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Lisa sml Lisa Goodwin, Chief Executive

We have been watching the Black Lives Matter campaign and the response from charities closely over the past few weeks. Protests across the world have brought issues of institutional racism and structural inequalities to the front of people’s minds. Voluntary and community organisations are often at the forefront of tackling issues of racism and injustice – but at the same time a large proportion of our sector face a real challenge with a lack of diversity and lack of positive action to tackle structural inequality.

Our role at Connected Voice is not to tell people what to do. It is to highlight injustice and to lead by example. Below are some examples of how we currently live our values championing equality and celebrating diversity. We are not complacent about our role in this. Tackling the issues which the Black Lives Matter campaign is highlighting takes commitment – to learn, to act, and then to keep on learning and acting.

Connected Voice Haref is highlighting the health and structural inequalities on BAME communities of COVID-19.

We know that there is a disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities. The reasons for this are complex, but it is obviously linked to the long-term inequalities that exist across the whole of society, including in our health and care systems. Haref started as a project 15 years ago to specifically to tackle these health inequalities for BAME communities locally.

BAME communities face discrimination and hate crime on a daily basis, with life chances affected by the structural and racial inequalities that exist in society.

We know that:

  • Black people are 4.2  times more likely to die from COVID-19
  • 6 of every 10 COVID-19 care worker deaths have been BAME
  • More than 50%  of bus drivers’ COVID-19 deaths have been  BAME
  • Of the first 20 doctors who died from COVID-19, 90% were BAME

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Haref has been active in cascading key public health information to BAME communities, as well as picking up on examples of health inequalities and feeding this in to the relevant parts of the public sector.

Haref is supporting the #Weneedanswers campaign by the Ubele Initiative asking for an independent public enquiry on the impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities. The campaign can be seen and supported here: https://www.ubele.org/weneedanswers

Haref also supports the petition from BAME leaders for a COVID-19 Race equality strategy, and this can be signed here https://www.change.org/p/uk-government-bame-leadership-a-demand-for-a-covid-19-race-equality-strategy?recruiter=152860660&recruited_by_id=c8092b82-30ca-45f9-81a6-161ff5bc7f6f

Connected Voice Advocacy is part of a nationwide advocacy movement embedded in the fight for social justice on an individual and collective basis.

As advocates we use legal frameworks to challenge unjust situations and amplify voices which are often unheard.

We are commissioned to speak out for some of our community’s most vulnerable. Advocating for people with mental, cognitive, learning and physical and disabilities with no other support or representation to provide access to legal challenges like Mental Health Tribunals and Court of Protection.  

We recognise that public services are not delivered equally so we fundraise for and deliver advocacy where we have an evidence of the most need. Currently we have specialist advocacy services for people from the BAME community, Asylum Seekers and Refugee community, and those with mental health difficulties.

We tackle racism and all forms of criminal discrimination directly through our Hate Crime advocacy service. We support anyone protected under the Equality Act to speak out against discrimination. We increase people’s skills to challenge beliefs, attitudes, hatred, prejudice and discrimination to improve community cohesion. We work with partners in the sector to contribute to the effective network of safe spaces and reporting centres to support victims to report hate incidents. The intelligence we gather in this project helps us to have a strategic response and escalate individuals and communities experiences to policy makers

As an organisation we value the diversity of our staff and trustees.

We are proud to have a team of people from many different cultures and backgrounds. To achieve this diversity takes work, and that work has to be continuous. We have a training offer for our staff and trustees on equality, diversity and inclusion, but this in itself is not enough. We are developing an equality framework to help us look at the areas we need to improve on, and to help us to measure progress. We don’t claim to have all the answers and we want continue to learn.

I talked to our Chair last week about his thoughts on this from a governance point of view, and I hope he will forgive me for paraphrasing what he said, which was; ‘The best team is a diverse team. The imperative to ensure Boards are diverse springs from the desire to bring as much talent, skill and life experience to the Board table as possible.  Given that no ethnicity has a monopoly on talent, in most Boards, I think its reasonable to have a medium term target and plan that at least 20% of a Board would be from a BAME background, based purely on merit.  It is healthy for Boards to self-reflect to discuss what the diversity of the Board is and commit to plans to ensure it meets that threshold.’

We feel there is a real risk around organisations not admitting that they need some support - because they worry about lack experience in tackling inequalities. If you would like some help or advice on how to implement practices that improve equality and diversity please contact us – we would love to help if we can. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.