanne McCartney, show that in May this year (the latest period available) there were 1,209 vacancies for police sergeants and constables across the capital’s borough forces.

The high vacancy rates come on top of significant cuts in police numbers since the Government came to power, with official figures showing 171 police officers and PCSOs cut from Hackney’s streets; and 161 from Islington’s streets (although, conversely, an increase of 19 officers and PCSOs on Waltham Forest’s streets) between May 2010 and May 2014, and 4,694 from London’s streets overall. A report last year also found that the Met’s proportion of officers deemed ‘visible’ was the third lowest in England and Wales.

Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest are three of 14 London boroughs with vacancy rates of over 6%, with five facing double digit deficits, including Waltham Forest. Harrow is shown to have the highest percentage of vacancies, with 15% of its sergeant and constable posts unfilled. Waltham Forest had the highest overall number, with 72 vacancies from a force of 664.

The figures were revealed after HMIC warned that “forces across England and Wales plan to achieve most of their savings by reducing the number of police officers, PCSOs and police staff… most of the savings [of the MPS] come from reducing the size of the workforce.”

In his manifesto Boris Johnson pledged to put more officers on the beat. In reality what we have seen is a net decrease of 313 police officers and PCSOs cut from my constituency’s streets since this Government came to power. Now we learn that on top of that between 8%-11% of Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest’s sergeants and constables are missing due to unfilled vacancies, that’s 171 extra officers who should be on the streets of Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest. It is an absolute scandal that police numbers have been allowed to fall this low, these vacancies are leaving a gaping hole at the heart of the our local police force.

Whilst a small churn in the number of officers is to be expected, these are deeply concerning figures. With 52 police officer positions unfilled in Hackney; 47 unfilled in Islington; and 72 in Waltham Forest, we need to ask not only what impact that has on policing, but why the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has allowed it to happen in the first place. Either the depth of officer morale is so low they are haemorrhaging officers, or these posts are being kept open to keep costs down. Either way the Mayor should take immediate action to ensure our police force is up to strength and vacancies are filled as quickly as possible.

NOTES

I urge residents in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest to take your chance to contribute to the consultation on the Mayor of London’s proposal to close all the capital’s tube ticket offices. If implemented the decision would not only mean the loss of every one of London’s tube ticket offices, but it would see 900 staff axed.

Boris Johnson is proposing that all ticket offices across Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest will close and hundreds of staff axed – despite the fact that, during his election campaign in 2008, Johnson pledged not to close any front counters, promising that there will always be “a manned ticket office at every station”; and despite the fact that last year almost 40% of ticket sales were conducted by staffed station counters(1).

Opponents of the cuts argue that, even without ticket offices, staff should be retained to keep travellers safe, particularly at night; to deal with more complex queries, such as refunds; and to help people unfamiliar with the tube network and those less comfortable with using ticket machines, such as London’s elders and tourists visiting the city.

The consultation, which launched on Friday 15 August, runs for 6 weeks and is co-ordinated by London TravelWatch. It can be completed at: http://www.londontravelwatch.org.uk/tubeconsultation.

Not only has Boris Johnson gone back on his manifesto promise to keep ticket offices open, but he wants to get rid of 900 staff, putting their livelihoods at risk. There is nothing wrong with modernising transport services using new technology, but it is so important for people living in and visiting my constituency that they have staffed ticket offices to help them feel safe, particularly at night; and to assist those who prefer dealing with a person and not a computer, such as elders and people with disabilities. There can be no compromise when it comes to safety and accessibility.

It also breaks my heart that people will lose their jobs and livelihoods as a result of the Mayor’s proposals.

People in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest need a full staff team on hand to keep them safe and to help them deal with their queries and concerns as they arise. Getting rid of 900 staff members in a city with an ever-increasing population is just ludicrous. Boris’s cuts must be stopped.

I have made my feelings about the proposed closures quite clear in correspondence with the Mayor, and I now urge people across Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest to have their say using the survey, to tell Boris Johnson what they think about his broken manifesto promise to keep ticket offices open.

Notes:

(1) The latest figures from TFL, revealed through Freedom of Information requests, showed that 39.15% of ticket sales in 2013/14 were bought in ticket offices.

I welcome today’s hearing at City Hall on the vexed question of whether we need more aviation capacity in London and if so where should it go.

So much has changed since the publication of the Air Transport White Paper in 2003. I therefore welcome the work of Sir Howard Davies, Chair of the Airports Commission. What is desperately needed is an objective and independent assessment of the complex issues pertaining to aviation in London.

The interim report of the Commission contains an assessment of the evidence on the nature, scale and timing of the steps needed to maintain the UK’s global hub status. The report also contains a number of recommendations for immediate actions and a plan of the phase 2 work programme.

I know from my mail-bag that many of my constituents would be supportive of a statutory noise regulatory authority; currently there is no single body that can mitigate the impact of our crowded and noisy airways.
The Commission’s final report to government is expected by summer 2015, and I look forward to reading it in due course.

I’m pleased to note that the Commission is in listening mode and is holding public evidence sessions, which you can find out more about from the following places.

General Enquiries: airports.enquiries@airports.gsi.gov.uk www.gov.uk/airports-commission

Airport Operational Models Discussion Paper: airport.models@airports.gsi.gov.uk

Head of Airports Commission Secretariat: Philip Graham (philgraham@dft.gsi.gov.uk)

At the end of last year, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, disgracefully equated vulnerable sections of society to ‘cornflakes’ in his infamous Margaret Thatcher speech.  He also went on to state that inequality is ‘natural’ and ‘essential’.  His oxymoronic cure for inequality (which in London equates to thousands using foodbanks and sleeping rough whilst the ‘super-rich’ thrive) is to cause further hardship for vulnerable groups because, he believes, it is healthy to foster a ‘spirit of envy’.

It is shameful that the Mayor of a city as diverse and wealthy as London can advocate such a view and get away with it.  Despite the reams of evidence that demonstrate the structural inequality across the capital, the Mayor keeps his fingers in his ears and lets the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  It is made even worse that this is due not only to his general incompetence, but also to his genuine, personal outlook on society – as demonstrated in his speech at the Margaret Thatcher lecture.

My cost of living report, Falling Further Behind, is a rebuttal to the Mayor’s dangerous ‘cornflake economics’ and underlines the structural inequality that exists in London and the actions that he can take to lower the barriers to success, which are outlined in the paragraphs that follow.

The evidence in my report shows that Londoners from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds face barriers to success due to low pay; employment discrimination; food poverty; lack of appropriate childcare provision; high public transport fares; and high rents.  A report by the Runnymede Trust for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community in 2012 found that 25% of the unemployment rate for Black and Asian men and women is a result of prejudice and direct discrimination.  The report also found that BAME women face discrimination ‘at every stage of the recruitment process.’  London’s Poverty Profile shows that half of all people in poverty in London are from BAME backgrounds.

Londoners with disabilities face barriers due to a smaller supply of suitable, accessible housing; cuts to disability allowances; food poverty; inaccessible public transport; lack of specialised childcare provision; and barriers to employment.  This in turn, has forced many to turn to food banks and risk their health by cutting back on heating so they can afford the bills.  According to the London Cost of Living Survey, 74% of disabled Londoners have cut back on heating their homes in order to afford their energy bills.

Women face various barriers due to a lack of affordable childcare; low pay and low pensions; insecure employment contracts; public transport safety concerns; and widespread sexual discrimination.  Once again, the Mayor falls short when addressing this inequality.  Indeed, in February 2014, the Mayor claimed women are not ‘anywhere near’ achieving equal employment opportunities in the labour market, but that his own pool of advisers, in which ‘almost half’ of the staff are women, was an example of how things could be done.  However, it turns out that only 4 of his 14 paid advisers are actually women (28%).

The inequality story for young and older Londoners can also not just be dismissed as a result of, what the Mayor, in his speech, put down to, ‘natural and God-given talent’.  Children and young people are facing barriers to success due to hunger impacting on their education; being forced to pay out high rents for accomodation; the cancellation of the education maintenance allowance; increased university tuition fees; and a lack of job opportunities.  Meanwhile, elder Londoners are facing hardship due to high energy bills; malnutrition; and rising costs of everyday necessities.  As highlighted in my report, it also appears that Londoners are retiring later than people in other parts of the UK with 11% of those aged 65 and over in work compared with the national average of 9.5%.  In the North East, this figure is 6% (Source: ONS Annual Population Survey).

The negative impact of the cost-of-living crisis extends to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, too.  Those who identify as LGBT face societal discrimination which feeds into employment opportunities and, notably, housing.  Due to a high risk of domestic abuse, LGBT Londoners who are victims of abuse also struggle from a lack of emergency accomodation in the city.  Studies have also shown that the vast majority of homelessness services work with people who identify as LGBT.

Whilst the Mayor takes economic advice from the back of his cereal box, my report suggests that Londoners across the city are suffering.  I urge the Mayor to take steps to address this inequality to help those groups protected under the Equality Act 2010.  I believe that action can be taken on these issues and that inequality is not inevitable.  It is certainly not ‘essential’ as the Mayor suggests.  Boris argues that vulnerable Londoners require inequality and envy to ‘shake’ them to the top, but it is he that needs to be shaken into action.  The evidence and recommendations outlined in my report show that the barriers facing vulnerable groups are not ‘natural’, but structural, and it is time for the Mayor to recognise this and work to make London a city of equal opportunity for all, instead of a city of inevitable and, as he argues, justifiable inequality for the majority.

This morning, I gave a speech at the launch of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England‘s report, entitled ‘State of Children’s Rights in London‘. You can read a copy of my full speech below, but, I must first say that the views expressed here are my own, and I do not speak on behalf of other members of the Education Panel.

Speech to Children’s Rights Alliance for England:

Good morning.

Can I start by thanking Catherine, Bill and everyone else from the Children’s Rights Alliance for England for inviting me here today to talk to you all? It’s fabulous to see you all here at the launch of this important report on the State of Children’s Rights in London.

I’ve been asked here today in my capacity as Chair of the London Assembly’s Education Panel to give my own views on how we, at City Hall, can ensure that children’s rights in London are at the forefront of our work, particularly in the realm of education.

But, first, I can’t go on without commenting on something some of you might have read in the newspapers earlier this week.

We heard The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, say that Councils should be granted the power to remove a child from his or her parents if Council Officers believe that the child is at risk of radicalisation. By saying this, the Mayor not only proved his ignorance about the main causes of radicalisation – where there is little evidence to suggest parental involvement – but added his own piece to contribute to the inherent, misguided and widespread Islamophobia that we hear in political and public rhetoric. Through this suggestion, Boris also advocated Councils violate a number of Articles in the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Now, the reason I raise the Mayor’s comments is to give you some idea of the context we, as London Assembly Members, operate in – which can at times, for those of us that believe so strongly in the rights of children, cause significant frustration.

But, Baroness Jones, several of our other colleagues on the London Assembly and I, always make sure we put the case forward for fairness, equality and human rights when we challenge the Mayor and his Deputies on all issues that matter to Londoners.

Indeed, in my role as Chair of the London Assembly’s Education Panel, I do this very thing by challenging the Mayor’s Deputy and Advisers on Education about their policies.

No one would argue that Education is anything but a fundamental human right, and that the earlier in life a person has access to educational services, the better. But, the challenge for policy makers and politicians here in the UK – and, as far as my work is concerned, London – is to put in place processes and practices that ensure that the provision of high-quality education is accessible for all.

I know the report that’s being launched today backs up the broad picture across education in London that we, as a city, out-perform many other places in the UK when it comes to attainment at GCSE level – which is, I’m sure you’ll agree, very encouraging news.

But, I’ll just repeat the two operative words in this statement – that is, “broad picture”. When we drill down to the Borough level across London, children in Kensington and Chelsea out-perform children in Lewisham, Newham and – in my constituency – Waltham Forest, by 20 percentage points. So, while we should be pleased with the general picture of attainment in London, there is clearly much more work that needs to be done in order to make sure that children across our capital not only have access to education, but good-quality education.

To measure whether this is the case, in my view, we have to look beyond the raw statistics. It’s easy to pat ourselves on the back because 80% of children in Kensington and Chelsea obtained 5 A*-C grades, but there are more questions that need to be answered to ensure that children across our city are taking full advantage of their fundamental right to education. For example:

  • Is 5 A*-C grades enough? How many children obtained 8 or 9 A*-C grades?
  • How about children with special educational needs, and those from troubled families?
  • What about the 20% of children in Kensington and Chelsea that didn’t obtain 5 A*-C grades? What happens to them in their future lives? And why didn’t they get the 5 A*-C grades?
  • And – even more importantly as far as I’m concerned: Is the curriculum that we measure these children by the appropriate one to test whether or not they will grow up to be clear of their human rights, clear about how they can defend their rights, and clear that – when they do grow up – they will live in a society where their human rights will be respected and won’t be violated?

By the way I’ve framed this speech, you’ll probably guess that I believe the answer to those final questions is: No.

And I’ll give you an example of why: I’ve done a lot of work in my time as a nurse and politician fighting to defend victims of Female Genital Mutilation – or FGM. FGM is a clear violation of a young girl’s human rights. But, one of the biggest barriers when it comes to prosecuting perpetrators of FGM is a lack of understanding in the general public about what it is, about how to detect it in young girls, and a lack of empowerment of women and young girls to stand up against those people who want to cut them.

Things are slowly changing – and campaigners such as Farmer Mohammed have helped increase public awareness of FGM – but, to properly address this and other important issues, we need a compulsory curriculum that covers the problems that impact directly on the rights of young people. We are, currently, some way off that, but it is so important that the traditional ways in which we measure educational attainment need to be updated to address understanding of broader societal issues.

And, when we couple this shortfall in the curriculum with the pending schools places crisis we have across London – where it’s predicted that, if we continue at the current trajectory, we’re going to have a shortfall of one-hundred-and-eighteen thousand (118,000) primary and secondary school places across London by 2016, we have a potential situation where, at best, children will have to travel significant distances to access education, or study in overcrowded classrooms, or, at worst, children will have to find other means of accessing education. How, then, will this impact on a child’s fundamental right to a good-quality education?

So, from City Hall, I continue my work to challenge the Mayor on his education policy – and, in a recent meeting of the Education Panel, we challenged his Deputy on what she and the Mayor are doing to address the school places crisis.

And I continue my work of getting young people involved in my work – through acting personally as a mentor to dozens of young people across London – so that they can help inform the work that I do. It’s very easy sometimes for adults to dictate to children and young people what’s best for them, based sometimes on misinformed or out-dated preconceptions. But I am a very keen and active advocate of involving young people in making decisions that impact on their lives.

We’ve come a long way in the past century to change this, and organisations like the Children’s Rights Alliance for England – and the setting up of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England – greatly improve youth participation in policy making, but we still have some way to go. When we’re at a place where young people are meaningfully engaged with by all senior politicians when they’re making policy and law that affects young people, we’ll see – in education for example – a curriculum that represents the needs of young people, teaches them about their rights, and empowers them to be part of a society where fundamental human rights are at the heart of everything they do as he or she grows up to become an adult. That’s the roadmap. Now, let’s get there sooner rather than later.

I’d like to thank the Children’s Rights Alliance for England for publishing this very important report – because it’s through reports like this that we, as politicians, are able to inform our work and to be challenged to think creatively about finding solutions to the issues that affect people in their everyday lives.

Thank you all for coming today – and if there’s ever anything I can do to assist you from City Hall, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

At yesterday’s Mayor’s Question Time, I called on Mayor Boris Johnson to use his powers and money to help young Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Londoners who are being disproportionately affected by the high rates of unemployment – through dedicated skills, education and training programmes to get people off the unemployment register and into work.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)’s recent report, Labour market status by ethnic group, shows that the unemployment rate among Pakistani and Bangladeshi people aged 16-24 is 46%, and for young Black people it is 45%, compared with 19% for White British people aged between 16-24.

The Mayor has a responsibility to ensure that all BME Londoners have the same opportunities as other people in London, and I am very concerned that the Government’s own figures suggest that this is not the case across our city and across my constituency of Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest. Levels of unemployment across all groups in London are unacceptable – and I’m a firm advocate of policies aimed at full employment – but the disproportionate rates of joblessness for BME people are simply disgraceful.

The Mayor agreed with my point in Mayor’s Question Time, which is a start, but I remain concerned that he couldn’t give me specific details about the programmes he has put in place to specifically target young BME Londoners to help them find employment.

Since yesterday’s meeting, I have written to the Mayor to ask him for specific details of any programmes he has put in place to help tackle unemployment and support young BME people to get the skills and qualifications needed to enter the job market. I repeat my call for him to put his words into action and ensure that all Londoners – regardless of ethnicity – can benefit from the job opportunities that our great city can offer.