Friday, 1 June 2012

Free nursery scheme boost for Lambeth’s disadvantaged children

Disadvantaged children in Lambeth are to benefit from an extra year of free early education under a new scheme launched in Brixton yesterday.

The council’s successful bid to be a pilot area for a new scheme that will see 2 year-olds who come from disadvantaged backgrounds given extra early education for free is a welcome initiative after some hard lobbying of government by the Lambeth Labour Group following the Tory Lib Dem savage cuts to early years Sure Start funding.

Lambeth have been given £400,000, which will provide free places for more than 100 two year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds which help give them the extra skills needed before reaching primary school.
The scheme which will go nationwide in September 2013 has been developed with evidence showing that Children who have access to high quality early education are more likely to start school ready and able to learn, with the skills they need to succeed.

Cllr Rachel Heywood, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Lambeth Council, said:
“This is great news for children and families from some of the most deprived parts of Lambeth. Studies show that many children from poorer backgrounds start primary school at a disadvantage. This funding is vital because it will help close the attainment gap by making sure they start school with the skills that they need to do well, given these children the chance which they deserve.”

Monday, 14 November 2011

Protecting children at risk of harm

Protecting children at risk of abuse is one of the most important things a council does. The work carried out by teams of professional social workers only hits the headlines if something goes tragically wrong. The social workers do a tough and demanding job, and on the whole they do it extremely well in very difficult circumstances. I spent a day out with our child protection teams finding out more about the work they do in Lambeth. All the cases I refer to in this article have been anonymised to protect people’s identities.

I sat in on a case conference to see how the professionals decide whether a child needs protection and what that might include. The mother – let’s call her Miss A – was a foreign national who, because of her immigration status, was not entitled to public support in terms of housing or financial benefits. She appeared to have some difficulty understanding the process taking place despite very sympathetic treatment from the social workers. Miss A has recently had a baby but is living in temporary lodgings with a co-tenant she doesn’t know and who objects to having the baby in the communal living areas. The baby has no separate sleeping area of its own. Miss A has a medical condition that she is failing to treat properly despite being at risk of collapsing unconscious. If that were to happen she has no plans for who would look after her child. The father lives elsewhere in London, she appears to have no close friends, has never worked, and her family all live abroad in her home country. There are clear risks to the child’s wellbeing and the team are keen to try and minimise these.

The case conference includes social workers, police, health visitors and an experienced social worker who chairs the proceedings. Decisions are taken about the kind of support the mother should receive. It strikes me that she seems rather confused by what’s going on and I later suggest that unaccompanied adults who are involved in this kind of process might benefit from the support of a volunteer who’s gone through a similar experience and who could act as their friend, explaining what’s going on in a friendly and impartial way.

After the case conference, I join a social worker on a home visit. We get in her car and drive a mile or so away to a flat in a converted Victorian house. We meet Mrs B, an African woman in her late 40s, mother of six children. Two of her daughters, both under 16, have got involved with a violent youth gang and Mrs B is at her wits’ end with worry about how she can regain control over them. They frequently stay away for days on end, apparently abusing drugs and alcohol. They are not present, as they should be, for the social workers’ visit. They have lost all respect for their heritage and culture, both have been arrested for involvement in offending – some of it seriously violent. Both have been excluded from school. Frequent appearances at court mean little to them as they receive extensions to their community sentences – wearing electronic tags and taking part in community reparations that they simply ignore without any serious consequences.

Mrs B feels she has been prevented by British law from using traditional models of discipline common in her home culture that she believes would have kept her daughters out of trouble. There seems to be a real issue about the lenience of punishment given to the girls – instead of learning to respect the law they are learning that it won’t do anything serious to stop them. That cannot be right. I discuss with Mrs B and the social worker whether we need a different approach. The Boston model, first trialled in the United States, brings together community leaders and public service leaders to confront young offenders with two stark choices: either they accept the support on offer to steer them away from offending, or they face serious consequences that might include custodial sentences or intensive foster care placements with foster carers experienced at controlling unruly young people. It seems to work in the US and I wonder whether a similar approach here would help mothers like Mrs B regain the control they have lost over their children.

I’m also impressed by another initiative to help struggling parents recently introduced in Lambeth. The Council has joined up with Home Start UK to get volunteers who have experience in bringing up children in difficult circumstances to support parents who need their help. This is a great project, offering support that really makes a difference for families in addition to the support available from the Council. It strikes me as a great example of what we’re trying to achieve with our cooperative council proposals.

Back at the office, I join the referrals team to see how vulnerable children are identified and allocated support. I’m astonished to learn that there are 22,000 referrals a year, including from the police and schools. That’s nearly 500 a week, most of them highly urgent. The majority of cases involve some kind of domestic violence and this is often associated with drugs or alcohol abuse. The assessment team officers review the cases and pass them on to the social work teams best able to investigate and offer support. The council is keen to support children in their own families where it’s safe to do so, but will take them into care if there is a serious and immediate risk of harm. In a few weeks’ time the council’s referrals team will be relocated to work alongside the police so that it’s easier to cross-refer past criminal records of adults who are reported to them, leading to better decision-making about which children are at risk.

I was deeply impressed by the professionalism, dedication and commitment of Lambeth’s child protection teams. They really do an important job for which they get little public thanks. What could matter more than protecting some of our community’s most vulnerable children from harm? It was a privilege to spend some time with these people, and I will continue to work with them to explore some of the ideas for improving the excellent service they offer.

- Councillor Steve Reed

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Brixton is bruised not Broken

A message from Councillor Steve Reed, Leader of Lambeth Council

I thought it was important to get a message to you as soon as possible following the incidents here in Lambeth last night.

Firstly I want to make it clear that Brixton is a strong and united community. Over recent years we have benefited from strong community relations and sensitive policing.

I’ve spoken to many people from all sections of the community over the past few hours, and they have all said the same thing - that there is absolutely no justification for the kind of vandalism and looting seen on the High Street yesterday. They are shocked and appalled by what they have seen and are united in condemnation for this type of behaviour, which has no place in our community.

Let’s be clear – this was opportunistic criminal behaviour by a tiny minority intent on causing disruption and stealing from businesses. This will not undermine the huge progress made over the past decade to build trust and respect; this is no return to 1981.

Our job now is to get Brixton back to normal as quickly as possible so people can get on with their lives. We will offer all the support we can to the police with their investigations, and to local residents and businesses that have been affected to get them back on their feet.

The community in Brixton is strong and resilient. Last night’s incidents will not damage that. ___________________________________________________________________________


  • If you have had criminal damage done to your property please contact your insurance company as soon as possible. They will advise you on what to do regarding making claims etc. It would be sensible to take photographs of any damage as this may help with any paperwork.
  • The tube has been closed today but was not damaged. In order to check when it is open again please check with TFL –
  • The high street will be cleaned up as soon as possible – our highways team will get on with this as soon as possible. We are all keen to get things back to normal as soon as possible.
  • If you have any concerns about further activity or potential incidents then please call emergency services on 999.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Labour Investment in Lambeth’s Housing is paying off

Lambeth Living with the aid of Labour investment are set to reach their target of only having 1% of homes empty by 31st May 2011. In a massive drive to improve housing in Lambeth, the Labour Group made fixing empty properties a key manifesto commitment and set out to make sure Lambeth Living hit this target.

Over the last year investment from the Lambeth Labour administration has enabled Lambeth Living to bring over 700 properties back into use. This Labour administration is now housing nearly 1000 more households compared with 4 years ago.

Bringing empty properties back into use is just one element though and thanks to sustained lobbying efforts Lambeth was awarded £100.5 million pounds over four years to help bring our homes up to decent standard and provide the necessary investment for new windows and doors.

Lambeth Cabinet member for Housing Cllr Lib Peck said:

Even though the government have slashed our housing Decent Home money from £258 million to just over £100 million I am extremely pleased that the Labour Administration and Lambeth Living have been able to restore so many properties for families that need them. We still have a long way to go but this is a definite step in the right direction.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Latest Tory cut ‘risks increase in violent youth crime’

Lambeth Labour have issued a warning that the latest Tory cuts to Lambeth’s Youth Offending Service risks fuelling a surge in youth crime in the borough.

Lambeth was dealt a blow last week after the Government announced it would be making cuts of over 20% to its Youth Offending Team, despite having one of the highest levels of youth offending in the country. These draconian cuts will reduce the ability to identify and divert potential young offenders, exposing our communities to an increase risk of violent crime. The Youth Offending Team offers young people an alternative to a life of crime and in making this cut the Coalition is likely to blight the lives of Lambeth’s most vulnerable young people.

Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Cllr Pete Robbins, issued the warning as a Tory Youth Justice Minister, Crispin Blunt MP, visited Lambeth Council to see Lambeth’s Youth Offending Service. Cllr Robbins demanded a meeting with the minister, and set out how these short-sighted cuts will risk higher levels of youth disaffection and negative behaviour, leading to higher levels of offending. Experts confirm that the cost of repairing the damage caused by higher levels of youth crime far outweigh the savings made by short-sighted cuts like these.

Cllr Pete Robbins said: ‘Safety is the number one concern of Lambeth residents, and this latest Tory cut could cause huge damage to our recent progress in reducing crime and helping divert young people away from gangs. I don’t see how the Tories dare to claim they are interested in preventing youth crime at the same time as cutting the service. I am pleased the minister had the opportunity to see the fantastic work that Lambeth does, but unless he realises his Government is putting it all at risk then it will have been a wasted trip.’

He also added, ‘To add insult to injury, these latest cuts have been made with just one month’s notice - that’s no time at all to find ways to mitigate the worst impact.’

Cllr Robbins and Cllr Steve Reed, Leader of Lambeth Council, have today written a joint letter to Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, Education Secretary Michael Gove, and Home Secretary Theresa May demanding that they reverse the cut, and pointing out their decisions are likely to put their stated aim that fewer young people should be sent to prison in serious doubt.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Labour secures millions for Brixton homes

Labour has secured over £100 million to improve sub-standard homes in Brixton and across Lambeth. Local Labour councillors spent months lobbying Government ministers for funding to complete upgrade works on 15,000 homes that need new windows, doors, kitchens, bathrooms and central heating to bring them up to minimum standards.

Brixton Hill Ward councillor Steve Reed wrote to Government ministers to press the case for Lambeth’s tenants. The money will come through over the next four years, although there is disappointment the Government is delaying half the funding until 2014, and the total sum available is less than half the amount needed to complete work on all substandard homes.

Cllr Reed said: "I am pleased our hard work has delivered some good news for Lambeth’s tenants. It’s not right people should be left to live in sub-standard homes. This money is a real boost but it is less than half the amount the Labour Government promised so we still have a significant challenge ahead of us."

He added: "It’s disappointing the Government is delaying this funding while bringing forward their cuts, but we welcome this news. Labour councillors and local tenants made such a strong case together that even this Government found it hard to ignore us completely."

The money means Lambeth Council will be able to carry out more window replacements programmes, like the one planned for Dumbarton Court on Brixton Hill, as well as works to upgrade tenants' kitchens and bathrooms and install central heating.

Friday, 4 March 2011

All change at Lambeth customer centres and call centre

The customer centres and call centre opening hours have changed

The new opening hours are:
Brixton Customer Centre (based in Birxton Hill ward)
Address: 18 Brixton Hill, London SW2 1RL
Monday: 9am to 5pm Tuesday: 9am to 5pm Wednesday: 9am to 5pm Thursday: 9am to 7pm Friday: 9am to 5pm
Closed Saturday and Sunday

Gracefield Gardens Customer Centre
Address: 2- 8 Gracefield Gardens, Streatham, London SW16 2ST
Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm
Closed Saturday and Sunday

Lambeth Service Centre/call centre
General enquiries: 020 7926 1000 Available Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.
Closed Saturday and Sunday

Customers can call various out-of-hours emergency services outside of the core opening hours.