The funding - announced during Race Equalities Week (5th – 11th February) - is the first major investment by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to support the work of the region’s Race Equalities Taskforce.
Aaina was established in 1997 and now engages with 2,000 people each year, with a focus on Pakistani and Bangladeshi women and their families.
The hub specialises in delivering culturally sensitive training and wellbeing support for local communities, helping people to upskill and connect with jobs and training opportunities that they would otherwise be unable to access.
The WMCA’s grant will enable more residents to benefit from the life-enhancing opportunities which Aaina offer to support families out of poverty and improve their health and wellbeing.
It will enable Aaina to extend its existing English language and digital training courses to more people, pilot a new enterprise offer for local businesses and entrepreneurs, and boost its own resilience, so that the hub can secure further external funding in the future.
The Race Equalities Taskforce and the WMCA hope to use the grant as a pilot to gain insights on how community led organisations can be supported to grow and evidence the unique role they play in supporting people from racialised (ethnic minority) communities to overcome barriers to success.
Aaina Community Hub is also one of the partners participating in the Taskforce’s Race Equality Skills Week project, which is taking place across national Race Equalities Week.
The project will see 13 key employers in the region deliver free careers insight and skills development workshops to local adults who are either unemployed or searching for better work.
The aim is to pilot activity to better connect people to opportunities and unlock the potential of communities in the West Midlands. Community organisations, local universities and colleges and the Department of Work and Pensions have all stepped forward to connect the people they engage with to the events.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, said: “Grassroots organisations like Aaina tend to know their community’s needs best - delivering valued services on a limited budget. So, by putting this funding directly into Aaina, we’re supporting more local women and their families in places like Caldmore in Walsall to get the help they need to find jobs and secure greater economic security.
“We hope to apply the lessons learnt here more widely to support even more local people in their own communities. We can look to replicate this funding approach right across our region - whether that’s through providing access to better jobs, transport and housing or helping to tackle disparities in health, education and criminal justice.
“Sadly evidence indicates that racial disparities in outcomes persist - preventing local people from all backgrounds reaching their full potential. That’s why working with diverse and under-represented communities to address these sorts of inequalities is so important if we want to boost equality of opportunity in the West Midlands in the months and years ahead.”
A’isha Khan, chief executive of Aaina Community Hub, said: “We are delighted to have been chosen by the WMCA for the Race Equalities Taskforce commitment to invest in community hubs that provide pathways into skill and enterprise for diverse communities. The grant will significantly increase the capacity of Aaina and will attract wider opportunities for growth in the short and long term.”
The West Midlands Race Equalities Taskforce was set up by the Mayor and the WMCA Board to look at the specific issues facing under-represented communities as the region becomes more ethnically diverse.
Data in the 2021 Census shows of the 2.9 million people who live in the West Midlands metropolitan area, around 1.3 million (45 per cent) did not identify as being from a White British background. This is a significant increase from the 34 per cent a decade before.
Last year, Taskforce members published their first five-year strategy which focuses on helping people in racialised communities to access and benefit from better jobs, transport and housing, and tackle disparities in education, health and criminal justice.
The strategy also aims to influence diversity among the leadership of organisations across the region to bring about lasting change.
Sharonjit Clare, the independent chair of the West Midlands Race Equalities Taskforce, said: “Aaina Community Hub is an excellent example of how community-led support empowers people and connects them to opportunities.
“I am so impressed with the work of Aaina Community Hub. They provide targeted and culturally sensitive careers and enterprise support, as well as investing in the wellbeing of women and their families, and the local area itself.
“This grant is about backing our community organisations. It will deliver immediate benefit to the people of Walsall, and help us to learn more about how we can support hubs, like Aaina, to boost their reach, resilience and impact and secure further investment.”
Cllr Kerrie Carmichael, WMCA portfolio lead for inclusive communities and leader of Sandwell Council, said: “I am delighted to champion the work of the Race Equalities Taskforce and its mission to make sure that all of our communities have a fair chance to succeed.
“Every day, community organisations like Aaina step up to take on that challenge. We need to value them and learn how to strengthen the vital work they do to support people from racialised and other disadvantaged backgrounds to access skills and job opportunities.
“I look forward to hearing how this funding has supported individuals in the forthcoming months, and about any insights we gain around how to support community led organisations across our region in the future.”
Find out more about the work of the Race Equalities Taskforce at www.wmca.org.uk/what-we-do/inclusive-communities/race-equalities-taskforce.
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