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Charity supporting Grenfell victims admits long-term culture of institutional racism

14 Dec 2020 News

A London charity, Westway Trust has been, and remains, institutionally racist and should have done more in the wake of the Grenfell fire tragedy according to a report.

The Tutu Foundation report was commissioned on behalf of Westway Trust and finds a legacy of institutional racism within the organisation.

The charity works in Kensington and was set up after the local community campaigned over disruption caused by the construction of the A40(M) flyover.

Following the Grenfell fire, the charity provided some support for victims, but the report is critical of some of the charity’s reaction to the tragedy.

A number of interviewees identified that given the Grenfell fire, the Trust, “should and can, do so much more”.

One interviewee stated: “The Trust had gone back to business as usual in the worst of tragedies nationally that people have ever seen [...] You often have to remind them that Grenfell happened. Why would you need to remind them that Grenfell happened?”

The focus of the review was to hear evidence relating to allegations of institutional racism within Westway Trust.

The focus was not on individuals but organisational policies and practices and the organisational cultural norms, behaviours and attitudes which underpin them.

‘We accept the recommendations laid out in the Tutu Foundation report’

Westway Trust accepts the recommendations. A spokesperson said: “Allegations of institutional racism at the Trust have been made over several decades.

“These are serious allegations and needed to be heard and understood. Local citizens compelled the Trust to commission today’s report, to understand people’s experiences and criticisms and to address them in an authentic and open way.

“Westway Trust sees this as an opportunity for us to examine our culture and practices, and to set out real plans for change.

“We accept the recommendations laid out in the Tutu Foundation report. We want to be a truly inclusive organisation that is a beacon of good practice. We recognise the massive cost to individuals, communities and the whole of society when people are excluded.”

Given this report, Westway Trust will announce a new strategy. The goal of the new strategy will to be a community-centred organisation that supports the community to achieve political, economic, social, and environmental wellbeing and justice. 

'Changes necessary to bring about reparative and restorative justice'

Toby Laurent Belson, chair said: “Westway Trust apologises to our entire community. Those inside and outside of our organisation. Westway Trust is especially thankful to those who have fought so hard since 2015 to bring this issue into the light, including myself and other community trustees who now lead this organisation and members of the Community Advisory Group to the review. 

“Westway Trust is sorry for the sacrifices you have had to make to achieve your goal. We are now able to do what is right by our community and take the organisation through the changes necessary to bring about reparative and restorative justice. Those changes will take time. We look ahead to working with and representing our community as never before, so that in time we may be the organisation our community deserves.”

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