Race Equality Week: Event to celebrate Sheffield diversity brings community groups into town hall

Sheffield City Council invited members of community groups into the Town Hall to celebrate the city’s diversity during Race Equality Week as part of a conversation on how to deliver better racial equality.
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The Celebrating Diversity networking event brought together Sheffield City Council staff with community groups, campaigns, businesses and the voluntary, community and faith sector. More than 30 stalls at the busy event provided information about work that focuses on racial equality and bringing down barriers as well as careers opportunities.

The council also took the opportunity to update people about its response to the city’s Race Equalities Commission which delivered a report last July and its commitment to improve outcomes for both its employees and communities it serves over the next three years.

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Council leader Terry Fox said: “For me, as leader of the council, we’ve got certain commitments coming out of the Race Equalities Commission report. I wouldn’t be prepared to be letting it just go on the shelf.”

Sheffield City Council leader Coun Terry Fox at a Celebrating Diversity event held in Sheffield Town HallSheffield City Council leader Coun Terry Fox at a Celebrating Diversity event held in Sheffield Town Hall
Sheffield City Council leader Coun Terry Fox at a Celebrating Diversity event held in Sheffield Town Hall

He said he welcomes people pushing and challenging on what action is being taken to tackle racial inequalities and discrimination as a result of the report. Coun Fox said he also wants staff to feel safe to come and discuss issues that are affecting them.

Darnall Labour councillor Zahira Naz and community services manager Adeel Zahman organised the event. Coun Naz said: “This is to launch the response to the Race Equalities Commission. Quite a lot of people are saying ‘where’s the response, what’s going on’?”

‘Difficult conversations’

She added: “We wanted to do something for Race Equality Week and celebrate diversity. A lot of community groups have never come into the Town Hall before to showcase all of the work they are doing. We can have a conversation, learning from each other.”

Sheffield City Council chief executive Kate Josephs, South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Alan Billings and Green Party councillor Maleiki Haybe, speaking at a Celebrating Diversity event held in Sheffield Town HallSheffield City Council chief executive Kate Josephs, South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Alan Billings and Green Party councillor Maleiki Haybe, speaking at a Celebrating Diversity event held in Sheffield Town Hall
Sheffield City Council chief executive Kate Josephs, South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Alan Billings and Green Party councillor Maleiki Haybe, speaking at a Celebrating Diversity event held in Sheffield Town Hall
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She said the council can’t work alone, it has to involve communities in deciding what needs to change. Internally, the council is delivering a lot of training, team meetings and discussions with the senior management team.

“Staff will be having those difficult conversations about those issues that concern them about racism within the council,” said Coun Naz.

Mr Zahman said the council wants to embrace the outstanding work going on in communities to break down barriers and tackle inequalities: “Lots of them are at a grass roots level that do fantastic work but don’t shout up about the work they deliver.”

He said it was important for council teams and other major city organisations to share information about what they are doing in their organisations to share what they are doing to tackle racial inequalities in the city and raise awareness of that work.

Adeel Zahman, one of the organisers of a Celebrating Diversity event held in Sheffield Town HallAdeel Zahman, one of the organisers of a Celebrating Diversity event held in Sheffield Town Hall
Adeel Zahman, one of the organisers of a Celebrating Diversity event held in Sheffield Town Hall
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City council chief executive Kate Josephs said that making a commitment for Sheffield to become an anti-racist city is not just a one week a year commitment but one that must be embraced every day.

Police changes

She asked for people to be patient because the council needs to get the basic foundations in place if it is going to deliver on its commitment to ending racial inequalities and improving the life chances of people who live and work in the city.

Ms Josephs said that an action plan is being produced so that the city can hold the council to account.

A Sheffield City of Sanctuary banner on display at a Celebrating Diversity event held in Sheffield Town HallA Sheffield City of Sanctuary banner on display at a Celebrating Diversity event held in Sheffield Town Hall
A Sheffield City of Sanctuary banner on display at a Celebrating Diversity event held in Sheffield Town Hall

South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Alan Billings said: “The police are committed to doing what we can to implement the recommendations in the Race Equalities Commission report. We’re on with that and there is an internal and external focus.”

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He said there has been a huge amount of recruitment but the force is still struggling to attract non-white officers. The force needs to look at issues such as stop and search and how officers relate to people of all cultures, added Dr Billings.

In his speech, Green Party councillor Maleiki Haybe challenged the idea that change needs to take time, saying: “We’ve already taken our time.”

He added: “Everybody could come up today with one action they can do to make this city more diverse.”

Community centre

Mums United, one of the community groups represented at the event, were sharing the news that they are about to open a community centre on The Wicker in March.

A Sheffield Stand Up To Racism stall at a Celebrating Diversity event held in Sheffield Town HallA Sheffield Stand Up To Racism stall at a Celebrating Diversity event held in Sheffield Town Hall
A Sheffield Stand Up To Racism stall at a Celebrating Diversity event held in Sheffield Town Hall
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Zaira Hussain said that the centre would include an advice bureau, charity shop, Steel Champs gym with women’s fitness classes, meeting spaces for hire and workshops for children.

She said that a soup kitchen would also run twice a day and the centre would host coffee mornings.

Another group working with families is the United Women Affiliation based at 12 O’Clock Court on Attercliffe Road. Managing director Dr Hawa Yatera said that the group supports mainly single mothers and others in underprivileged communities who have language barriers to overcome.

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They offer support with complex needs and wellbeing issues and help dealing with bureaucracy. Dr Yatera said: “If we collectively support them, the mothers will be mentally and emotionally well to support their children to do well in schools.”

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This week is also National Apprenticeship Week. Tariq Ali, a project support officer in the council’s apprenticeship team, said that they offer apprenticeships in roles such as administration, customer services, housing and construction roles.

He said that the employers they work with take young people on after their apprenticeships end, so they are not ‘binned off’. Tariq said he wanted to encourage young people from minority groups to apply.

“They don’t think they’ll be looked at and they don’t think they have the right skill set. We try to get them more training and traineeships and we’re trying to have that conversation to encourage everybody to apply.”