The Demise of the Black Voluntary Sector

The Demise of the Black Voluntary Sector

Submitted 18 Mar 2014 10:34am
in External News
© Operation Black Vote 2010

When the news came through a few weeks ago that head of Britain’s foremost Black think tank Rob Berkeley of the Runnymede Trust had suddenly walked away from the organisation he propelled into prominence, citing that he was ‘at the end of his tether’ alarm bells rang throughout the sector and beyond.
Almost single-handedly, Berkeley helped set the standard for Black-led socio-economic research. Although fiercely political, the organisation remained party-neutral and thus gained much respect from institutions and political parties seeking to gain an insight into Black and minority ethnic communities.
So what brought Berkeley to the end of his tether? In short, lack of financial support, which has been the same curse that has witnessed too many BME voluntary sector organisations disappear in the last three years, including the other BME leading think tank The 1990 Trust; The Windsor Fellowship – which nurtured thousands of young BME young people to find their way in the competitive job market; The Afiya Trust, the National Association Against Racism, and the 50-60 race equality councils, and many others. All gone. No longer able to ensure our society tackles the persistent race inequalities that hold so much talent back.
Rob Berkeley, like many heads of organisations, struggled to set an agenda that would effectively help our institutions understand the dynamics that discriminate. Instead he and others have been forced to chase diminishing funding streams, which at times have little to do with their core activities. If you are lucky to be awarded a grant or Government contract, not only are you moving away from your priorities, and possibly even your field of work, but worse still to win the contract you’ve probably promised much more than you could ever deliver .
The result is exhaustion, burnout, and in cases such as the Windsor Fellowship accusations of financial mismanagement and ultimately organisational implosion.
Rob Berkeley had come to the conclusion that, as much as he loved the Runnymede Trust and was passionate about tackling race inequality, his sanity and physical well-being were all under threat if he didn’t put himself first.
For talented people like Dr Berkeley he’ll be back in gameful employment before the summer’s out. Their gain will be our loss. More worrying, however, is the slow but sure decimation of the Black voluntary sector at a time when race inequality in some areas is back to where we were in the 1980’s. Look no further: Black youth unemployment which in some areas is more than 50%; levels of police ‘Stop and Search’; senior BME civil servants; the lack of BME FTSE board members and the disproportionality of criminalisation of young Black men and women. The list goes on and on. The gap is widening not closing.
The final years of the last Government and this present coalition Government have shockingly failed to put tackling race inequality on the political agenda. With tackling racism off the political agenda there’s no policy directive to support organisations which help change the lives of BME individuals and society in general.
Berkeley’s departure should be a warning to those who think that racism in this country has miraculously disappeared. It hasn’t. What is occurring is those organisations and individuals within them that challenged race inequality are becoming frighteningly scarce.
Unless we deal with this now, we’ll be storing up huge problems for the future.
Simon Woolley


Help Save The Race Equality Centre


For years The Race Equality Centre has helped people from all communities with finding solutions to problems of racial injustice and by bringing about equality of outcomes.

The City Council funds some of the activities that we provide so it is delivered to the public free of charge.

However the City Council is planning to only fund organisations that are run and supported by national communities representing nation groups of the City’s population. This is being done despite being advised that this approach is divisive; likely to achieve the opposite to community cohesion; does not address equality of outcomes; and, is a retrograde step.

TREC does not represent just one community but helps everyone who has been treated unlawfully, regardless of their race, colour or ethnic origin.

We know some of the individuals that need us come from small communities whilst others are isolated and vulnerable within larger communities but, the Council is determined to stop us from offering that help.

Sign the petition to make sure the Council does not discriminate against any individual and continues to support us for the benefit of all the City’s residents.


Decision Day Is Imminent For The Race Equality Centre

Decision Day Is Imminent For The Race Equality Centre

Friday 17th January 2014 was the last day of Leicester City Council’s (LCC) Voluntary Sector Review[1]. This, like other reviews was being allegedly undertaken to:

Make savings in the budget[2] of infrastructure support;
Create a different relationship with the voluntary sector; and/or
Address the underperformance/non-performance of some funded

But, the review appeared to also seek a means to enable the removal of troublesome voices – that is those organisations that would challenge the appropriateness of certain City Council actions.

We believe the report(s) being prepared to justify their actions, for those who care to read them, will include information and statements that are (at best) unqualified but dangerously misleading in their misrepresentation of The Race Equality Centre’s (TREC) contractual obligations.

We also suspect that letters of support for TREC will be ignored in a decision making process that was pre-determined. For example communication from the Interfaith Adviser to the Bishop of Leicester which noted:

“… The Race Equality Centre provides a vital and dynamic contribution to the life of the City of Leicester. …….While their advocacy has at times set them at odds with the City Council, they have provided a much-needed and trusted safety valve where individuals and groups can take their grievances…..

…. It is hoped they will continue to be a service valued by the city during the years to come….”

And, Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth concluded his letter of support with the statement that:

‘… it is clear that TREC is vital to many aspects of life in Leicester City.’

Finally, Judge Hammond, Diversity & Community Relations Judge for Leicester in sharing his concerns stated:

“…the work of TREC is very important in contemporary society and its work is not yet done and will remain to be done for a long time so funding is crucial.”

The contract TREC has with the City Council requires us to focus on race equality outcomes through:

assistance with policy planning and delivery of services;
supporting racial minority vcs organisations to explore the potential impact of policy changes; and,
provide information, advice, guidance and advocacy (where appropriate), for individuals and families newly arrived to the City.
A focus on race equality outcomes is fundamentally different from merely acting as a point of contact; even if that point of contact is used to promote the City Council’s strategic plan. Underpinning our work with communities, and integral to the essence of achieving race equality, is the need to support individuals who contact us in desperation with claims of discrimination and harassment.

And for the avoidance of any doubt, should there be a question about ‘underperformance/non-performance of the contract, at no time has any of our quarterly monitoring reports submitted to senior officers of the City Council ever been subjected to any question of qualitative or quantitative performance irregularity.

The City Council’s assessment might seek to suggest that we only receive a small proportion of our funding from the local authority. Sadly, the meetings we had with LCC during the review only considered accounts for the financial year 2012-13 which if one understood vcs time limited contracts, should be left out of the equation as, 2013-14 figures has the potential of looking significantly different.

A feature of recent reviews has seen the tendency to recommend that generalist organisations are capable of delivering specialist services, often with the presumption that the only barrier that needs to be overcome is associated with language and translations. This approach was being championed by the Scrutiny Commission (4/12/13) looking at this review. Commitment, empathy, understanding and identification on the part of the service provider and trust on the part of the service users are rendered irrelevant to the distanced strategic service planner and thus, ignoring the reality that it is the very lack of or limited understanding of appropriate service provision by the generalist organisations which has led to the creation and expansion of the specialisms currently within the City. Vulnerable individuals being nudged into the generalist provisions (as proposed at a recent public meeting) has the potential of returning us to the days of old where equality of outcomes remains a “dream” rather than a reality. But then, we all celebrate Martin Luther King now!!

Even this late in the process it would be useful, but doubtful that it would happen, to be provided with a sight of the report before it is presented to the relevant decision makers to be able to correct any misinformation. That way, at least, we can ensure that the misleading information is intentional instead of just plain careless!

[1] The Race Equality Centre believes there is a requirement for a grown up discussion the definition of ‘review’

[2] Appreciation that there must be Budget savings but this should be proportional.

Study shows racism is still major problem

Study shows racism is still major problem

Dr Neil Chakraborti is a reader in criminology at the University of Leicester and principal
investigator of The Leicester Hate Crime Project, a two-year study which comes to a close in
September. The team has heard from hundreds of people, old and young, who have been spat at,
called abusive names, harassed or violently attacked simply because of their race.
Relatively few of these incidents have been reported to agencies in a position to offer support,
often because the victim may be wary of authorities; often because they can’t see the point of
reporting; and often – and perhaps most worryingly – because the victim grows to accept these
experiences as a routine, day-to-day feature of being visibly different. For more information please
click here: