Council taking more action to tackle inequality and celebrate diversity

Published: Monday, March 4, 2024

The council has unveiled a package of measures to enhance the support offered to disabled residents and those suffering the effects of the continuing cost of living crisis as part of its ongoing commitment to creating a fairer and more compassionate borough for all.

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The package of measures to be delivered this year builds upon the work already successfully achieved to promote equalities, tackle and reduce inequalities, including socio-economic inequalities, and celebrate and recognise the contribution of Wandsworth’s diverse communities.

Looking ahead the council will introduce an online guide to locally accessible buildings including shops and leisure outlets so people with disabilities can have confidence they can access these venues.

Its introduction will address concerns expressed by disabled residents of the challenges they face identifying shops and buildings in Wandsworth that are accessible and that without this information it forms a barrier to them accessing services and visiting new parts of the borough.

This online guide will not only be of benefit to those with mobility issues but also a range of other disabilities including learning disability, sensory impairment, dementia, autism, and mental health.

The council will also continue to support residents impacted by the cost of living crisis, by expanding its support fund to £15m – the most generous scheme of its kind in London – and by taking forward the recommendations of Wandsworth’s independent Cost of Living Commission



The council will also formally submit its application to become an accredited Borough of Sanctuary for those fleeing violence and persecution.

These 2024 ambitions build on the work carried out in 2023 to tackle inequalities and to celebrate and promote the borough’s diverse communities. This includes: 

•    Supporting residents through the cost of living crisis with a number of initiatives launched or extended including free gym and swim sessions, the creation of Wandsworth’s ULEZ Sustainable Travel Financial Assistance scheme to help residents on lower incomes sell, replace or dispose of non-compliant vehicles, and the continuation of the School Uniform Support Scheme to help families on free school meals. A School Food Strategy was also agreed so that all children and young people receive nutritional and sustainable school meals. 

•    Launching a £1.75 million Borough of Sanctuary funding pot, with £200,000 available to support local groups that support refugees and asylum seekers. The council took action to ensure that refugees can access the wealth of services available in Wandsworth, including free gym and swim memberships, free tickets to the Wandsworth Arts Fringe and Battersea Park fireworks. The Lifelong Learning service also provided a variety of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses for sanctuary seekers, helping them to gain language skills needed to integrate into life in the UK. 

•    Alongside its commitment to becoming a Borough of Sanctuary, the council has continued to actively support the Homes for Ukraine resettlement scheme. Wandsworth has seen the fifth highest number of Ukrainian arrivals of any English lower-tier local authority, and the second highest of the London boroughs. Citizens Advice Wandsworth have also been funded to provide an advice service to help newly arrived Ukrainians navigate social welfare systems and wider support. The council has also continued to support Afghan and Syrian refugees in Wandsworth, with 24 families currently supported.

•    The council built upon the extended programme delivered in 2022 to deliver more comprehensive Black History Month (BHM) celebrations in October 2023. The council also held additional events throughout the year as part of its Black History 365 programme and funded a range of community events celebrating South Asian Heritage Month for the first time.


•    In November, the Wandsworth Safeguarding Children’s and Adults Partnership delivered an Anti-Racism Conference, while its Change Programme’s Great Employer workstream is ensuring its workforce is inclusive and reflects the residents it serves.


•    Wandsworth Libraries hosted a wide variety of events during LGBT+ History Month, including film screenings, poetry recitals, play readings, and craft activities. Balham Library in Wandsworth hosted its first LGBTQ+ parents coffee morning in February 2023 as part of Wandsworth’s LGBT+ History Month programme. 

•    On International Women’s Day the council’s business team and Deputy Leader Kemi Akinola hosted a breakfast reception for local female business founders, discussing the challenges around being a woman in business and achieving a good work/life balance. 

•    In December Wandsworth became the first borough to launch a Night-Time Strategy, focusing on the safety of women and vulnerable people moving around London at night and how best to support night workers to ensure the borough’s nightime economy thrives.

•    The council is committed to tackling domestic abuse and supporting survivors. In 2023, funding was allocated to support an additional Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) within the borough, focused on economic abuse and mental health. 

•    To mark White Ribbon Day in November, training events for professionals and residents were held that focused on domestic abuse, VAWG, and bystander training.The community safety team also worked closely with Roehampton University to deliver training and briefing sessions to staff focusing on women’s safety on campus and spiking prevention advice. 

•    To celebrate Older People’s Day and Silver Sunday, the council worked with organisations that provide care and support services to elderly residents in the borough to host more than 160 community Brighter Living events during October.

•    The council is committed to raising awareness and showing solidarity with people living with HIV/AIDS. To mark World AIDS Day 2023 the Red Ribbon Flag was flown above the town hall and the council publicised free HIV testing available in the borough. 

•    To mark Mental Health Awareness Week the council refreshed its suicide and self-harm strategy and increased mental health and wellbeing support across the borough. To mark World Mental Health Day, the Council worked closely with the NHS to provide in-school, mental health support to half the borough’s schools. 

•    For Inter Faith Week, faith leaders from across Wandsworth came together to share information on the challenges facing local communities, such as the rising demand for food banks and community kitchens across the borough, and opportunities to cooperate on solutions. 

Council Deputy Leader Cllr Kemi Akinola said: “Wandsworth is a vibrant borough and we remain committed to promoting diversity, equality and fairness and building a brighter future for all our residents, together.

“At the heart of this approach is taking decisive action to improve our services, to make them accessible to all and to tackle inequality wherever it exists. This report sets out the action the council has taken and the journey we are on as we develop a more resilient, inclusive and thriving community for all.