'Call For Action' On Inequalities Experienced By Minority Communities

The inequalities experienced by Belfast's black, Asian, minority ethnic and Traveller communities, should act as a "call to action" for Belfast City Council and its partners, according to new research published today.

The study, which was commissioned by the Council, Belfast Trust and the Public Health Agency (PHA), was carried out by a team of researchers who interviewed more than 100 Belfast residents from a minority ethnic or migrant background.

Many of those who took part in the study said they continued to face racism, isolation and poverty with this impacting on how they participate in civic, political, social and economic life.

The findings were launched at Belfast City Hall today.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Tina Black said: "No one could deny that this research makes for very sobering reading and it should be a call to action for everyone in the room here today, including Council. Clearly we can, and should do better; and today we gave a commitment that we will."

"Belfast is a diverse city, and I'm proud to say we are a City of Sanctuary; but the experiences documented in this report challenges us and our partners to reflect on what it means for our organisations, and to make sure we work together to do all we can to create a city of equals and address issues around racism, prejudice and discrimination," Councillor Black added.

"Council has already started work on a Race Equality Action Plan and our community plan for the city (the Belfast Agenda) has an inclusive and diverse city at its heart. We have also adopted the Race at Work Charter which gives a commitment to promoting racial equality in our workforce and we are reviewing underrepresentation in our own staff. We will also look at identifying any inequalities in service delivery, and looking at how we can ensure our decision-making is inclusive.

"The findings also show what we already know; that people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, and Travellers, are not represented in key institutions and boardrooms, so there is much work to be done to remove the barriers that exist and encourage better participation in all aspects of civic life."

Some of the key findings of the study were:

• inequalities exist across education, work and access to services

• children and young people are at risk of being bullied because of their ethnicity, faith and/or background

• people born outside Northern Ireland find it difficult to have their qualifications and skills recognised

• lack of housing stock is a barrier to integration and inclusion

• many residents from minority ethnic/migrant communities are trapped in low-paid jobs and find it difficult to progress in their career, very often because of institutional inequalities and barriers

Dr Joanne McClean, director of public health at the Public Health Agency, said: "The PHA strongly welcomes this report and its recommendations. Any real change to the complex issues experienced by people from ethnic minorities will require genuine partnership working across organisations and across sectors, and we are already looking into how we can work in a more integrated way to address some of these key issues."

Bryan Nelson, co-director of public health at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, added: "Belfast Health and Social Care Trust welcomes the publication of this research and we are committed to ensuring that health and social care services are accessible to everyone."

One of the speakers at today's event was Dr Livingstone Thompson, chair of the African Caribbean Support Organisation NI (ACSONI).

Welcoming the report, Dr Thompson said: "We are particularly keen to see how the issues, especially relating to housing will be addressed. Mitigating the risk of destitution is particularly imperative."

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