There is a critical need for BME housing associations, but perhaps not with the same focus as before. Being a BME association means using our role, influence, power and resources to provide the opportunities BME people need to improve their lives.
In some instances, allocating BME households a decent home will provide the solid platform for them to launch a transition to success in their lives. But today one does not need BME associations only to fulfil that function. I believe that in urban areas, mainstream associations do it just as well.
Because of discrimination, many BME households need other services, additional support, the right opportunities to improve their lives and the encouragement to take them up. Facilitating tailored assistance and providing opportunities for BME people to progress should be the remit of the modern BME association, and Unity has grasped that reality.
For us, helping someone set up a business, secure a job or advance their career prospects is fighting inequality directly.
“Facilitating tailored assistance and providing opportunities for BME people to progress should be the remit of the modern BME association, and Unity has grasped that reality”
Over the next five years, Unity will be further developing our expertise. For instance, this year we are scouring the community to find people who aspire to set up a business but are yet to achieve that goal. They will receive professional advice and technical support to produce a business plan. The most talented entrepreneurs will be eligible for a higher level of support, including a wage to get their businesses up and running.
We can do this because our social purpose is not the same as our core business, and it is our social purpose to improve the life chances of BME people that drives us. So we embrace the challenge of providing, enabling and facilitating the additional opportunities, support, encouragement and services that BME people need to overcome discrimination, while striving to provide our tenants with excellent housing services.
We were created to push back the boundaries that define what housing associations can and should do. Tomorrow may require something different from us, but I know we will adapt.
Cedric Boston, chief executive, Unity Homes and Enterprise