Celebrating with the Sisters

Last month Southall Black Sisters (SBS) won a dramatic victory in the High Court when, after two days of proceedings, Ealing Council withdrew from the case.

The case followed Ealing Council’s attempt to introduce a generic borough-wide service for all victims of domestic violence, a move that threatened the future of SBS’ service for black and minority ethnic (BME) women in Ealing. The judge, Lord Justice Moses, reiterated what Government minister Vera Baird MP had already said in my adjournment debate in the House of Commons, that ‘There is no dichotomy between funding specialist services and cohesion; equality is necessary for cohesion to be achieved’.

SBS took Ealing Council to the High Court for not having proper regard to race equality legislation and other equalities duties or its own policies when it made its decision to end funding to SBS. It failed to carry out a full equality impact assessment and, when it did, it was only to justify its decision.

This outcome in the High Court shows that the council and its Tory leader, Jason Stacey, have shown a complete lack of understanding and sensitivity on the race and equalities issues involved and, as a result, a sizeable sum of taxpayers’ money – probably close to the £100,000 the council funds Southall Black Sisters with annually – has been wasted. If the council had listened to suggestions of Labour councillors earlier in the year to fund both a specialist and general service, all this could have been avoided. It is sad that SBS has had to spend its energies fighting for its own survival instead of helping the many vulnerable women in the community who need its support. I hope the council will now see sense and fund Southall Black Sisters as a specialist BME domestic violence service, along with a separate general service for all other women suffering domestic violence in the borough. I congratulate Southall Black Sisters on its successful campaign and for the excellent work that it does for some of the most vulnerable women in society. Long may it continue.

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