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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
CEO

Opening our doors to older people in need of a home

We're inviting older people on a low income who need an affordable new home to tour our almshouses.

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Parenting, the Funpact way

When her children approached the pre-teen years, Elise Pacquette became concerned that she knew nothing about what it was like growing up in today's society. How could she lead children into independence in a world very different to the world she grew up in?

“Parenting is tough, really tough. While some think that once kids start to become more independent it gets easier – well, in some ways it gets harder.

So the parents/carers go to parenting classes, teens go off to PSHE classes at school. But they are getting different information, at different times. As a parent myself I just couldn’t understand that there were no courses for parents and young people to attend together.

It didn’t make sense to me that this didn’t exist, so I set it up myself. Now Funpact enables parents/carers and their children to come together, have fun and learn about independence, forming a firm foundation for further discussion at home together.

We run transition to secondary workshops for year 6s and their parents/carers, helping them both feel ready for the next chapter in their lives. Our course, Bridging the Gap, focuses on the social, emotional, financial and practical aspects of growing up. Ambition 2 Success is run as a one-day workshop in schools for both parents/carers and pupils to attend. It helps them create a positive trajectory for their lives and learn strategy and problem solving skills.

It’s not been at all easy – the learning curve to get Funpact to where it is now has often been pretty much vertical. I am often self-medicating on chocolate under my duvet! My background – as an illustrator, painter, stage manager, sign language interpreter, prop making tutor – didn’t help me much when setting up Funpact. I had no idea what I was doing but I was driven by an unrelenting passion to see change in how families are supported towards their children’s independence. And one thing I do know about myself is that I have grit.

And now there are so many stories of families who have come up to us and told us of the impact courses have made well after they have attended them. That the course helped the bond between them and their child, helping them better understand each other.

I remember one teen who was really struggling in school, and didn’t open up to his mum at all. Through our course that relationship started to grow and he started to share some of the stuff that was going on for him. The parent was then able to give him the support he needed and everything got sorted out.

There was also a father whose work shifts meant he hardly saw his son. But he managed to come to the first session of a six-week course and enjoyed it so much he changed his shifts so he could attend the course and spend more time with his son. So it’s not just what we explore during the courses but the relationships they help.

We are indebted to our youth alumni, who help us regularly update our sessions based on their expertise and lived experience. And I can honestly say that without Hammersmith United Charities’ funding we probably wouldn’t exist today. Hammersmith United Charities gave Funpact our first ever grant and have supported us ever since as we have grown. Through this funding we can now support year 6 pupils in over 20 schools in Hammersmith and Fulham, run Bridging the Gap in five schools and three community venues and Ambition 2 Success in five schools.

Up until now, I have been working alone in the back room, but this year because of our Hammersmith United Charities grant, I will have two new team members to join me for a few hours a week to help us grow. This is incredibly exciting!”


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Picture gallery – Funpact at work:
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“My new home is a gift”

It was a big life change for Lorraine when she retired and moved to Sycamore House a few years ago. But her lovely flat and its newfound security has ‘changed her life’, she says – and she’s busier than ever.

“I came to Sycamore House two years ago, having lived in Barons Court for about 16 years. I’d been having all sorts of problems with tenants, drugs and dealers. There were lots of stairs, and my flat had been broken into. It just felt like time to move.

I found out about Sycamore House via a friend. It’s absolutely amazing. I just love the flat; it’s bigger than the one I was in before. There is a wonderful garden at the back – the place absolutely shone in summer time. It’s lovely to go out and sit, and enjoy time with others you’re friendly with. I think I can name nearly all of the 50 or so people who live here now.

There’s lots on socially here at Sycamore House so I involve myself in that as much as I wish – I usually go to the coffee morning and catch up with everyone on a Thursday. I’ve made some very good friends here. We have lots of celebrations and parties, including a yearly fundraiser where family friends can come along, and the local mayor visits too.

The best thing about Sycamore House is the security and safety, and having the help there whenever you need it. Because my family is in Northern Ireland, I don’t have any immediate family nearby. So this community is perfect, because as and when I need support, it’s there.

Chris, Sycamore House’s scheme manager, is an excellent support – he helped with the paperwork that had to be done when I moved in, and now we keep in touch every day via Whatsapp. I know I can go and see him in person if I need particular help with something.

Chris helped me with getting housing benefit, which I qualified for after I retired a couple of years ago. I’d never been on benefits in my life so I was a complete novice and didn’t know anything about it. But Chris helped me navigate the system which was a big relief.

I was very apprehensive when I retired and moved out of my old flat to come here. But it’s changed my life. My eyes have been opened by all the new volunteering I’ve done in the local area: I work at the food bank, Charing Cross Hospital chemo ward, and have applied for work at Maggie’s too.

This flat is a gift; I thank God every day that I made the move. Life is good.”


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We provide safe and affordable sheltered housing in Hammersmith with beautiful, award-winning gardens.

 

Lorraine with Sycamore House scheme manager Chris
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5 minutes with…Lisa Da Silva, Head of Housing and Property

We’re really happy to welcome Lisa to Hammersmith United Charities. Lisa is responsible for ensuring our almshouses are of the highest quality and meet the needs of our residents.

What’s involved in your new role?

My role as Head of Housing and Property is to lead the sheltered housing operations for the charity. I will be responsible for delivering a safe and high-quality housing service meeting statutory and regulatory requirements. I will also be responsible for ensuring that the support services provided to residents meet their health and wellbeing needs.

What are you looking forward to most about your new role?

I am looking forward to working as part of a smaller team and bringing my experience and knowledge to the table. Continuing in an almshouse charity setting is advantageous as I feel I will be able to hit the ground running to continue to deliver homes that are safe and well maintained, as well as a high-quality service on behalf of Hammersmith United Charities to the residents.

What sort of work have you been doing previously?

I have over 25 years’ experience of working in the housing sector, the majority of which has been spent in supported housing for older people. I have experience of managing both sheltered and extra care properties and I am keen to share my knowledge and experience as well as continuing to learn myself.

What do you like about the area?

It has been several years since I worked in an urban, vibrant setting with dispersed sites, so I am really excited about this aspect. I am very keen to familiarise myself with the wider community as the setting should lead to lots of opportunities which will be beneficial to the residents.

What sort of things bring you joy outside of work?

I really enjoy spending time with my family and socialising with friends over dinner or a catch-up coffee. I have to be honest though, I can often be found with my nose in my Kindle – there is nothing as relaxing as a good book.


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In pictures: out and about

Our team took part in the Wormholt & White City Community Festival in September, which celebrated our vibrant community.

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