16 August 2021 by Stephen Delahunty
An employee at an asylum charity has accepted an undisclosed out-of-court settlement after she said she was told her allegations of racism within the charity were part of a “personal agenda”.
Ishah Jawaid joined Assist Sheffield as a client support manager in February 2019.
The charity supports people who have been unsuccessful in their applications for asylum and as a result have been made destitute.
Jawaid said she began raising allegations of racism within months of starting at the charity based on things she had witnessed, heard and what she had been subjected to.
“Issues were ongoing and happened over a period of time,” she said.
She eventually left in October 2020 and subsequently made a formal complaint which resulted in legal action that was settled out of court.
Jawaid did not say how much the settlement figure was worth but in a series of posts on Twitter she said why she felt it necessary to begin the litigation process.
She said her allegations were “completely denied by some trustees” and that no action was taken until the employment tribunal process began with support from her union, United Voices of the World.
Jawaid said the lack of action caused her “significant stress” and her physical and mental health suffered as a result.
“When raising the issue of racism within the charity, I was told I was bringing my personal agenda into the organisation,” she said.
“It is vital that we have some honest conversations about some of the toxic aspects of the voluntary sector.
“We do not need virtue signalling or performative allyship, or even reform from voluntary sector leaders in Sheffield.
“We need them to take radical action. There is so much to dismantle and rebuild.”
Jawaid said that senior leaders cannot be left to bring about this change alone and encouraged all workers to join a union to help hold organisations to account, and expressed support and solidarity with others pursuing similar legal action.
Graham Millar, executive director at the charity, 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.”
Millar said these actions outlined a commitment to ongoing learning and enduring change, and as a new appointment at the charity, this work would be his priority going forward.
A spokesperson for UVW said the union would always “support our members like Ishah to speak out about racism in the third sector”.
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