£7 million boost for coronavirus-hit BAME communities


Black and minority ethnic communities hit hard by coronavirus have been given a £7 million boost from a Covid-19 crisis fund.

The funding for 159 BAME-led organisations includes those delivering sorely-needed services such as food banks, mental health support and assistance for domestic violence victims, in communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic. 

It comes from the London Community Response Fund administered by City Bridge Trust – the City of London Corporation’s charity funder – in partnership with the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF). 

People from BAME backgrounds are up to twice as likely to die from the virus as white people, while a Public Health England report earlier this year found the disparity may be partly due to racism and social inequality. 

Dhruv Patel, Chairman of the City Bridge Trust Committee, said: “BAME communities already suffering injustice, inequality and disadvantage have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, and voluntary and community groups are often left to pick up the pieces. 

“This funding will help these organisations deliver what is in many cases life-saving support, helping communities to weather the storm of the continuing crisis and to build for the future.” 

The London Community Response Fund has distributed over £25 million since launching in March to help voluntary organisations across London respond to Covid-19. The National Lottery Community Fund committed £7 million – thanks to National Lottery players – £3.9 million of which went to BAME-led organisations. 

Elly De Decker, England Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “The response from communities to the pandemic has been truly inspiring, and we’re proud to be working alongside City Bridge Trust to ensure vital funding reaches those who have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. 

“Thanks to National Lottery players, people and projects at the heart of their communities are being given the support needed to help others through this difficult time, as well as helping to build for the future.” 

The London Community Response Fund forms part of the wider London Community Response, co-ordinated by membership network London Funders, which has brought together over 60 funders and distributed over £40 million since it was set up at the start of the pandemic.

Southall Black Sisters, which works to challenge domestic and gender-related violence against BAME women, saw a near 200% surge in calls and online enquiries when the first lockdown lifted. 

The organisation was awarded a £48,517 grant for a triage system delivered via an online chat application, to ensure women in need of support get the assistance they need promptly. 

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Debdatta Dobe, Policy, Grants and Partnerships Officer, said: “At a time when an overwhelming number of vulnerable women are reaching out to us, this grant is enabling us to help even more clients in desperate need of support. 

“The triage system has provided a critical lifeline for women who often find themselves in life-threatening circumstances and who would otherwise have no means of support at all.” 

Kilburn-based Henna Asian Women’s Group received a £36,500 grant for a mental health project offering online and telephone counselling, group therapy and art therapy for women who have been heavily impacted by COVID-19. 

Rafat Kiani, Project Development and Operations Manager, said: “Even before the pandemic began, an alarming number of our users were so socially isolated and lonely that their health – and even their lives – were at risk. Many of them are now severely anxious and lack understanding about coronavirus. 

“Because of the cultural and language barriers, and the racial discrimination they face, we are often their only hope for social interaction and Henna is a second home for them. This funding means we can help more women and continue to work passionately for the most vulnerable people in our community.” 

Islington-based The Big House offers young care leavers opportunities to take part in arts, drama and creative activities, alongside long-term pastoral support.

It will use its £49,751 grant for a project entitled The Hot House, which will give young BAME people the chance to work with a professional writer to co-author and act in a production based on the challenges of Covid-19. 

Maggie Norris, Artistic Director and CEO, said: “Since Covid began, we’ve seen a surge in demand as young people have not been able to access other support services, compounding the challenges they already face including poverty, unemployment, inequality, social isolation and poor mental health. 

“Disadvantaged young people usually have little chance of seeing their experience authentically reflected on stage or screen, and BAME young people remain under-represented in culture and the arts, but this project means we can prepare them for these industries and ensure their voices are represented at the highest level.”

The funding from the London Community Response Fund supports the work of the City Corporation’s Tackling Racism Taskforce, set up in June to tackle racism in all its forms. 

The Taskforce is working for changes in areas including staffing, governance and education, and later this year will make recommendations on how to respond to statues and other City landmarks with links to slavery and historic racism.

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