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BME London Landlords collaboration, arguably the most significant collaborative initiative in UK social housing today, has been a driver behind the Build London Partnership and Leadership 2025. Overcoming the intrinsic challenges that face many strategic partnerships on the journey to create meaningful social change BME London Landlords are now looking towards creating new offers that the marketplace can ill afford to ignore.

Picture a scenario where 14 Chief Exectutives of BME led regulated housing organisations (successful civil society organisations with an aggregate of over 250 years of operation experience) came together to meet their collective organisational aims which has the imperative of highlighting and meeting the pressing needs of the BME sections of UK society, historically underserved in UK from a BME leadership context.

Whilst negotiating how to effectively work in collaboration, at the same time reconciling how to forge a lucid future for their respective organisations, be dynamic and achieve better value for money; multiple issues directly affecting BME communities hit the national headlines and then played out in the media and became a focus for analysis on what the reality was like for BME communities living in modern Britain. Calling the bluff of neo liberal commentator’s who were calling for a pushback against race and identity politics.

First Grenfell

On its watch, BME London Landlords observed, as we all did the critical backlash against the inept institutional response to the Grenfell Fire Tragedy that saw a collective public outpouring of goodwill, and support for the charitable acts, from the inspired local community’s rescue and relief effort that was mobilized organically. This was the total opposite to the well documented Royal Kensington and Chelsea’s response, who failed to demonstrate the necessary organisational/corporate humanity and humility in its failure to deploy adequate service provision needed to its own residents in the aftermath of this fateful collective loss of life. Grenfell has become seminal the moment in modern British history, that is now causing a continued focused analysis, illustrating the fractious reality of life for different the classes, migrant and minority groups in the UK, on a social, economic, and political level. The lights were turned on to the democracy deficit that exists in the UK, especially as it applied to BME communities. Raising many questions of how to meet needs of such communities moving forward.

Then Windrush

As the 75th anniversary of  HRT Empire Windrush approached, another set of headlines turned our heads. The Windrush scandal, which is still not resolved, highlighted the systematic unjust treatment of the Home Office’s “hostile environment” policy, and the many cases of Black British Citizens, denied their status, rights, benefits with a number of documented cases of individuals actually deported to the Caribbean. The resultant national public outcry sought accountability, with the crisis being described as a national shame. The scandal created a sentiment where the nation the discovered the need to acknowledge only the contributions that Black and Minority Ethnic communities have made to the UK both historically (in WWI and WWII/ Britains “greatest hour of need”), but the labour force and economic contribution Caribbean people made rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, and the significant cultural input that had been continually made from the post-war era to this very day.

Uncertainty after the European Referendum

The uncertainty of what unfolded in June 2016 in terms of the spike in hate crimes and UK political governance after the European referendum, the sense of the divided nation around what type of nation the UK would be after Brexit has become a matter of concern for all. With political instability and the lack of a sense of what the future holds, has always invariably led to an unnerving focus on historical entitlement and the dynamics of power in society. With the lack of diversity at senior leadership levels in all sectors of UK society, whether or not BME London Landlords wanted to play politics it became clear that the group’s hands were being forced to move towards becoming advocates for change. This in itself demands becoming more influential, more innovative, and makes it a default for the group to make the case for more resources to enable BME led civil society organisation’s to play an increasing role in shaping a more equitable UK for the future.

Race Disparity Unit Provides The Data

Former Prime Minister Theresa May’s Race Disparity Audit first published by her No.10 Policy Unit in 2017 being the first comprehensive attempt to quantify the disparities between BME communities (13% UK population) and white communities (87% UK population) in the digital era highlighted differences that were far-reaching. Indicators relating to Asians and Blacks regarding homelessness, various socio-economic factors such as being most likely to rent, live in social housing, having lower levels of confidence in the Police and criminal justice system; Blacks being over three times more likely to be arrested, remanded in custody (locked up in prison, rather than be given bail). Average Custodial Sentence Length 7 months more that white counterparts; Black women more likely to have experienced anxiety or depression in the last week, Black men most likely to have a psychotic disorder in the last year. White adults experienced better outcomes from psychological therapies than other minority groups. Black adults being more likely to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act. In the Public sector workforce ethnic minorities concentrated in the lower ranks and grades.

This data collected by the Race Disparity Unit (RDU), the ethnicity facts and figures drills down on injustice. This information now provides the platform for society to start tackling these differences strategically and become more incisive in providing solutions to make effective change.

Unsung BME Housing Sector have been playing a key role in our communities for over 30 years

Those in the know recognise that the BME Social Housing sector is well placed to take on the emergent opportunities to become key players in shaping a more diverse and inclusive society. James Brokenshire Secretary of State for MHCLG at the House of Lords reception June 2018 to celebrate 30 years of the sector gave credence to the role the BME Housing sector has played in creating cohesive communities against all the odds, through a wide spectrum of political climates, where multi-cultural thinking has been undermined, and a post-racial UK society has been promulgated.

30 Years of BME Housing – House of Lords Reception with James Brokenshire Secretary of State for MHCLG

Brokenshire praised BME Housing for the “huge strides in not just promoting equality and diversity within the housing market, but also helping build the strong, integrated communities that we all want to see.”
Brokenshire called on the sector to “work together” with government to achieve a shared goal.
“Your strong local links and presence in some of our most deprived communities, leave you well-placed to do this and to also undertake valuable work to help recent migrants and refugees settle and integrate.
“You are to be highly commended for this and the wider work your housing associations do to drive innovation and good practice on community issues and to also provide diverse role models at a senior level.”

Where did the BME Housing Organisations come from?

BME registered social landlords, (of which there exists around 30 organisations nationwide) mostly formed after the urban disturbances in the early 1980’s after Lord Scarman’s report into the causes the riots, have weathered the storms of countless government administrations, in the highly regulated social housing sector to play a crucial role in supporting shaping a cohesive society. BME London Landlords, a collaboration of 14 of the London based registered social housing organisations are the legacy of that progressive initiative which gained momentum from community pressure and activism for a greater stake in UK society; challenging government bodies of that time which saw substantial investment to establish the BME housing sector.

BME London Landlords – Collaboration of 14 BME Led Housing Associations

Austerity measures dissipated needed specialist provision creating even greater disparity

Austerity measures following the 2008 banking crisis, dissipated almost all specialist provision such as community programmes and projects aimed at BME beneficiaries that had traditionally been supported by a mix of grant revenue funding for Local Authorities and Charitable Trusts going back several decades. Diminishing Local Authority budgets and continual searing cuts, saw not only the end of grant revenue funding but a transition to Local Authorities’ commissioning, in what turned out become a competitive based marketplace leaving Black and BME Led community development provision decimated. The impact of which has been immeasurable. See stats regarding, mental health, social services, exclusion from schools, social mobility, poverty, criminal justice system, access to transport, housing, quality employment etc… etc..

BME Housing has demonstrated sound governance, solid financial performance within the highly regulated social housing sector

Sustainable businesses with sound asset portfolios facilitated by a rent revenue model, that compares favourably to similar organisations in the smaller charitable sector. Proximity, networks, sustainability and durability with urban communities, suggests BME registered social landlords have a lot going for them; and are about to be discovered as a conduit or channel to urban renewal.

The BME Housing sector’s collective knowledge, skills and experience of reconciling a highly regulated quasi-government sector, balanced with a solid track record effectively operating amongst communities with some of the most challenging circumstances in the UK. As efficient performing Housing Organisations BME HA’s have the potential to become the model of modern dynamic community facing enterprises.

Where else are we going to find organisations, situated at the heart of BME communities who have demonstrated sound governance and financial management that are positioned to leverage the best of the UK’s diverse society at a time when it is most needed. With our political system is about to face its sternest test, as it struggles to function efficiently as it suffers from exposure to the complexity of the Brexit debacle which created a divided electorate.

BME Social Landlords collaboration initiative explores new BME Social Impact Offer to enable value creation and social innovation

BME London Landlords dynamic collaborative initiative, now 3 years old, is evolving its mission from its initial focus of social housing, to respond to a broadened brief by creating an outcome-focused BME Led Social Impact Offer. With the lack of diversity at senior leadership levels in Local Authorities in London and the UK in general BME London Landlords have a default imperative, looking at their own evolving business models, where the boards of their BME housing organisations have always explored ways to become more effective and efficient in using their organisations’ resource base and networks to enable value creation and social innovation to enable the dynamic community renewal process that is required to meet the real challenges for BME communities living in UK urban cities.

BME Leadership is not just needed it is the imperative for the UK

On the back of Grenfell, The Windrush Scandal, The Knife Crime Construct, communities are remonstrating at a perceived lack of action to find solutions to injustices felt, meet the need to feel included, be part of the decision making process beyond electing politicians to Westminster, have equal access to the economic opportunities that society has.

Chief Executives of the BME London Landlords collaboration already represent the vanguard against the acute lack of diversity in leadership senior levels of Housing Associations. To make the best contribution to UK society, an imperative challenge to a power dynamic that is now finding it hard to help itself to effect a level of equity required that is by each passing day is seemingly well overdue. The challenges of disparities that face Black and other BME Communities have to be arrested. Although coming from a social housing sector BME Housing organisation with the implicit mission to serve the communities that saw them established, cannot wait in the wings, and be passive victims of an ever-changing political environment, but must take the lead in shaping an inclusive society moving forward, especially where their primary stakeholders and beneficiaries futures are at risk. This is the rationale behind BME London’s thinking moving forward.

BME London is already demonstrating that there is no lack in the suitably qualified, leaders, community groups, organisations or practitioners to make the dynamic change needed in the UK. What is needed is the effective large scale intervention that can deliver the large scale outcome-focused initiatives that enables, and facilitates the willing generation of black and brown-skinned British citizens who are already rising to the challenge to meet the existent and forthcoming challenges head-on.