By Liz Rutherfoord, Chief Executive

The murder of George Floyd has shocked people across the world, creating a shared sense of revulsion and horror at this appalling act. It has also resonated strongly for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in this country, where racism is alive and well, albeit sometimes in a more subtle form than in the US.  

As an organisation working with some of the most vulnerable and socially excluded people in London, we share the strong sense of solidarity with protesters across the world who have seized this moment as an opportunity to effect real change. The structural inequality that dominates our society has a greater impact on BAME people, and that institutional racism affects the whole BAME population. 

There is evidence that BAME groups are disproportionately more likely to experience homelessness than the majority white population in the UK.  For example, in 2014 the Runnymede Trust found that in one London borough, black people made up 26 per cent of homeless persons, whilst making up nine per cent of the population. White people made up 24 per cent of the homelessness population, but 63.5 per cent of the total population. 

Throughout the UK, people from BAME groups are much more likely to be in poverty (i.e. to have an income of less than 60 per cent of the median household income) than white British people.  According to the Race Equality Foundation, minority ethnic groups have also historically been more likely to experience unemployment than the white majority, and to live in housing deprivation, including overcrowding and the absence of central heating. This deep-seated inequality has most recently been highlighted in the report from Public Health England this week into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities. 

George Floyd’s death is a stark reminder of the responsibility we all have to challenge and tackle racism and inequality.  While SHP is actively committed to equal opportunities and the promotion of diversity in all our services and workplaces, we and all other organisations should be asking themselves if they can do more. This includes doing all I can as CEO to ensure SHP treats all staff and clients fairly, to promote inclusion and identify any discriminatory practices we may have and to remove any obstacles to people’s progression. It also highlights the need for us to work together and use the experience of our staff and clients to ensure that both the workplace and our services respect and reflect the diversity of SHP’s community. In the coming weeks we will be to talking to our staff to explore these issues and determine how we can continue to drive positive change at SHP.