Southwark’s anti-racism roadmap – what has been done and where are we going?

19 July 2022

Southwark Council is recommitting to rooting out the racism faced by their residents and staff in the borough.

In a report that went to Cabinet (18 July), the council sets out the progress of their anti-racism work to date. It also agrees next steps to ensure this progress is sustained and driven forward to make Southwark a better and fairer borough for all.

Two years ago, the world watched on in horror at the murder of George Floyd. The subsequent global protests confirmed what had been said for years. George's death was not an isolated act. Racism is found in every community, organisation and system.

The pandemic showed again the terrible cost of inequality. Death rates from COVID-19 were highest among people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The borough was united in the face of the injustice of this reality. The council quickly embarked on Southwark Stands Together (SST). This long-term programme is about tackling racism in all its guises.

Action had to be taken. But first, the council needed to understand people of colour’s experience of living and working in the borough. They heard from over 1,500 people who helped outline key areas for the council to look at.

It is against these themes that the council has measured progress and future action in SST's second annual report. For example:

  • People told the council about the discrimination they face at work or when trying to get a job. Southwark Works is where the council offers one-to-one support for any resident looking for a job or career change. Over 80 per cent of registrations and job starts through Southwark Works were from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic people. The council is doing a full evaluation of the service to ensure equal access to high-quality jobs.
  • People told the council that they needed to work with the police to build trust and mutual understanding. They wanted to make sure the voice of communities and young people is heard by the police. The council set up a Youth Independent Advisory Group of young people aged over 14. They have held several events with police officers to discuss 'stop and search' and the effect is has on young people across Southwark and London. The Met is looking at ways to involve the group in what happens after serious incidents.
  • People said council funding was not shared equally across groups. The council reviewed and amended the ways grants are made, as well as agreeing new grants. These include a grants programme to support artists from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds in the borough. The council will draft a prospectus for their funding to explain the new, fairer processes.
  • Young people raised the issue of school exclusions with the council. These impact young people from some Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds far more than their white peers. Southwark is the first local council to launch an education inclusion charter. This strategy spells out how the council, local schools and the safeguarding board will work together to keep every child in education.

Find out more about the council’s progress in helping to tackle racism and make Southwark an equal borough.

Cllr Kieron Williams, Leader of Southwark Council, said: "Southwark Stands Together belongs to a proud history of tackling inequalities in the borough. We have built on the progress we made in the first year, though we know there is still a long way to go.

“Our anti–racist pledges have been embedded into all our work. Our schools have more resources and training to put inclusion at the heart of everything they do. Our businesses are more resilient – nearly half of those who received COVID support from the council are Black, Asian or minority ethnic-led. We are also much better connected with these businesses, with over 1,000 on our books. Our buildings and spaces better represent the communities who call Southwark home. We set up London’s first framework where a diversity of architects can bid for projects. Our new online naming bank follows an audit of statues, street names and any other links with slavery.

“We know change does not happen overnight – that we will not eradicate racism and discrimination in a flash. We know this will take each one of us to play our part. But together we can do it.”

For more on the council’s anti-racist work and projects, please visit: southwark.gov.uk/southwarkstandstogether

Page last updated: 19 July 2022