ASSIST Sheffield has settled out-of-court with a former employee who accused some of the charity trustees of “completely denying” her allegations of racism.
Ishah Jawaid joined the asylum charity in February 2019 and left in October 2020.
In a series of Twitter posts, Jawaid said the settlement process had involved “many painful and traumatic months of hard work” and outlined the litigation process.
She said that there was not sufficient action taken until she started an employment tribunal with support from her union, United Workers of the World, about allegations of racism.
Jawaid said that on raising allegations of racism about the organisation, she was accused of bringing her own “personal agenda” into the charity.
She said: “I set up the anti-oppression working group, a collective organising space created to find solutions to dismantle structural inequality that existed within the charity,” but added that she “faced resistance from some trustees”.
The former employee called for “radical action” as opposed to “virtue signalling or performative allyship”, adding that it is vital “we have honest conversations about some of the toxic aspects of the voluntary sector”.
Jawaid said since she had left the charity it had “taken steps to bring about change within the organisation” and published an anti-racist statement.
Data for the financial year ending 31 March 2020 on the Charity Commission website puts the organisation's income at £355,531 and total expenditure at £418,756. Jawaid did not publish the settlement figure.
Actions from the charity
The charity’s anti-racist statement, published earlier this month, said: “We commit to perpetual reflection at all levels in order to identify actions to tackle structural racism both internally and externally.”
It added that the charity will support the anti-oppression working group and commission a programme of training to develop a shared understanding of racism. It will also commission an external consultation to check its internal practices and make recommendations and develop and disseminate “a clear mechanism for reporting any experiences of racism within the organisation, and to treat such reports seriously and fairly”.
Graham Millar, executive director at ASSIST Sheffield, said: “ASSIST is an organisation committed to deepening anti-racist practice. We are proud of our history of challenging a hostile policy environment for people seeking asylum but we also acknowledge that as an organisation working primarily with people of colour we have a significant responsibility to tackle structural racism internally and externally.
“Systematic and structural racism is endemic in our society and it has been critical for ASSIST to acknowledge the ways in which our organisation has reinforced this. Our anti-racism statement, available on our website, outlines the actions we have been taking to continually address issues of racism internally and externally. These actions outline our commitment to ongoing learning and deep, enduring change.
“As the newly appointed executive director for the organisation, I see this work as a significant priority for ASSIST as we move forward.”