A gang initiative in the borough has been roundly praised following a high-powered visit last week.

The Home Secretary Theresa May, MPs Iain Duncan-Smith and Stella Creasy, with Council Leader Chris Robbins, met last Thursday at Leytonstone's Construction Skills Centre in Cathall Road, where ex-gang members have been learning trades.

Sitting down with councillors, officers, police representatives, programme providers, former gang members and people whose lives has been affected by gang violence the visit was to demonstrate what the borough is doing to help vulnerable people back into education, training and work.

After the visit the Home Secretary said: “Gang violence has a devastating impact on communities. We need to change the lives of young people before they get sucked into a life of violence and crime.

"This project in Waltham Forest is an excellent example of the work being done at a local level to provide vulnerable youngsters with a way out of trouble.”

The centre provides people with practical skills needed to work in the construction industry, including steel fixing, paving, flooring and roofing.

Iain Duncan Smith, who has a history of working with the borough’s gangs and is the patron of Gangs Unite, said: “We had a really productive meeting with the Home Secretary – it was great for her to meet some of the people on the ground such as Colin James from Gangs Unite.

“She was very interested in the work Colin has been doing – he has been instrumental in helping to pull young boys in Waltham Forest out of gangs and showing them an alternative way of life.”

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions added that early intervention and enforcement gives young boys growing up on estates with no male role models a way of doing something productive with their lives.

Gangs Unite is a community interest company based in South Grove, Walthamstow, which mentors around 70 young people through sport and performing arts.

Councillor Robbins said: “This visit by the Home Secretary helps shine a light on the work we’re doing to tackle the issue of gangs.”

He said in the past year gang violence in Waltham Forest amongst 10 to 19 year olds had almost halved.

The council also runs a program call Enough is Enough which attempts to address gang issues by working with whole families.