Challenging the social inequalities faced by people of colour in our communities

By Emily Green

As we reflect on our recent unconscious bias training, we want to shine a spotlight on the barriers to public services and opportunities faced by people of colour in our communities today. These barriers leave people of colour more susceptible to discrimination and social isolation - and this needs to change. 

To support this change, we are first looking to the inner workings of our organisation. It is useful to understand racism as something that has unconsciously seeped into all of our mindsets as a result of a racist culture extending back to colonial times - exacerbated by what we see on the television, read in the news and study in history classes at school. Although some racism is blatant and intentional, much is unintentional and subtle - but can be just as harmful. It is not a question of being a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ person, but an issue that needs to be addressed within us all, individually and collectively. 

Aspire has been working to actively and continuously challenge social inequalities born out of racism, and reflect on our own unconscious biases. We have publicly shared the results of our racial pay gap analysis, and formed an inclusion and diversity group tasked with making Aspire a safe and representative place for all.

Like many forms of social injustice, poverty and racial inequality magnify each other. In addition to being more likely to experience cycles of poverty, offending and homelessness statistically, people of colour face being disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and the resulting recession. By October 2020, in black, asian and minority ethnic communities, 22% of those previously furloughed during lockdown had lost their jobs, compared with 9% for the general population

Two of Aspire's employment projects are combating unemployment and linking people who face increased barriers to equal opportunity with community resources and training. Our Refugee Pathway Project provides tailored work-based ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), employment support, work-based language and communication skills development. This improves participant employability, and empowers a sense of community, crucial for tackling the isolation felt by many in our communities today. 

Our Community Employment Support Project (CESP) - backed by Oxford City Council - works to connect people with opportunities for training and work experience, to improve future employment prospects and connect them with supportive communities. Colleagues have found that project participants were struggling with exclusion from employment long before the pandemic, with perceived biases against people of colour, or those for whom English is not a first language.

To combat these biases, Aspire’s Social Recruitment Enterprise Hire2Inspire offers Inclusive Recruitment workshops, celebrating diversity and promoting a more inclusive local economy as they support employers to improve their recruitment practices, and introduce diverse talent to their workforces.

The first steps have been taken, and we will continue to find ways to consciously promote equality in the services we deliver. Aspire is committed to an ongoing process of reflection and action that hopes to celebrate inclusion, in both our internal workings as an organisation, and our external impact on the communities we work with.