Black Community Sector and Commissioning

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2016 Community Service Group Conference
4 November 2015

This Conference believes that a strong and empowered Black community sector benefits all communities. The Black community sector often provides innovative and inclusive projects and reaches people who would otherwise remain on the margins of society. It not only provides vital services but plays an important role in capacity building, civic engagement and social inclusion. Getting experience as a management committee member is often seen as an important springboard in encouraging community participation. According to a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report by Karen Chouhan and Clarence Lusane this was not recognised by many funders who primarily focus on service delivery. They found several funding bodies and authorities with funding programmes that did not even collect ethnic monitoring data.

Southall Black Sisters (SBS) won a landmark High Court case against Ealing Council in 2008 confirming “specialist services for a racial minority from a specialist source is anti discriminatory and furthers the objectives of equality and cohesion.” SBS believes that the ‘one size fits all’ approach is based on a misguided notion of ‘community cohesion’ which regards activities carried out by a single ethnic group as separatist. Chouhan and Lusane also noted that funders had insufficient understanding of the principles and philosophy of self-organisation for minority groups. The long-accepted principles of women-only organisations had not been translated into an acceptance of Black-led organisations.

It has long been recognised that small community organisations find it difficult to access funding, particularly core funding, and that the pursuit of grants takes up a disproportionate amount of time. Black organisations perceive that they are treated unfairly by some funders, through over-scrutiny, stereotyping and inaccurate perceptions of the way in which they work. This would be exacerbated by a lack of awareness of the challenges facing the Black community sector, particularly with regard to organisational capacity.

This Conference is concerned that the continued move to commissioning of services rather than grant funding puts Black organisations at even more of a disadvantage.

The Black community sector recognises the increasing necessity and benefits of partnership approaches to funding and of providing adequate services. However, some felt that other bodies only wanted partnerships at a superficial level that did not involve a place at the decision-making table. The 2010 Compact on relations between Governments and the community sector acknowledges the Black community sector brings distinctive value to society and should have equal access to state funding. However, austerity measures now mean that available funds are increasingly insufficient to meet the capacity building needs of the Black community sector.

This Conference instructs the Community Sector Service Group Executive to:

1)Work with the relevant sections of UNISON to encourage Branches to request employers conduct full race equality monitoring of their commissioning processes;

2. Request any resulting ethnic monitoring data from Branches;

3. Share any resulting ethnic monitoring data with UNISON National Black Member’s Committee (NBMC)

4. Consult the NBMC on which Black community sector and equality organisations this information should be shared with for any future work, e.g. BTEG (Black Training and Enterprise Group), Runnymede Trust and Equanomics UK.