At 1E we don’t just think it’s important to give something back to the local community, we enjoy it too. In fact, 20% of our employees do something charitable on company time at least once a week. One example is Barbara Karayi, Director and Board Member at 1E, who has volunteered as a case worker at a legal advice service in Ealing, west London, for two and a half years.
The Ealing Equality Council offers free legal advice, community advice, and hate crime support to local residents. As a charity it relies on generous donations, which allow it to employ two full-time and two part-time staff, and is supported by a large pool of volunteers throughout the week, and at drop-in clinics every other Saturday. As Ealing lacks a Citizens Advice Bureau, EEC is the area’s premier source of free legal advice to residents.
“An average day – if such a thing exists! – will involve speaking with around 15 clients, either by telephone or face-to-face. Around half of those have issues that can be resolved there and then, the other half will have cases that are a bit more complex, and require repeat visits,” says Barbara.
“I advise on a wide range of issues, such as benefits and welfare, housing issues including evictions and rogue landlords, and some immigration cases. As we don’t turn anyone away, we do come across illegal immigrants, trafficked people and undocumented British people.
“There is a constant flow of information between our volunteers, and we talk a lot, as it is important we communicate effectively with each other to remain informed about changes, client communication, and so on.
“Our work is about levelling the playing field. Our society is skewed against the powerless and the poor. Sadly, we are ever busier due to the closure of other local resources as a result of Government cutbacks, and the lack of availability of affordable rented accommodation.”
In addition to their client facing work, EEC is heavily involved in the debate at a higher policy level, through seminars, policy work, and meeting with officials. Recently, to mark Hate Crime Awareness Week, London’s Deputy Mayor Stephen Greenhalgh, of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, met two EEC clients. The event was a big success, with Borough Commander of Hounslow, deputy leader of the council, and the director of EEC also in attendance.
With its historic roots in promoting racial equality, EEC believe it is vitally important to offer a service which meets the specific needs of different hate crime victims: victims of race hate crime, faith hate crime, homophobic or transphobic attacks, and those targeted because of their disability, learning disability or mental health issues (a growing national issue of concern). For this reason EEC are partners in the Hounslow Hate Crime Support Service, which aims to provide support to individuals who feel they have been the target of hate crime, and raising awareness and increasing prevention of hate crime within the community.
As well as Barbara, other 1E staff have gotten involved with EEC; for example Andrew French lent his expertise with IT, whilst Kapil Batra and his team helped build the organisation a new website. Further to that, last year 1E was delighted to provide a £10,000 donation.
Ealing Equality Council marks its 50th anniversary this year, and its work has never been more vital, nor appreciated.