Picket to support Southall Black Sisters

Earlier this month, we learned that Southall Black Sisters – which provides a range of services for black and ethnic minority women in Ealing – is under threat. The council no longer wants to fund a service dedicated solely to the needs of this part of the community.

Now the group has organised a picket outside Ealing Town Hall, from 6-7pm on 26 February. Womesphere has more details.

You may be interested to know that after my initial post, I received an email from Gregory Strafford, a local councillor in Ealing. I’ll save his full email for the monthly comments, but, in short, he argued that we have the wrong end of the stick:

As an occasional reader of this blog and reviews etc I was shocked to

come across this posting. I am afraid to say that it is deeply

misleading and seems to imply that Ealing Council are not taking the

issue of domestic violence seriously.

Let me assure you that this is not the case; in fact at a meeting of

Full Council last year a number of Councillors including myself spoke

up for more recognition of the problems of violence in the home

against both men and women.

I agree that the work the Southall Black Sisters do is invaluable,

but it is simply not true that we are “withdrawing its funding”.

This year, as with every year previously, the funding of around

£100,000 is put out for tender and bid for by local groups who

provide domestic violence support. Over the past years Southall Black

Sisters have won this bidding process.

This year the process is EXACTLY the same. The only difference this

year is that the Council wants to find a provider that will serve the

entire Borough, all people regardless of their ethnic origin and both

men and women. We have invited tenders to cover this expanded need.

The Southall Black Sisters have been asked to bid for this money and I

believe they have put in such a bid. All tenders are looked at by an

independent panel so I have no idea whether Southall Black Sister will

secure the funding or not.

Strafford goes on to explain that the greatest incidence of domestic violence in the borough is among white women. Of course, it is a good thing that the council wishes to tackle domestic violence among the entire population, and it is extremely important that all women have access to these services. He says: “It is our belief that there is a serious

shortfall in provision for non black and minority women and men that has influenced our thinking”.

However, it seems to me that the answer to this is not to put Southall Black Sisters in such an unreasonable position. From the councillor’s email, it doesn’t appear that the local authority is increasing the pot of money available for domestic violence services. Instead existing organisations are expected to do much more, with the same funding.

Aside from requiring organisations to stretch the same budget over a much wider project, the council does not seem to be paying much attention to the wider role SBS plays in dealing with the intersection of sexism and racism, as experienced by local women.

Sadly, SBS is not the only organisation serving black and ethnic minority women that is under threat. At the end of January, the Guardian reported that budget pressures are threatening similar groups across the country. And Imkaan, a network for domestic violence refuges dedicated to helping black, asian ethnic minority and refugee women, has launched a campaign on this very issue. In the Guardian:

“Our services are in danger of being cut, lost or swallowed up and subsumed in mainstream organisations,” says Amrit Wilson, chair of Imkaan. “And once they are lost, it will be almost impossible to replace them.”

If you want to do something to help, and can’t make it to the Ealing picket, then check to make sure your MP has signed this Early Day Motion on the issue. If not, send them an email about it!

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