Photo showing hands of different ages and races clasped together in support
As part of its commitment to tackling inequality, Wokingham Borough Council is supporting the new, independent Residents Equality Forum (REF), and has allocated £5,000 to support the development of small community/voluntary organisations in the borough.
Any new and/or small community organisations/initiatives or an individual who wishes to form a community group can now apply for a maximum grant of £500.
This can help with things like developing their new organisation, holding community cohesion events, increasing education or employment opportunities of protected characteristic communities in the borough etc.
Who can apply
Eligible groups must represent the needs and aspirations of diverse groups or actions such as:
- LGBT+ communities
- Women and young girls
- Disabled people
- Older people
- Younger people
- Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic groups
Organisations can apply through the council’s website. The application form is easy to use and three representatives from the REF will be assessing them on a case-by-case basis. The REF expects to award the grants in early September 2022.
Giving groups a meaning and powerful voice
Emma Cantrell, CEO of First Days and Chair of the Residents Equality Forum, said: “The REF gives groups in the community a meaningful and powerful voice, which leads to real change for residents. We are passionate that the REF is about learning and action, so we are very excited to be able to award our first round of community grants, which will take away some of the financial barriers to action that smaller groups and organisations face.
"We hope to continue to engage as many organisations and groups as possible so that together we can have a huge positive impact in our Borough.”
The REF will provide representatives from local community groups with a platform for change to create a more inclusive borough by discussing the needs and aspirations of communities, responding to hot topics that impact their communities and informing and shaping the council’s services.
Part of the wider Equality Plan
The initiative is part of the council’s wider Equality Plan 2021-25, where it has pledged to act on its commitments to equality, diversity and inclusion in the way it plans, delivers and shapes its services.
The REF is independent from the council, and entirely community-led, giving residents and groups the chance to talk about local issues and influence decision making.
The forum has met three times so far, with representatives from the following groups attending: Kaleidoscopic, CLASP, SEND Voices Wokingham, The Wayz Youth, Involve, All Churches, Berkshire Active, Oxfordshire Mind, Aisha Mosque, Pakistani Association, Kimel Foundation, WBC Involved Tenants, First Days Children’s Charity, Refugee Support Group, the Wokingham Youth MP, Wokingham Pride, SupportU and the African Caribbean Society.
Engaging local groups
The council has been engaging with local groups to ensure all communities, particularly those that match the nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act, are represented in the REF.
New members are welcome to join, so long as they are from a represented community or voluntary organisation. Simply email the council’s Community Engagement Consultant, Arif Sain, on firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
Rachel Bishop-Firth, executive member for equalities inclusion and fighting poverty, said: “Working with the community is fundamental to what we do, especially when it comes to equality. With a Residents Equality Forum in place, we can work even closer with key communities to ensure we get our policies right and that we shape services that address the lived experience of all residents.
"We would encourage any community groups that support the aims of the REF to get in touch to talk about involvement, and also to make use of these grants that are now available.”
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