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United towards an anti-racist Tower Hamlets

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The Tower Hamlets Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Inequalities Commission launched its report yesterday (March 18) challenging the borough to take radical steps to dismantle long-standing structural racism and give a clear commitment to become an anti-racist Tower Hamlets by 2025.

150 local people and organisations attended the virtual launch event or viewed the launch which was also broadcast live. The event was chaired by Commission Chair and Deputy Mayor, Councillor Asma Begum, with contributions from John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets and invited guest speakers representing health, employment, education, and young people.

It was hosted a few days ahead of the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this Sunday (March 21), which this year has “Youth standing up against racism” as its theme. The active participation from local young people has been a significant part of the Commission’s work, including having a Deputy Young Mayor as one of the Commissioners.

The Commission started its work in September 2020 following the public shock and anger at the killing of George Floyd which led to the Black Lives Matter protests. Public anger at the inability over decades to tackle racism and racial inequalities was further exacerbated as it became clear that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people were more likely to become seriously ill and die from contracting Covid-19.

The Commission has had a targeted focus on education, employment, health inequalities and community leadership, and over several months has heard from expert witnesses, and members of various professions, young people and community groups. Through smaller private meetings and online consultation people have been encouraged to share their lived experiences.

The full set of findings and recommendation are set out in the comprehensive 54-page report available to view on the dedicated Commission webpage www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/raceinequalitiescommission

The webpage has more information about the work of the Commission, a recording of the launch event, and recordings from the four public evidence gathering sessions. 

Councillor Asma Begum, Commission Chair and Deputy Mayor said:“After such an intense period of listening to the lived experiences of many local people and organisations, I’m delighted that we can now share this significant report which commits us very clearly to going much further and faster towards racial equality and opportunities for all. This report reflects those personal lived experiences people shared and a wealth of evidence submitted by expert witnesses. I look forward to us working with partners to deliver on the recommendations and make the borough a fairer place.”

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets said: “My thanks go out to all those who have dedicated their time, hard work and shared their experiences and ideas to help create this important report. It clearly sets out an ambitious set of targets we need to act on, working together to deliver lasting change. Tower Hamlets has a proud history of fighting racism and this report sets ambitious targets to make us an anti-racist borough”

One of the first challenges set out is for organisations and community groups, led by the Tower Hamlets Partnership of major local organisations, to commit to the anti-racist pledge by the end of 2021. This will include active support for the targeted work needed implement the report’s recommendations.

A Race Equality Network is also proposed to lead on delivering the changes and ensuring that all local partners keep to the agreed targets.

The Commission found that underrepresentation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people in senior management and leadership roles continues to be a major issue, despite many young people from these backgrounds achieving excellent academic and professional qualifications.

In terms of access to health services, the experience of many people has been negative with issues including inadequate communication support, as well as extra burden on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic patients to prove their legal right to services. Issues such as poor housing and working conditions also have an additional negative impact on the health outcomes.

It is recognised that alongside ambitious and practical targets to deliver change, there needs to be much greater work done in gathering ethnic data more effectively to measure and influence the right changes to give maximum impact. Local partners are also asked to work together to push for greater improvements for residents, and to harness their collective influence and buying power so that the future benefits of contracts actively deliver much greater levels of racial equality.

Posted on Friday 19th March 2021