21 Oct BAME Listening Event Full Notes
Kemi Tomide-Johnson- Klimax Family Hub
Kemi joins the group from Klimax Family Hub which is a family support group for African community members. Kemi notes an alarming rise in children becoming involved in criminal involvement due to family activities and aims to reduce the number of young people from African communities who are involved in gangs and could end up in prison. Kemi’s organisation works to support families with practical solutions for parenting through mentoring schemes that work to increase dignity and well-being. Kemi helps families such as those who might be single parents or those without English as a first language. Kemi believes that to best support children, parents need to be included. Families play a pivotal role in shaping the lives of young people and good citizens.
Kemi notes that the BLM movement has highlighted the urgency to resolve issues of inequality happening in our community and the need for a multi-agency approach to resolving them. Kemi raises concerns that although many conversations and policy restructures are happening, they are conducted without including those most affected by these issues such as members of the African Community. For how can people who do not understand these communities tell us what to do? We need to embrace diversity and promote equality. Kemi’s work includes delivering a nationwide conference, helping sufferers of domestic violence, first aid and mental health support for those not being supported by a local system. Much of this need exacerbated by Covid-19 .
Kemi shares the story of a young woman living in inadequate housing needing support but reporting that she felt she had no voice after not being listened to. She recommends increased training on cultural awareness for various services and publications for all support services be available in a multitude of languages. She also suggests the need for further non-judgemental mentoring programmes for DV, mental health and Covid-19 health information.
Josephine Melville- South Essex African Caribbean Association (SEACA)
Josephine is a creative practitioner living in Southend who aims to connect families, enabling a sense of community and tackling isolation. SEACA is now a charitable organisation. Jo fondly remembers how different things were before Covid-19 and that working in collaboration is now more important than ever.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2X4St5kjQcc Jo was inspired to work with other groups to create the Stepping Out project which explores mental health and wellbeing during covid, asking how people were coping and what mattered to people – loneliness being a reoccurring issue. This project is an ongoing one that continues to inspire people to live safely and be prepared for life during and after Covid. Jo also introduced the Folded Space, place where different people diverse communities can come together and express themselves through art.
Jo mentioned that whilst many of SEACA’s projects are intergenerational there is an importance on the lives of young people, educational opportunities and the fact that the death of George Floyd has forced many young people to act on their emotions with urgency. We need to inform the young so that they feel more empowered with knowledge of their culture and history. We need to do this work now, find and utilise opportunities to work with our young people for them to pass the baton on to the next generation.
Jo doubts that cultural events and projects happening in Southend are truly reflective of its diverse population and recommends that when it comes to considering funding allocations for community groups we need to be more creative and have a more open mindset, thinking outside the box and trying new ways of thinking and engaging.
Stanford Biti- Communities and Sanctuary Seekers Together (CAST)
Stanford talks of an upsetting six months with friends unfortunately being victims of the pandemic – death, ill health and mental health issues. Stanford talks of injustices affecting people dealing with migration issues despite living in a world where fairness and equal rights are expected and a privilege for so many. Stanford fears that our immigration system is broken and that systemic injustices are hidden
CAST looks after the needs of asylum seekers, refugees and those with no recourse to public funds. Many of the people that Stanford works with have arrived in the UK not being able to access help for the first three years and no one else to turn to but CAST.
Stanford talked of the Councils 2050 ambition and its five themes one being Connected and Smart – Thanking Roger (SAVS) for keeping everyone connected enough to find themselves at the listening event.
Stanford remembers that Covid completely changed the way that CAST changed overnight, working differently with more urgency to support families. He tells of a day when the qualifying category for food provision changed leaving some of his families without food. This was a very upsetting time but is something that people with no recourse to public funds suffer regularly. Stanford feels that he and CAST always conduct their work with great sensitivity and at times with little support from other groups as not to upset neighbours or others but now realises that strength and support come from working in corporation with others so now works alongside other community groups such as SAVS, Welcome to the UK and the CAB
Stanford talked about the development of CAST and how they have grown to offer more services from offering mental health support, supporting those with substance misuse problems, people with criminal records and EU nationals as well as those needing help under section 17 of the Children’s Act. Considering that the beneficiaries of this support are not those who directly receive it but the local authorities who do not ordinarily provide such support.
CAST support stats include 6,300 Covid-19 nights shelter for homeless people
5,000 Culturally sensitive food parcels throughout Covid
20 brand new laptops to families to address digital poverty.
Stephen Yeung – South East Essex Chinese Community
Based in York Road, SEECC is a community originally set up for Chinese migrants new to South East Essex in the1980’s. Helping people with integration, supporting with new business and local school applications. Now they run their own school to ensure that Chinese Heritage is kept alive for all.
Stephen spoke about how the community came together during covid to
- Feed the NHS; hospitals and care homes by providing food to Southend & Basildon Hospital for 2 weeks (well over 1,000 meals)
- Supplying much needed PPE to Key workers, Care Homes and Hospitals (12,000 surgical masks initially) through their networks. Volunteers distributed masks then the need for more kept coming so efforts to supply were extended from as far as the Chinese Golf Association. Later, through connections in Hong Kong and China further masks and surgical gowns were sourced and supplied to local front-line staff. Not just in Southend but across Essex
Stephen says that during the initial urgent need to respond, his community wanted to play their part in helping others and have been proud to have supported so many. Sadly however, after the initial wave the Chinese community started to witness a lot of anti-China sentiment particularly across Social Media. Fearing escalation and harm, the community got together and approached the Council with their concerns. Stephen describes a multi service conference that was set up to discuss the issue and find a solution. Stephen notes not only an improvement in the situation but also a better relationship with the council, SAVS and other organisations as a result. He looks forward to more positive engagement opportunities and to start on exciting projects with the Chinese Community.
Keighley Hylton – (Project Manager) A Better Start Southend
Keighley introduces ABBS as an early years service for families with children 0-3 years old living in the most deprived areas of Southend. As part of their funding opportunities, ABBS have funded the Klimax project and are now working to create a BAME steering group that has been started due to parents comments of a lack of meaningful engagement and a lack of BAME representation from a senior management level as well as support for certain community groups.
As part of the work of the steering group, Keighley is currently working on a status report which looks into levels of deprivation and impacting issues such as employment, education and levels of disease and health. Keighley hopes to collect a wealth of data that will eventually inform the work that A Better Start Southend do in the future. Keighley notes that there is a high level of Unconscious bias with elements of racial discrimination among our delivery partners commenting that it would outwardly appear that some of our partners do not care about all groups within our communities.
Keighley welcomes anyone interested in joining the steering group to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tricia Cowdry – Healthwatch Southend
Tricia, who is a Social and Youth worker, got in touch with her concerns after finding that the Listening Event’s title included the acronym BAME. Tricia’s notes that Southend’s population is so diverse, yet the term BAME doesn’t represent all groups of people in Southend
BAME = Non-white = Other
After attending a relevance and effectiveness meeting Tricia considered that the term BAME was only of real relevance when collecting data. For example, there are many different experiences and cultures that live under the banner of Asian. ‘Black’ is based on physiology with connotations of colonialism and also doesn’t factor in Faith or religious beliefs. Are we in danger of pigeonholing groups just for the sake of collecting data? Tricia poses thought that there should not be a collective BAME voice for Southend but a new way of engagement that considers everyone as an individual. We need a space and voices that promote inclusivity.
- We need to do more in health services. It’s not just about we can help someone physically, just getting our role done but how we can be more effective when working in partnership with other organisations.
- We need to think more widely about our services. How can we connect more? What can we achieve when we work together?
- It is important that we are having these conversations – and listening.
- ‘Other’ doesn’t represent us as individuals or celebrate our cultural heritage.
- Justice – Inclusivity. Every human being has the right to dignity. How can we ensure that we are respecting the dignity of every person within our community groups?
- We need a greater understanding of our cultural diversity for Southend to thrive. Respect. Understand.
- We need to build on our strengths, ask those questions that we’ve sometimes been too worried about asking. Take a step back, be curious.
- March 2021 – the census. We need to make sure that all of our communities are represented in this. The data helps us to understand and includes everyone. Please make sure that you share this information and join in
- We need to look at ways to be more culturally sensitive, try harder to get to know our communities and stop assuming that our BAME community groups are hard to reach
- There is plenty of work to be done, particularly with health inequalities… what is to do?
- WE NEED TO CONNECT
What has surprised you? What have you learnt?
- That we all too often assume that we are doing something in the correct way without asking.
- We need to think about the language we are using. Sometimes we do not appreciate how powerful words are.
- We need to consider ALL ages. We seem to be forgetting about our elder BAME community members. They have suffered the most throughout this pandemic and it is made even harder for some who do not have English as a first language and are not so literate with digital technology. Let us not forget or take these groups for granted.
- It is great to see things moving forward in a positive way and gaining traction. Let’s hope that this great coming together continues
- Its great that people are talking and that their voices are being heard
- This meeting makes you realise that you are not alone, makes more visible the work that everyone is doing and makes you feel that you are part of the community
- Southend has a rich diversity and there are some amazing organisations doing great things. There are so many good opportunities to work collaboratively and we should embrace this.
- Throughout the covid pandemic many have felt alone and we should keep working hard to improve on this.