Resetting the relationship between local and national government. Read our Local Government White Paper

A tailored fund to help grassroots BME groups

Brighton & Hove City Council made a commitment to do more to actively challenge racial inequality and become an anti-racist city. It includes a promise to draw up an anti-racism strategy and the creation of a dedicated community fund for BME community groups. This case study forms part of the health inequalities hub.

Engaging and supporting BME community groups is a vital part of reducing health inequalities. But traditional routes of accessing funding can be difficult for some grassroots organisations either because of cultural or logistical reasons.  

Brighton & Hove City Council has established a new fund aimed at addressing some of those barriers. It is part of a wider push to create a “anti-racist” city. 

The city’s anti-racist pledge 

In the summer of 2020 Brighton & Hove City Council made a commitment to do more to actively challenge racial inequality and become an anti-racist city. It came off the back of the evidence emerging early in the pandemic about how BME groups were being disproportionately affected. 

The pledge is basically a commitment by the council to use its resources, power and influence to reduce both health and the wider inequalities people from BME backgrounds face.  

It includes a promise to draw up an anti-racism strategy and work is progressing on that in partnership with the Community Advisory Group, which represents BME groups in the city. 

It also involves a number of specific commitments, including supporting BME businesses through council procurement, working collaboratively with other public bodies and celebrating legacies which full reflect the city’s values and population. 

It is still early days, but already practical changes are being made. One of the first steps, which actually predated the publication of the pledge, was the creation of a dedicated community fund for BME community groups.

The new fund to support BME groups 

The £25,000 package of grants was created last year from the council’s wider Engagement Fund. Groups could apply for up to £2,000 of funding and in the end 25 organisations received funding for projects aimed at reducing isolation, helping residents stay connected and active.  

Among those awarded grants were:  

  • A Seat At The Table, a BME special education needs support group  
  • The Sussex Indian Punjabi Society to help people socialise online 
  • Salaam FC to support healthy exercise and football training sessions for young people aged 12 to 16 from predominantly African and Middle Easter heritage 
  • The Black and Minority Ethnic Community Partnership 50 Plus to support activities for older people 

The success of the scheme has convinced the council to run it again this year. But in organising the fund the council has made changes to its normal practices to ensure it is as accessible as possible. 

A webinar was run in advance to promote the funding and explain how the bidding process worked and further help provided to help them bid if necessary. 

A mechanism was also put in place to help those groups that did not have their own bank accounts. Third Sector Manager John Reading said: “Some of these groups are really small and run by volunteers. They were the sort of groups that might not have applied previously as they didn’t have their own bank account. 

“Because of the auditing requirements around this we needed to pay the funds into an official bank account so BME umbrella groups effectively acted as the banker for them. 

What it made us realise was that we needed to adjust the way we were working so that we could reach as many groups as possible. Established groups are usually well able to apply for funding, but some grassroots groups are not.

Schools, street names and statues 

Other steps are also being taken. The council is working with the Educators of Colour Collective to run training and workshops for school staff on unconscious bias, discrimination, white privilege, institutional racism and racial literacy. More than 50 schools have been involved so far. 

The council has also launched a review of all plaques, monuments, statues and street names on public land, while BAME communities are being consulted on what new street art installations could be commissioned to celebrate the BME community. 

The council has sought to improve its own internal processes too. It has established an internal fair and inclusive team to provide staff with a “safe space” to raise and report issues of discrimination. The team includes HR staff and BME staff representatives. Meanwhile, a diversity recruitment consultant has been appointed to specifically target BME communities. 

Councillor Steph Powell, Co-chair of the Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee, added: “We know there is much to do and becoming an anti-racist city means listening to a diversity of perspectives and insights as we seek to make genuine progress. 

This is a long-term process of systemic change - dismantling centuries of structural racism within institutions, communities and our broader culture.