Everyone In: The end of street homelessness or a short-lived solution?

In the last ten years, homelessness in the UK rose 141% , driven by increasing rents, a national housing shortage, and local budget cuts linked to years of austerity. In late March, the Government moved swiftly to implement what would become one of its COVID-19 PR successes: the ‘Everyone In’ campaign. It provided funding and required local councils in England and Wales to offer emergency accommodation to every person living on the streets.

By April, nearly 15,000 people, including more than 90% of known rough sleepers had been given temporary accommodation under the scheme. For many, this was the first time they had a hotel room to wait in, while applying for permanent housing.

“To tell you the truth, corona has been the best thing that has happened to the homeless. No one has benefited as much as us,” Ryan Anderson, a former rough sleeper in London, told the NY Times. The measure also avoided large-scale outbreaks among unsheltered populations. In early May, over 80 residents and at least 7 staff tested positive for COVID-19 in a homeless shelter in Washington D.C. The UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported only 26 deaths of unhoused people in the country (as of 26 June).

But this apparently groundbreaking policy, which exposes previous lack of funding and political will, cannot be considered much more than a short-term remedy. In June, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing described government plans for

new rough sleeping services, backed by £433 million to ensure 6,000 new housing units, of which 3,300 will be available in the next year. However, a looming homelessness wave indicates that these efforts will not be enough.

Driven by a historic recession, this wave will hit especially hard those people who sublet from private landlords without tenancy agreements and were consequently unable to benefit from the government’s temporary ban against evictions, but those who were helped by the ban could still be at risk. A new Shelter research piece estimated that 227,000 adult private renters (3%) have fallen behind with payments since the start of the pandemic, meaning they could lose their homes now the evictions ban has ended.

Among them, immigrants with ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) will be particularly unprotected. On 2 July, Dame Louise Casey, chair of the Government’s COVID-19 Rough Sleeping Taskforce, informed councils that, for 12 weeks, they would be allowed to support homeless European Economic Area (EEA) nationals with NRPF. This revision came just days after the government announced an additional £105m funding for English councils to keep people off the streets after the pandemic. It nevertheless excludes immigrants from outside the EEA with temporary permission to stay in the UK, a large portion of whom are BAME. They remain unable to access Universal Credit or statutory homelessness assistance after 20 September.

Even if NRPF immigration status is suspended in the aftermath of COVID-19, BAME people will continue to face more barriers in the housing market. Last year, the High Court found the Home Office’s Right to Rent policy to be racially discriminatory. Still in force as determined by an Appeal Court, it requires private landlords to check the immigration status of tenants and prospective tenants, causing them to discriminate against foreign nationals and British citizens from minority ethnic backgrounds. This makes shelter a privilege, rather than a basic right in the UK.

Already in 2017/18, at least 23% of all homeless households in the UK were BAME, while no more than 14% of the population in England and Wales is classed as BAME. Women were found to be the large majority among single parents seeking help for homelessness, which makes BAME women especially vulnerable to this situation. Unsurprisingly, London had the highest overall number of homeless households (4.2 for every 1,000 households). It also had the lowest percentage of White homeless households in the country. The local authority with the highest number of homeless households per 1,000 households was Newham (9.4 per 1,000), where Asian households made up the highest portion (36%). These trends will persist and inequalities will widen if Government policy fails to tackle homelessness in the long recovery post COVID-19.

As hotels re-open and students return to university accommodation, the thousands of people benefitted by ‘Everyone In’ cannot be left behind. While the Government’s immediate measures have guaranteed temporary housing to many, JAN Trust’s grassroots work with BAME women leads us to advocate for more profound, long-term policy. Many of our users are part of the marginalized groups disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 crisis and we will continue to support them through a community-based approach as we have done for over thirty years.

Posted in BAME, Inclusion, JAN Trust, London | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sportspeople: Speaking Up vs Sticking to Their Lanes

Why it is important that athletes like Marcus Rashford and Lewis Hamilton be taken seriously when they speak up on important societal issues

Whenever an athlete, and indeed a celebrity in general, makes a public statement about current affairs, there is normally one side that repeats the idea that sportspeople should stick to sport, because that is their job and their job only, or that politics should be kept out of the arts and sports. It is not a coincidence that the people who are most offended by celebrities taking prominent stances on issues disagree most. As discrimination and minority empowerment comes to the fore, it is important that we do not dismiss a person’s experience solely because of their opinion. Athletes are people too. Sports is simply a specific example of an occupation where someone from a BAMER or marginalised background may face discrimination. If an athlete’s fame draws more attention to important issues, that can only be an advantage.

For example, Lewis Hamilton is the first ever, and currently only, black Formula One (F1) driver. He has recently spoken out on Black Lives Matter, and the need to deal with racism and a lack of diversity in Formula One after the murder of George Floyd. Those connected with F1 stayed silent, out of hesitation and discomfort at voicing an opinion, until Hamilton called them out for remaining silent on social media. This discussion has extended to his racing team changing the car’s 2020 livery to black, and F1 management launching inclusivity initiatives. Despite generally being an apolitical sport, drivers even “took the knee” at the first race of the season. Whilst these changes alone support letting athletes voice their opinions, there is also an important flip side to sportspeople remaining silent: it is a privilege to have no concerns of which to speak. It is a type of privilege to be uncomfortable with speaking out about racism from not having faced significant discrimination. It is a type of privilege to not struggle with recalling personal experiences of racism when reports of crimes like the murder of George Floyd happen, as Lewis Hamilton did. It is also a form of microaggression to dismiss anyone’s concerns or stories about racism, such as the former top F1 official Bernie Ecclestone being “surprised that [racism] concerns [Hamilton] even”.

In the US, the only black driver in NASCAR, Bubba Wallace, found a noose in his racing garage after he got the Confederate flag banned from NASCAR events. Someone tried to threaten Wallace with a symbol of lynching from when African Americans were brutally murdered for no reason. The US President responded to reports of this event by publishing a tweet suggesting this was a hoax. In light of these extreme, racist, and dismissive responses to a black athlete simply seeking to remove racist symbols, we should stand strong against those trying cling onto their versions of the past. If athletes are brave enough to try to effect change, we can only listen to what they have to say.

England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford made headlines in June for raising money to get meals to those who need it, and then persuading the government to reverse its original course of action, and maintaining the provision of free meals for children from poorer families. Telling his personal experience of not being to afford enough food, and leveraging his now privileged status to effect change gives a human side to seemingly complex policies, and brings awareness to an important issue that can easily get lost in the news. It is a form of privilege to have no concrete opinion on free school meals from not having been hungry as a result of insufficient funds. It is a form of privilege to be in a position to be able to silence or brush aside others’ concerns. Everyone has the right to tell their story, regardless whether it results in concrete change.

Athletes have the same rights and the same freedom to voice their opinions as any non-athlete. With the popularity of social media and viral news, they have a unique position to draw our attention to pressing concerns, and the struggles of minority communities. It is no coincidence that the examples given here are from athletes from minority backgrounds. It often seems like more of an outlier when a BAMER celebrity speaks out on policy issues, but they should speak out the most to draw attention to their stories, and highlight the stories of marginalised and BAMER communities. Even as normal citizens, we should voice our concerns on behalf of our communities. We, at JAN Trust, understand this importance, and work to encourage and empower marginalised and BAMER individuals. We campaign on vital issues for these communities like online extremism and FGM.

Posted in Advocacy

Hostile environment, Covid-19 and the myth of the immigrant taking advantage

Covid-19 made it clear: UK’s social contract with migrants is based on exploitation. Once again, women are the ones who have it the worst.

We are all too familiar with the right-wing rhetoric about migrants “abusing” UK public services.  In 2013, the then Prime Minister David Cameron said that “there’s a lot more to do to make sure that while we’re welcoming we don’t allow people to come here and take advantage of us, because I think that does happen too often”.

By then, his government was already acting on these evidence-lacking claims: the hostile environment policy was announced in 2012.

As a consequence of Theresa May’s measures, lay people such as landlords, doctors and teachers became responsible for conducting immigration checks. Giving this power to non-qualified citizens leaves room for misunderstandings and mistakes, making migrants’ lives in the UK harder.

On the assumption that immigrants are a burden to tax payers, in 2012 the “no recourse to public funds” condition was extended to most of the  non-EEA nationals that have a temporary immigration status. Practically speaking, under this condition migrants cannot access universal credit, disability allowances, local authority homelessness support and free school meals – among others.

More recently, with Brexit, EEA nationals saw hostile environment measures becoming tougher for them. Instead of granting automatic settled status to EU citizens residing in the UK, in 2019 the Home Office launched the European Union Settlement Scheme: requiring an application means that the most vulnerable people are at risk of becoming undocumented and being removed from the country.

Considering all this, it is clear how migrants are treated as second-class citizens. The terms could not be more explicit: you can work – and therefore pay taxes – in the country but in no way do you have the same rights as your British counterparts. It looks as though like commodities, migrants can be disposed of when the need for them is low, or alternatively they can be used until exhaustion:  just like what happened with migrant key workers during the pandemic.

 Consequences of the hostile environment policy during COVID-19

Many migrants who have worked in the UK for years have now lost their jobs to the coronavirus crisis.

Those from EU countries could technically claim universal credit, but not everyone can prove to have the right to reside in the UK.

On the other  hand, most immigrants from non-EEA countries found themselves in a chokehold. With a collapsing job market and the impossibility of  access public funds, some have lost their homes: restrictions on evictions do not apply to those who do not have a tenancy agreement.

Both EU and non-EU migrants who are formally renting but are struggling to make ends meet face a similar risk once the hold on evictions is lifted.

The situation can be similarly tragic for those who   are still working.  It does not matter if you or your family have pre-existing health conditions – if you don’t have access to public funds, you cannot afford not to go to work during the pandemic.

 The situation is even more complex for those migrants who are in the country illegally: living in constant fear of deportation, illegal migrants are generally more likely to be exploited by their employers and less likely to access medical help should they develop any symptoms.  During the pandemic, these conditions might turn – and in some cases already have turned– into a death sentence.

In this context, it is vulnerable groups like immigrant women who are among the most affected: hostile environment, the Covid-19 pandemic and pre-existing gender disparities combined  lead to disastrous results.

An analysis by Women’s Budget Group clearly delineates migrant women’s situation in the Covid-19 crisis:

  • Women are the majority of health and care workers“. Being at the frontline means that women have the highest exposure to Covid-19, being 77% of the staff in “high risk” roles. Considering that both the NHS and the social care sector are dependent on migrant workers – who make up respectively 13% and 16% of the workforce – it is clear that immigrant women have been affected in unprecedented ways.
  • Other feminised sectors that employ relevant numbers of migrant women are childcare, cleaning and retail. These are characterized by minimum or poverty wages, almost impossible to live on even in normal times. One can only imagine the hardships faced by migrant women when furlough is not an option. Sadly, being furloughed on 80% of a low salary  will not save migrant women from destitution either.
  • The lack of adequate state help and personal support networks further exacerbate the conditions in which immigrant women live during the pandemic, leaving most of them with no option but to remain in abusive workplaces and/or relationships.

As a charity established to support and empower women from BAME and migrant communities, we at JAN Trust know that the only way to address the devastating impact of hostile environment and Covid-19 is through delivering a gender-sensitive, culturally appropriate response. You can join us in our efforts to support migrant women in many ways: donate, volunteer or simply contribute to busting myths about migrants. Shout out loud that the reality is extremely different from what has been and still is being portrayed.

Posted in Citizenship, discrimination, Ethnic Minorities, Racism | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

All survivors of domestic abuse deserve support

All survivors of domestic abuse deserve support

Isolation at home has reportedly led to an epidemic of domestic abuse, yet the Government’s response fails to protect those survivors most vulnerable in society.

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Abuse in isolation

Throughout the UK, a surge in the reported cases of domestic abuse has taken place during the past few months of isolation. Many have found themselves trapped at home with abusive and violent partners, unable to leave the situation. This has meant that the abusers have often been current partners and family members. The number of women killed by their abusers has actually doubled during lockdown. In London, the number of calls to police about domestic abuse increased by 11.4% in comparison to last year. There has also been an increased demand for support services for survivors: in early April, the National Domestic Abuse helpline experienced a 25% increase in demand only a couple weeks into lockdown.

Clearly, we are facing more than one nationwide emergency. Living in the middle of a pandemic is terrifying for everyone, but those trapped in violent homes are enduring the additional fear of abuse – with no escape.

The Domestic Abuse Bill

Domestic abuse is a massive issue: as many as 1.6 million women in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse only last year. While these numbers are chilling enough for the Government to have recognised the problem, its response leaves much to hope for. The Domestic Abuse Bill, in drafting since 2019, passed the House of Commons on the 6th of July and is currently undergoing scrutiny at the House of Lords. The Bill has its merits, of course – for example, it introduces a statutory definition of domestic abuse, and seeks to protect and support victims better through amending the processes in courts as well as improving the performance of support services.

However, many have voiced their discontent over the treatment of migrant victims in the Bill. Support available for victims of domestic abuse is scarce as it is, but those with no recourse to public funds suffer from a lack of support to an extreme extent. They cannot receive any help from the government, often driving further dependency on their abuser: for instance, one with no recourse to public funds is not eligible for housing support, which at worst can result in the victim having no choice but being stuck at home with their abuser. Furthermore, the UK’s immigration policy makes matters worse for survivors of domestic abuse from migrant backgrounds. Basic services such as reporting abuse as a criminal offence become extremely difficult as one risks being detained and deported just by contacting the police.

Nationality should not determine who is deserving of help and support, especially when stuck at home during a pandemic. It is saddening that the Government’s empathy only fully extends to those with a British passport – even if a survivor with no recourse to public funds was abused by a British citizen on British soil.

The support available

We at JAN Trust are all too familiar with the barriers survivors of domestic abuse face in accessing support. Migrant women are already amongst the most vulnerable in society, and legislation like the Domestic Abuse Bill only makes matters worse for them. At the moment, the majority of the support available for migrant women experiencing domestic abuse is provided by non-governmental organisations. To keep operating, these organisations must be granted appropriate funding, as small BAME charities are hit the hardest by the pandemic. You can help us continue the vital work we do supporting the survivors of domestic abuse by donating to us.

JAN Trust is a safe space for all survivors of domestic abuse. We provide guidance and support for those suffering from abusive domestic conditions, and can direct you to other specialist services. There are many different forms of domestic abuse, ranging from physical to emotional and financial – visit Refuge’s website to find out more. If you think you might be experiencing abuse, please call the 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline at 0808 2000 247.

Posted in Violence, Violence Against Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Paulette Wilson – She cannot be forgotten

Paulette Wilson  became a prominent figure in the Windrush scandal after being detained by the Home Office.

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Paulette Wilson left Jamaica in the hope of a better life when she was only 10. Having spent most of her life in the UK, she worked as a carer and a chef at the House of Commons. Paulette was part of the Windrush generation, which includes people from the Caribbean who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971. In 1971, they were given indefinite leave to remain in the country. In 2016, she received a letter from the Home Office stating that she was an illegal immigrant.

Since 2014, 50,000 people from the Windrush generation have faced the risk of deportation. This came after a change of rules by the Home Office, which required citizens to prove their resident status before accessing services like the NHS.

Paulette Wilson was arrested and detained: first at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, then at Heathrow. It was only at the last minute that MP Emma Reynolds and the Refugee Migrant Centre in Wolverhampton managed to prevent her deportation.

Just over a month ago, Wilson presented a petition to Downing Street, calling on the Government to deliver justice to those, like herself, who were affected by the Windrush Scandal. Paulette Wilson was an activist who dedicated the last years of her life to justice for those who had been wronged. Last year, Wilson had told the BBC that since she had been detained, “[she] couldn’t sleep, it was terrible. It’s been like that since I came out. I still can’t eat like I used to.” Many have condemned the treatment she received from the Home Office, pointing out that it had taken a toll on her mental health.

Sadly, Paulette Wilson is not the only Windrush victim to have passed away while fighting for compensation. Dexter Bristol, for example, passed away after being denied access to healthcare services until he proved he was British. His mother said that the immigration stress had caused the fatal heart attack.

Sarah O’Connor is another example: she had lived legally in the UK for 51 years, and after being labelled an illegal immigrant at 51, she told the Guardian that the stress made her ill. She died at 57, on the verge of bankruptcy while fighting the Home Office on her immigrant status.

Judy Griffiths, 63, had accrued £7000 in rent debts fighting the Government after they had accused her of being an illegal immigrant. In 2018, it was reported that 11 people who had been wrongly deported had died, many without even receiving their compensation.

Wilson’s death and the trauma endured by many others remind us of the discrimination that is constantly inflicted on people of colour, but also how little their lives seem to matter. The recent events following the Windrush scandal emphasise this: whether it’s George Floyd, the disproportionate effect of coronavirus on BAME communities, or countless other incidents, the lives of Black and people of colour continue to matter less than their white counterparts. Racism is fatal for the many that endure it.

At JAN Trust, we are terribly saddened by the loss of Ms. Paulette Wilson, someone who dedicated her time and wellbeing to fighting a system that had wronged herself and so many other innocent people. JAN Trust works continuously to provide support to those who have been affected by racism and discrimination, and we will continue to do so.

Posted in Advocacy, british, Citizenship | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Leicester sweatshops and the negligence of BAME lives

Exposing the atrocious working conditions in garment factories in Leicester shocked the nation, but this is no isolated incident: BAME labour is systemically exploited in the UK.

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Leicester garment factories in the spotlight

A report by Labour Behind the Label exposed garment factories in Leicester, primarily working for online fast fashion retailer Boohoo, of heinous treatment of their workers. The workers, who are mostly from BAME communities, were paid significantly less than the minimum wage, sometimes as little as £3 per hour. Criminally low wages are reportedly a “known secret” among the factory owners in Leicester, who cite a perceived culture of impunity perpetrating such exploitation. The coronavirus outbreak in Leicester, which led to a local lockdown in late June, was in part a result of the carelessness of these very factories. According to the report, employees were ordered to continue working in unsafe conditions without any PPE – even if they were sick. Factories kept on operating throughout lockdown, and were also allegedly involved in furlough fraud. In at least one of the factories, the employer held the non-English speaking workers’ ID documents. Essentially, what was discovered in the Leicester sweatshop industry is modern slavery. The consequences go beyond the exploited workers whose lives were put at risk: the spike in coronavirus cases affects everyone in the area.

Locating the problem: beyond Leicester

Though what happened in Leicester shocks us, the abhorrent disregard for BAME lives is a part of a much larger general system of exploitation. The fast fashion industry is notorious for its use of unethical sweatshop labour, located especially in the global South. Those who work in sweatshops producing garments for fast fashion companies are generally BAME women. The underpaying, the lack of rights, employer fraud, the blackmail and intimidation – all of it illustrates the same pattern of not valuing the lives of BAME people. Racism, misogyny and socio-economic inequality all make such exploitation possible in society. We tend to blame the loose labour laws in countries like Bangladesh for sweatshops; yet, sweatshops exist here in the UK regardless of any such laws. It is about time we acknowledge not only the complacency of UK companies using and thus creating a demand for sweatshop labour in the global South, but also the fact that the UK itself hosts similar enterprises without any substantial consequences.

Interestingly, the disgraceful working conditions in the Leicester garment factories have been open knowledge long before they rose to headlines this summer. In 2019, the parliamentary environmental audit reported wage exploitation in Leicester factories and in the garment sector, but no action was taken. It was only when combined with the more widespread scandal of the pandemic spreading that genuine interest has been taken to investigate the issue, and it is yet unclear what kind of action will be taken to stop the exploitation. The crux of the issue then lies in that BAME workers and their lives must be held at high enough regard, even without a risk of a virus spreading, that they are automatically granted fair wages and safe working conditions. Unfortunately, clearly we are not there yet.

Fighting exploitation at the grassroots level

We at JAN Trust want to be a part of tackling the issue of unfair working conditions. We educate women to know their own rights in the UK to feel equipped against predatory employers. Empowering women from migrant backgrounds to become active citizens of British society through integration shields them from being abused by exploitative employers. Often immigrant labour is too easily exploited due to a low level of English language skills: in Leicester, it seems that the lockdown guidance was not adequately communicated to immigrant communities who were then extremely vulnerable at the hands of their law-breaking employers. We provide ESOL-lessons at all levels to support women from non-English speaking backgrounds in becoming confident in their communication. We also provide mentoring, advice and guidance with employment related issues among others. Everyone has the right to a life free from all exploitation and abuse.

Posted in BAME, Citizenship, Society | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Digital Poverty: Isolation by Technological Marginalisation

What are the dangers of digital poverty, and why should we not take telephone and internet usage for granted?

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Modern life revolves around easily maintaining connections with loved ones and the outside world. As people adjusted to working from home or remotely during lockdown, the importance of digital skills and digital access came to the fore. Digital poverty is a phenomenon that marginalises and isolates many groups of people, including, unfortunately, those who most need internet access to receive vital state benefits. Though it would be easy to assume only the poorest or most isolated do not use the internet, 10% of adults in 2018 said that they were “internet non-users”.

Whilst lockdown has revealed the usefulness of internet access allowing remote work and education, it has also revealed the vast disadvantages faced by those who are not as fortunate. The state is not required to provide internet access to all, but, in the interests of efficiency, much government activity has become digital. For example, the free school meals being provided over the summer holidays requires using the internet to obtain these vouchers. Even if these meals go some way to alleviating food inequality, it functions under the assumption that everyone has easy internet access and digital knowledge, which is not reflective of reality. Education is vital for economic and social mobility, as well as simply for simply the intrinsic value of learning. However, remote learning requires internet access, which many families do not have. For households that are already economically disadvantaged, broadband is an expensive luxury that many cannot afford, and a computer or laptop that would enable convenient remote learning is even less likely to be affordable, when simple basic necessities may already be a concern.

Even when people may have internet access, not possessing sufficient digital skills can cause isolation from society. The internet is a major part of most people’s daily lives, whether it be connecting with friends and family, searching for information, or a necessary part of education and employment. In 2018, approximately one-fifth of people had no, or limited, digital skills, which means being unable to complete basic tasks. We cannot expect such isolated people to have access to the same resources as everyone else, or play a truly active role in society if they are disconnected from the digital world.

Marginalisation and isolation are a negative aspect of digital poverty, but it can also be a matter of life and death. Being unable to access the internet or afford telephone calls could mean not being able to be registered onto a shielding list, alert authorities of domestic abuse, or seek assistance for starvation. Although access to services, and the benefits of the internet, is a significant part of digital poverty, another consequence of limited digital knowledge is limited knowledge of the dangers of the internet. Examples include fraud, grooming, online abuse, or radicalisation.

Telephone and internet contracts must be made more affordable and readily available, and government policies should pay more attention to the isolating effects of digital poverty. We also need more programmes that teach the necessary digital skills. No amount of policies on marginalisation, isolation, or inequality will be effective if we do not deal with the problem of many people being separated from technology upon which the vast majority of society relies. At JAN Trust, we provide educational courses, including on IT skills, that alleviate some of these struggles. Our innovative Web Guardians™ programme empowers women to protect their families and communities from online extremism by educating them on online dangers and the internet.

Posted in Education | Tagged

JAN Trust keeps Supporting Minority Women through the Pandemic

Demand for the support and guidance that JAN Trust offers has increased as a result of COVID-19 and lockdown. We understand that the effects of the pandemic are far-reaching, and do not only include health-related or economic trouble. We are committed to supporting our beneficiaries in these difficult times.

Lockdown has prevented many from leaving their homes safely, and shopping in a supermarket may not be an option for everyone. We have assisted our beneficiaries with essential needs by delivering food and medicine to women in the community.

Loneliness is also an issue which has only been made worse as people are required to stay home. People who might have interacted with others at community events such as markets, may now be unable to engage in social interactions. Not everyone has access to digital communication services or people to engage in digital socialising with. JAN Trust has provided online support to women who are experiencing mental health issues, especially from loneliness or isolation from family.

Unfortunately, lockdown has also led many women to be trapped in abusive domestic circumstances. JAN Trust has also continued to support women in these situations impartially, sensitively and confidentially, by offering guidance and advice. If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence, please call the free National Domestic Violence Helpline (24 hours) on 0808 2000 247. They can provide advice to access refuge space and contact details for local services to aid you. If you are in imminent danger, please call 999 immediately.

We are also aware that the effects of the pandemic cannot all be solved at community level. That is why we have consistently called for UK government institutions to recognise and ensure that disadvantaged communities get the support they need in these times. This includes acknowledging that BAME communities are most at risk to suffer financially, and directing funds towards this cause.

We are planning to re-open our centre and our adult education classes. This includes ESOL lessons and other face-to-face activities that bring the community together and teach invaluable skills to women.

If you are experiencing loneliness, poor mental health, or other difficulties, do not hesitate to contact us. We offer support and guidance to women and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and in our over 30-year-long history we have prided ourselves in being a strong positive presence within disadvantaged communities.

In order to continue its core work, and diversely competent community support and education, JAN Trust is in need of donations. If you want to help contribute to our vital work in encouraging, educating and empowering women from disadvantaged communities, please consider donating to us.

Posted in BAME, Education, Inclusion, JAN Trust | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Talk to your Family about Racism 

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Often the simplest of actions can be the most effective.

Since the murder of George Floyd, there has been a surge in protests and people taking action in necessary ways, be it signing petitions and sending donations. Yet, often the best way to take action is to start at home and talk to your family. It is often easier and more comfortable to remain silent, as it’s ‘polite’ and you can avoid exposing yourself to conflict. Unfortunately, to stay silent mean to promote systematic racism as one’s racist and ignorant beliefs remain unchecked. Hence, whilst these conversations are uncomfortable for some, it only emphasises how important it is to have these conversations by having others be aware of the impact of their views and reflecting upon them.

Perhaps you have also tried to hold these conversations, but the results remain fruitless. Through following the tips of these professionals, perhaps these conversations can become less painful and more meaningful.

  1. Prepare

As Miguel De Cervantes said, ‘to be prepared is half the victory’. The NSPCC have suggested that when you want to discuss a difficult topic with your child, it is best to think about where and when you will have your discussion. For instance, it may not be best to hold such an intense discussion in the evening when the child is tired and thus, not in the mood to concentrate. Similarly, your friend or relative may also be too tired as they may have had a busy day from work hence, being less willing to concentrate. Furthermore, you may also want to consider being in a quiet and relaxing space, such as going on a walk, as both you and your friend/relative may be more relaxed.

In the case of talking to children, JAN Trust CEO, Sajda Mughal OBE, has also suggested that an age-appropriate conversation is necessary for a child to develop ‘a useful frame to understand the complex and difficult realities’. To ignore this and remain silent would instead, allow the child to develop an ‘unhelpful frame’ where they may draw their own incorrect conclusions. This would thus, inhibit any change for future generations.

  1. Have realistic expectations

In the NY Times, Dr Tania Israel,  professor in the department of counselling, clinical and school psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says it is unlikely to change one’s views and opinions after just one conversation. Instead, Dr Israel suggests that it is best to remain rational and realistic with our expectations so we steer clear of disappointment and frustration by the lack of change.

Dan Mager also similarly states, in Psychology Today,  that it is best to drop your assumptions. Even if you have known your friend for a while, it does not mean you can drastically change your friend’s views. Remain patient and understand that to expect changes, time is needed.

  1. Be an active listener

To be an active listener means to make a conscious effort to listen and take in not only the ‘words’ that are being said, but the ‘complete message’. Whilst this sounds pretty straightforward, research suggests that we only remember between 25-50% of what we hear.

According to mindtools there are 5 listening techniques to become an active listener:

  • Pay attention – try not to wander off into your own thoughts or think up a rebuttal towards the other person’s statements.
  • Show that your listening through your body language. For instance, nod your head, look directly at them and use other expressions to show your engaged
  • Give feedback – understand what is being said and reflect on it by asking questions
  • Don’t interrupt.
  • Respond with respect and understanding.

These techniques will allow you to not only keep calm, but also allow you both to have meaningful and understanding conversations.

  1. Keep a cool head

It is best to remain calm and keep your emotions at bay. Mager suggests that a neutral tone is adopted so that your friend/relative focuses on the content of your conversation, rather than the emotions. Another method of keeping calm is to avoid throwing insults and screaming at each other. When this happens, the other person may be less likely to compromise or negotiate on their views. If you feel that you’re ready to let some insults loose, Elizabeth McCorvey, a licenced clinical social worker suggests resorting to coping mechanisms like taking deep breaths or excusing yourself to the bathroom and try to calm down. If the conversation becomes too much, take a break and return to the conversation at a later time when you feel less emotional.

After all, as Mager says, respect is essential when communicating with others.

These conversations will almost certainly be uncomfortable for both you and the other person, and it may also be difficult. However, there is always a chance the other person may refuse to alter their views, but there is also a chance they may understand and try to change their views. However, it is always worth trying to talk. After all, to stay silent is to stay complacent.

Here at JAN Trust, our values are to encourage, educate and empower marginalised women and provide the resources to be able to better their life options and reintegrate into society. Our programmes have allowed women of various backgrounds to become aware of the racism and oppression they have been all too familiar with, and instead, fight for the justice they deserve.

Posted in Racism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Black Lives Matter: What does “defund the police” mean?

“Defund the police” has become a popular slogan, but what does it actually mean, and how might we be able to improve the criminal justice system?

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Black Lives Matter protests around the world have seen the promotion of the phrase “defund the police”. Though there is some disagreement about what it really means, this piece will use the same definition as Black Lives Matter: reallocating funds for the police to “invest in programmes that actually keep us safe like youth services, mental health and social care, education, jobs and housing”. There are many entrenched societal problems that lead to crime, or that are dealt with by criminal prosecution, which would be better solved through services that directly target those issues. There is also the unavoidable historic role of the police as an institution used to discriminate against and oppress minorities, whether through institutional racism, specific laws, or other factors.

Institutional racism and the disproportionate targeting of young black men by the police is an issue that exists in the UK as well as the US. The mutual distrust between the police and particular communities is not conducive to effective or fair reduction of crime. Moving funds from policing to, for example, community services, or mental health services would redistribute funds both more equally in terms of minority communities generally being more underfunded, and more equally in the sense of practice areas. Policing and prosecution aspects of the criminal justice system tackle the symptoms, but not the disease. Where the disease may be societal inequality, education, domestic violence, or mental health, providing money for better services in these areas allows for better chances of actually dealing with the root causes of some crimes. The overuse of police to deal with societal problems exacerbates them, as policing and imprisonment has been suggested to lead to more violence in some cases. Whilst police officers do protect public order in some cases, in other cases they have the opposite effect. There is also a question of perspective: what is threatening to one group may not be threatening to another. We have seen this with instances of police brutality, and the disproportionate number of BAMER individuals arrested or subject to stop and search.

It is unrealistic and dangerous to rely on the police to solve all problems. Police officers see the final results in crimes, but they do not see anything that happened before that. Imprisonment is also a poor choice for dealing with societal issues in many cases. For example, someone who has overdosed on drugs would benefit more from immediate medical attention and long-term treatment than a police officer or prosecution. The same applies to mental health. Imprisonment is particularly dangerous to more vulnerable individuals, but with overreliance on policing and prosecution, these people are most likely to face sanctions. Moving funding from policing to services that directly deal with personal problems like drug addiction or mental health helps to eradicate these issues, remove stigma, and also remove the burden from the police, so that officers have more resources to deal with cases where they are truly required.

In reality, a more accurate word than just “defund” may be “redistribution” or “reallocation” of funds, but “defund the police” makes for a better campaign slogan. The police force would still exist, just with a more specific role, restricted to dangerous cases, or cases that would not be better served by other services. As important as it may be for the central government to be able to protect public security, the importance of local services cannot be underestimated. Community resilience means that community-based services are most likely to be tailored towards specific needs. Specialised public services are also likelier to be successful in tackling societal issues, both in terms of efficacy and trust, than just imposing criminal sanctions. In increasing funding to these services and organisations who deliver similar projects, we can get to the real causes of crime and societal threats.

At JAN Trust, we know the importance of services targeted to specific communities because this is what we do. We provide educational courses for marginalised individuals to improve their skillset to better reintegrate into society. We empower people to play active roles in their communities, and protect their loved ones from harms such as online extremism. Our Web Guardians™ programme educates women on online dangers and how they can protect their families, because we need to go beyond the final symptoms to cure a disease. We need to tackle the causes and problems as they appear. If you want to help us continue our work, please donate on our website.

Posted in Advocacy, british, Campaign, discrimination, Diversity, police, Racism | Tagged ,