Community of the Month: Katherine Low Settlement

Posted on the 24th November 2016

Aaron Barbour, CEO of Katherine Low Settlement writes about the amazing work this local charity has done to serve the communities of Battersea and Wandsworth since 1924.

Katherine Low Settlement is the oldest and largest multi-purpose, community-based charity in Battersea, supporting 500 people and 40+ local charities and community groups each week, with 120 volunteers and 26 staff. We are driven by our vision and mission for a society where people fight poverty, tackle injustice and realise their potential together. We’re led by our values of respect for one another, empowering people to fulfil their potential.

Although in modern times it is known for its wealth, Battersea remains characterised by economic inequality, with large social housing estates surrounded by more prosperous areas. Battersea is an area of significant deprivation in the London Borough of Wandsworth. Poverty, overcrowded housing, poor health, low levels of education attainment and high levels of unemployment lead to a significant lack of positive opportunities for local people. Latchmere and Queenstown wards, where KLS focuses much of its work, rank in the most economically deprived 5% of the UK and over 40% of children live in a family dependent on income-related benefits (Census, 2011;  London Poverty Profile, 2013).

Lunch club

KLS has historically based its services on identified need – changing and adapting its work to best serve the local community. A Community Audit in 2013 gave us a good insight into local people’s lives – their future dreams, the barriers and problems they currently face and importantly their ideas for change. The ‘Community Wise’ findings helped to identify the main challenges and opportunities in Battersea, as well as inform the development of KLS’ latest 3-year strategy. We are in fact just embarking on co-producing our next strategy with local residents!

People are Battersea’s greatest strength. Though turnover is high, the population young and inequality between rich and poor growing, there is a real sense of community. The diverse population makes for a fabulous melting pot that if encouraged and supported come together and work together. Our ‘Community Wise’ research clearly highlighted that local residents want more local friendships and positive activities to bring them together, “help us to know our neighbours better”; “build community cohesion”; and “meet other people here”. They want opportunities to work, learn and volunteer; as well as to influence and shape what happens locally. Importantly local people said KLS can play a pivotal part in making all this happen.

Sky walking

Our distinctive approach is to invest long term into the people and communities of Battersea and Wandsworth, building strong relationships. We work ‘with’ people, we don’t assume we know what is best and doing things ‘to’ or ‘for’ them. We listen to and are led by what people want to achieve and the direction they want to take their lives, and we support them to do so. This is as the heart of what we do every day. We know from our 92 years experience that this develops communities.

Building strong relationships is at the heart of what KLS does. We bring people together from all backgrounds so that they can know and trust one another first before they start doing things together for mutual benefit. We focus on strengthening social bonds, increasing confidence and self-esteem, and providing practical support to improve their lives, e.g. supporting their education, sorting out a housing problem, integrating them into the community through English (ESOL) classes, providing a simple meal for local pensioners, and improving health and wellbeing.

Love to Learn – Summer 2015

We also build the capacity of local charities by offering pro bono business consultancy and access to charity and business networks. The absence of a CVS, volunteer bureau or a supportive local authority for the charity sector has enabled KLS to take a leadership role. In the last 12 months we’ve co-founded a new Battersea Together Leadership Development Group, a new Charity CEO network, Link UP Battersea (promoting skills-based volunteering), Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees and more. We know that a stronger charitable sector makes for a stronger, more robust local community. Surely this is what we need more of in these ever increasing uncertain times.

If you’d like to know more about who we are and what we do then do come and see us in Battersea. You’d be most welcome. We’re only a 10-minute walk from Clapham Junction Station.


Contact details

For even more information on Katherine Low Settlement and the wonderful work they do, you can contact the charities CEO, Aaron Barbour on:

Phone: 020 7223 2845



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