Tower Hamlets – together and positive
Once in a while we like to highlight the boroughs in which ELBA works – so this week I’d like to talk about Tower Hamlets. In some ways, it is not very different from the other boroughs in east London – it has one of the youngest populations in the country, and one of the most diverse; it has some of the wards with the highest levels of children growing up in households below the poverty line and the highest level of pensioner poverty.
The recent Public Health England report on the differential impact of COVID19 on BAME communities found that Bangladeshi men are the group with the highest death rates – at twice the general population. Tower Hamlets has the highest concentration of people of Bangladeshi origin in the country. In the face of such impact, there has been very high levels of collaboration from all the organisations working on the health, social and economic impact of the virus.
Should we always focus on the difficulties of any place or location? A colleague on the Tower Hamlets Partnership recently very tellingly said “until we change the reputation of this place, the kids growing up here will always be tagged with the same reputation”. Yes, the borough has problems as tough as anywhere, and has suffered as badly as anywhere from COVID. But it also has great schools and colleges, and a Russell Group university in Queen Mary University London. My favourite Tower Hamlets stat is that there are more jobs in the borough than there are residents of working age. So there are great opportunities for all of them – we just have to make sure there is fair access and that local people have the right skills. In recent years, levels of employment have risen and that of unemployment no worse than the London average for the most part. Education attainment and progress and participation in higher education are as good as the London average, and higher than the national.
ELBA members have played their part in helping young people get into good jobs, mentoring and supporting university students and graduates, helping unemployed people into work, developing communication and employability skills. Hundreds of business volunteers each year help keep Mile End Park and Victoria Park in good shape – and we have seen how much local people have valued their open spaces during lockdown.
So as we look to how we support the communities of Tower Hamlets as we emerge from lockdown, we know there is going to be a lot to do- but such great opportunities too for ELBA members to continue to play their part. And if you want to end on a smile – have a look at this film from #Towerhamletstogether to say thanks to everyone involved in the COVID19 response.