Northern Complainant Aid Fund

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2004 National Black Members' Conference
30 October 2003

Conference is appalled and concerned about the way in which the closure of Northern Complainant Aid Fund (NCAF) was handled by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE).

NCAF has consistently emerged as the best ever practice model for Race Relations Act (1976) ‘Section 44 funding aimed at assisting organisations concerned with “the promotion of equality of opportunity, and good relations, between persons of different racial groups”. Further, NCAF has maintained its record of pursuing discrimination cases based on a reasonable prospect of success without fear or favour. This approach has made NCAF the most successful organisation ever, at pursuing all forms of discrimination and achieving settlements for victims of discrimination.

In August 2003 NCAF was forced to close its doors to complainants after failing to overturn a decision by the Commission for Racial Equality to cut NCAF’s funding by 89 percent in real terms. The CRE’s explanation for the cut in funding was to suggest that NCAF had not fully complied with the form-filling process leaving the organisation challenging for funds in a reserve pool with other candidate organisations where the amounts available to fund organisations were much smaller. This smaller fund then only allowing the to fund NCAF up to an amount of £30,000 where NCAF had previously received £230,000.

However there are concerns about the various reasons given for not funding NCAF which, up to now have included:

1a central government reduction in the funds available to the CRE for funding race (assistance) work;

2increased competitions for funds;

3NCAF being the “enemies of race equality”;

4NCAF failing to compete effectively for available resources.


NCAF is aware that the CRE has faced a cut in its budget however the reasons for this are to do with CRE mismanagement of it funds prompting calls for an audit investigation into the CRE’s handling of its finances. This has prompted the CRE to remove its section 44 funding under which complainant aid work had traditionally been funded and, remove the tendering process for complainant aid – replacing it with a dubious and subjective form filling process under the CRE’s ‘Getting Results’ programme which removes the priority for complainant aid work as a basis for addressing racial inequality.

The decision not to fund NCAF has forced the organisation to close its doors to complainants and place the organisation on a campaign footing.

NCAF has been a formidable support mechanism for many UNISON members, branches and regions who would not have been able to pursue cases of discrimination without the training, support, case preparation and representation provided by NCAF. NCAF has been a major force of encouragement, which has underpinned reasons why many black members have remained in UNISON. As such the closure of NCAF is a major loss to the trade union movement.

Conference therefore instructs the National Black Members’ Committee (NBMC) to:

a)mount a campaign amongst members in the union to encourage support for the restoration of NCAF as an accessible and effective complainant aid body.

b)make representations to the National Executive Council (NEC) for a donation to the NCAF campaign of £5000 to enable NCAF to continue its work towards restoring its complainant aid service;

c)NBMC to seek a meeting with the NEC to draw up a strategy to meet with UNISON sponsored MP’s to support the drafting and submission of an early day motion about the threat to complainant aid as a consequence of the CRE’s handling of the Complainant Aid programme;

d)mount a campaign calling for a judicial review into the CRE’s handling of complainant aid finances;

e)put forward a motion to relevant bodies calling for an audit of the CRE’s finances.