Let’s Talk About Race

CEO Blog October 2020

One in three people living in the community served by Hammersmith United Charities is Black, Asian or from another ethnic minority community. Despite this, Hammersmith United Charities has never had a conversation about race and our role in tackling racism.

We started thinking more explicitly about racism earlier this year when the Black Lives Matter movement made headlines. We ought not to need to be reminded that racism exists in the UK. Studies repeatedly show that there are persistent and systemic racial inequalities leading to people from ethnic minorities being more likely to experience poorer outcomes in health and education, being disproportionately represented in the youth criminal justice system and prison, or being more likely to suffer from an “ethnic penalty” in earnings.

Coronavirus made these inequalities more visible locally. Feedback from our grantees highlighted how people from black or other ethnic minority communities were far more likely to be seriously affected because they disproportionately occupy key worker or other manual roles; are more likely to live in crowded accommodation without easy access to outdoor space; more frequently suffer existing health inequalities and are less likely to have a financial buffer to help them ride out the financial consequences of the pandemic. Hammersmith United Charities trustee, Adam Matan, CEO of the Anti Tribalism Movement, published a report in April spelling out how the Somali community was more adversely impacted by the pandemic. As the situation goes on these inequalities will continue to be exacerbated.

Over the summer we asked local children to share their hopes and dreams as part of a lockdown arts project. One young person answered simply “Justice for Black Lives”, another wrote “Equality for All”. It is dismaying to think that children growing up in the 21st century in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, in our own area of benefit, are already living with the knowledge that for them equality is a dream not a reality. This was the last prompt we needed to make this a priority for the Charity to address.

It is notoriously difficult to talk about race and racism and so we called on local experts NOVA New Opportunities to facilitate a discussion between staff and trustees at this month’s board meeting to start the conversation.

They encouraged us to bring down any fear factor by talking frankly about times in our lives when we might have experienced, witnessed or even exhibited racism, how we responded at the time and how we might respond differently now or in the future. We explored our individual positions further by considering our response to phrases which are very visible in the national conversation about race such as “white privilege” and “All Lives Matter”. It was an uncomfortable session at times, but an important first step to get over any initial discomfort and have an open conversation about racism.

Of course, it’s not enough just to have a discussion, we have a duty to take a stand against racism too. NOVA provide a toolkit to help organisations like us think through the steps we can and should take and we will be using this to shape our next discussion in October the outcome of which we will also publish.

The pandemic has made it difficult to meet the young people who shared their dreams of equality and justice with us but I very much hope that when at last I do, I will be able to demonstrate to them what Hammersmith United Charities is doing to help make their dreams come true.

Victoria Hill

Hammersmith United Charities Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In line with Government advice, Hammersmith United Charities has invoked our Business Continuity Plan and implemented a new operating model focussed on keeping the residents of our Almshouses, our team, contractors and partners safe and well during the Coronavirus pandemic. (more…)

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The almshouse movement

So much more than affordable housing

With the average house price in Hammersmith at more than 25 times the salary of a nurse, it is no surprise that many workers are reaching retirement without the safety net of their own property. That’s why almshouses like ours, providing older people an affordable home in the community where they belong, are as vital now as when the movement began hundreds of years ago.

By Victoria Hill, Chief Executive – Hammersmith United Charities


The coronavirus has seen an outpouring of appreciation for key workers who leave the safety of their home to work keeping their community safe, fed and well. In the frightening early days of the first lockdown, we stood in the street and clapped for healthcare workers, carers, shop assistants, cleaners and more – all the people who put themselves at risk for the sake of others.

The contribution of key workers is rarely highly valued in monetary terms and these are often the very people who struggle to find an affordable home near their families and vital services as they grow older and become more in need of care themselves.

The average house price in Hammersmith is more than 25 times the salary of a nurse, and so it is no surprise that increasing numbers of workers are reaching retirement without their own property to fall back on. And with the average rental cost of a one-bedroom flat at two and a half times the state pension, it is easy to see how so many older people are also priced out of the private rental market.

With one in four older people in our area now living in poverty, the mission of almshouses like ours is as relevant as it was 400 years ago when Hammersmith United Charities was founded.

The almshouse movement has been around for hundreds of years but the Almshouse Association and the Charity Commission have only recently created a formal definition of what it means to be an almshouse. It describes exactly what we do here at Hammersmith United Charities.

Our charity was founded in 1618 with a gift of £100 to provide housing for the relief of the ‘elderly poor’ of Hammersmith. This gift has been added to and grown by generations of trustees and we now have an endowment and 92 flats on two sites just off the Goldhawk Road. These properties are highly protected and cannot be sold or used for any other purpose. Our residents must be over 60, have lived in Hammersmith for at least five years, be of limited means and in need of sheltered accommodation.

In human terms, our status as an almshouse means that the Charity can provide housing to the people who have often contributed most to our community but feel valued least. We believe that no one should be denied the opportunity to live in a decent home simply because they were never given the opportunity to climb the property ladder. The cost of our flats is regulated by statute to ensure that anyone can live here without causing hardship.

For us, almshouse living is about much more than just affordable housing. We know from research by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing that where we live and our relationships also have a significant impact on our wellbeing. For Hammersmith United Charities, what defines us is our ability to provide a home where people feel safe, in the place where they belong, surrounded by a community who values them for life, not just for lockdown.


More information:

Over 60 and looking for a new home in Hammersmith? We provide beautiful, welcoming sheltered housing with award-winning communal gardens. Flats available now from £870 per month.

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UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham has launched the H&F Winter Covid Appeal in partnership with Hammersmith & Fulham Council

As the UK struggles with rising rates of the virus and a second lockdown commences, many still need our help – including those going through mental health crises, suffering from loneliness and isolation, and at-risk children in need of educational support.

UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham has launched the H&F Winter Covid Appeal in partnership with Hammersmith & Fulham Council to enable local individuals, businesses and foundations across the borough to support those most in need of assistance.

100% of funds raised will be donated to groups working with people who face risk because of coronavirus in Hammersmith & Fulham this winter.

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Nomad Radio: a lifeline for the Somali community

How one of our grants is keeping the station on the airwaves through the coronavirus crisis.

The UK’s only radio station for the Somali community, Nomad Radio broadcasts here in Hammersmith and Fulham. Community-led and bilingual, it’s just received a grant by Hammersmith United Charities to keep it on the airwaves through the coronavirus crisis.


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