Charity that supported Grenfell victims blighted by 'long term culture of institutional racism'

A London community charity has become the latest voluntary sector organisation to admit to “institutional racism”, within its organisation.

Westway Trust, which supports communities in North Kensington, London, including those impacted by the Grenfell Tower tragedy, had commissioned an independent review into institutional racism.

This found that it had a “long term culture of institutional racism” against the area’s African Caribbean community. This had been highlighted over several decades but ignored.

The review, which was carried out by the Tutu Foundation, found “continuing mistrust and suspicion” in the charity’s relations with the its local community.

“At a point in its history, the Trust lost sight of the reason for its establishment and early focus on community and inclusivity,” found the review.

“This resulted from an increasingly pragmatic approach as to how it viewed the land and a historical lack of diverse representation at trustee and senior management level.”

Westway Trust has pledged to take action and says it sees the findings “as an opportunity for us to examine our culture and practices, and to set out real plans for change”.

“We accept the recommendations laid out in the Tutu Foundation report. We want to be a truly inclusive organisation that is a beacon of good practice. We recognise the massive cost to individuals, communities and the whole of society when people are excluded.”

The review was focused on allegations of institutional racism within Westway Trust looking at policies and organisation wide behaviour rather than specific individuals.

The charity is to develop a strategy to address racism and be “a community-centred organisation”.

"Today Westway Trust apologises to our entire community. Those inside and outside of our organisation,” said the charity’s chair Toby Laurent Belson.

“We are now able to do what is right by our community and take the organisation through the changes necessary to bring about reparative and restorative justice. Those changes will take time. We look ahead to working with and representing our community as never before, so that in time we may be the organisation our community deserves.”

Among those to welcome the report is Sheraine Williams, who had resigned as a trustee after being excluded from property and finance decision making, but has since returned to a new trustee role.

“Progress has been a long and painful process,” said Williams.

“The fight for change happened internally and externally. It is hard for people to understand just how traumatic it can be to be on the receiving end of institutional racism whilst trying to be professional and do a good job. I’d like to pay tribute to other black female trustees before me who paved the way for the start of this change.

“I am excited to return as a trustee, and to be a part of revolutionising the new Trust. We call on the whole community of North Kensington to support and steward the Trust into a genuinely purposeful, new community-centred anchor.”

Last week Save the Children UK promised to take action to improve equality, diversity and inclusion after discovering that almost a third of those in its organisation feel excluded or oppressed.

Earlier this year Versus Arthritis and the NCVO were among other voluntary sector organisations to look to address institutional racism.

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