Perhaps more than any other borough in London, Tower Hamlets best represents the city, both its untrammeled riches and stark poverty.
Shouldered on one side by the Thames River and intersected by two major arteries, Commercial Road and East India Dock Road, Tower Hamlets is undoubtedly the borough that best represents the city of London, both its untrammelled riches and stark poverty. Nowhere is this more visible than in the skyline shrinking above glass fronted skyscrapers and luxury flats that stand imperiously over densely populated public housing. Closure of the docks from the 1960s and long-term decline of traditional industries removed many sources of low- and semi-skilled jobs, and while being home to the largest financial sectors in the world, work today for many in the borough doesn’t necessarily mean security as many of these jobs are low paid, part-time, insecure or zero-hour contracts. Such contrasts underpin the highest level of income inequality in the UK, as well as the highest level of child and pensioner poverty.
Index of Multiple Deprivation
The stark inequality felt and seen across the borough, and lived by several generations, has laid the ground for despair and disaffection, and created further rifts within communities. Rising crime levels and the highest rate of (Muslim targeted) hate crime reveal communities simultaneously turning on one another and turning their back on one another. The most vulnerable are Muslims living in the area who, making up 43% of the population, suffer from the highest levels of unemployment of any ethnic group dnd 78% of Bangladeshi/Pakistani women economically inactive. What we have witnessed across the borough, and in many parts of the city, is the creation of a viscous cycle of inequality, discrimination and lack of opportunities leading to low levels of achievement, isolation and deprivation. What is needed are improved access to language and support services, raised awareness of work and education opportunities, more empowered female role models, and better cross-cultural understanding, in order to counter this devastating trend.
43% of children living in Tower Hamlets are living in poverty. Tower Hamlets has the highest rate of child poverty in London, and in the UK
HALF of all older people in Tower Hamlets are income deprived
OVER HALF of all neighborhoods in Tower Hamlets (54%) rank in the top 10 per cent nationally of income and employment deprivation
78% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women in the borough are economically inactive
In the 20 or so years that we have been active in Tower Hamlets and across London, we have run host of activities and projects to strengthen communities, empower individuals, and support those in need. This work has taken a variety of forms, from heritage arts projects with seniors to school holiday play schemes for children, English classes, mentoring and support networks and many more. In this time we have formed close relationships across the borough and established a reputation as a trusted local resource for information, support, advice and guidance.
Using arts and crafts as a starting point, and building on users’ existing skill-sets, our classes and activities are safe, inclusive spaces for learning and self-expression. One of the most frequent comments we read in our feedback forms is that users were previously unaware of the various opportunities and forms of support available and/or were unaware of how to access them for reasons including isolation, limited English, family pressures, stigma, and inadequate IT skills. For many of our beneficiaries we are the only people they can trust and rely on to get the assistance they need. Our holistic model of personal development and community integration and well-being takes a person-centred approach to learning and development, addressing the needs of the individual and tailoring services and activities to the user’s experiences and backgrounds. This is generally called ‘information, advice, and guidance’ (IAG), but we just like to think we make everything about, and for, the people that take part in our work.
3,162 people were involved in a Stitches in Time project between 2016-2018
115 were children facing multiple disadvantage
270 women joined a Fabric Works class or English for Sewing class
58 unemployed women volunteered at one of our events or workshops
25 were women over 65 years old
12 women were survivors of trafficking
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