Arhag to push BME work beyond housing

Specialist association gets £1m from the ‘tampon tax’ to fund  a series of projects for BME women, including education, employment and escape from gender-based violence.

Arhag Housing Association and its hub of partners has been given a huge financial boost after winning £1m from the Tampon Tax Fund to pay for its work.

The BME landlord intends to move beyond housing to offer a range of services with partners to migrants and refugees in the UK.

These ambitions can now be met with £1m from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, following a successful application for funding from £15m raised in taxes on tampons.

The Tampon Tax Fund exists because under European Union rules the government must charge VAT on women’s sanitary products – money raised through the tax goes into a fund to support women’s organisations.

Arhag plan to use the money to spearhead a series of projects for BME women, including education, employment and helping females to escape gender-based violence.

The projects support a wide range BME women and girls requiring various interventions along a spectrum from prevention, early intervention and crisis management all the way to employment and training support, capacity building and empowerment.

There will be a health centre, anticipated to be run by Doctors of the World, providing vital  care to patients, many of whom are unlikely to be registered with GPs.

The project will also work with BME women and girls to:

  • Alleviate poverty and social exclusion by building and strengthening resilience
  • Increase access to decision making, control over resources, information and technology.
  • Provide pathways to integration and successful participation in economic life
  • Foster engagement and participation in civic life.

The work will be carried out by Arhag and its partners including social enterprise Olmec, which runs its award-winning RISE into Employment scheme, Doctors of the World, Migrants’ Rights Network, Praxis Community Projects and IKWRO, Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation.

BME National, a network of over 60 BME housing associations operating across England also supports the project and will facilitate access to its residents and local communities to enable the delivery of service user engagement programme as well as the exchange of good practice.

Arhag chief executive, Cedric Boston said: “This is vital funding which will ensure that the next stage of our plans to expand services to vulnerable migrants and refugees in the capital will begin on a very stable financial footing.

“The cumulative impact of changes to taxes, benefits and public spending on services since 2010 has had a disproportionate effect on Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) women, especially as it compounds with already existing structural inequalities.”

He cited employment rates among the BME population which are 12% lower than for White counter- parts, low numbers of migrants and refugees registered with GPs and confusion and fear caused by Universal Credit.

Boston said: “Arhag is undergoing an exciting phase of development, by placing non-housing activities on a par with our services to tenants and establishing a Hub of services for the most vulnerable members of the BME community.

“This is a new long-term partnership  because we will be working together, sharing back room services and the same building to offer holistic and improved services to M&R. Rent for partners are substantially below market rates and will gradually include shared benefits like wifi, IT support and human resources.”

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