'The needs of Yorkshire's Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities must be at heart of levelling up agenda'

The needs of neighbourhoods with high proportions of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) residents must be central to the Government’s levelling-up agenda, the chair and chief executive of Manningham Housing Association (MHA) have said.

In a joint New Year message, Barrington Billings and Lee Bloomfield warned that the Covid-19 pandemic continued to highlight the inequalities BAME communities have endured for decades.

They said: “2021 has been another desperately difficult year for everyone, but particularly for those who have least.

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“If Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are serious in their quest to level up society, they should look no further than the most deprived neighbourhoods across the country which often have large numbers of BAME people living there.

Founded in 1986, MHA manages around 1,400 homes for more than 6,000 residents in Bradford and Keighley.

“MHA is enormously proud of the work we do in these communities in Bradford and Keighley but, whilst we have high aspirations, our resources are limited.

“After several delays, the Government’s levelling-up White Paper is finally due to be published in January. Rather than reheated rhetoric, it is our earnest hope that the needs of BAME communities will be at the heart of this document which will become a roadmap for improving the lives of those who require most help.”

Founded in 1986, MHA manages around 1,400 homes for more than 6,000 residents in Bradford and Keighley.

It is the first housing association in the country to be officially accredited for its work in promoting equality, diversity and inclusion. In 2020, MHA won the Northern Housing Outstanding Approaches to Communications Award for its work in supporting tenants during the pandemic and was shortlisted for two UK Housing Awards including Landlord of the Year.

In their joint statement, Mr Billings and Mr Bloomfield said that specialist BAME housing providers such as MHA are more than just landlords.

They said: “The untrained eye might think that many of the more overt forms of racism that characterised the second part of the 20th century have disappeared today, but events of the last few years have shown clearly how important it still is to have a strong BAME housing sector.

“We go beyond the delivery of good quality, affordable housing. We are advocates for our communities, delivering culturally sensitive services and giving individuals and families from BAME backgrounds real opportunities to improve their lives.

Despite the challenges, they said that MHA was entering 2022 with great optimism: “We are incredibly proud of our staff, all of whom have worked so hard to support each other and the communities we serve during such unprecedented times. They have risen to the challenge and will continue to do so.

“But we now need the Government to step up and deliver on its promise to truly level up our country, with the needs of BAME people high on that agenda."

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A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said recently: “We are leading efforts to level up across the UK by empowering local leaders and communities to seize their own destiny; boosting living standards, particularly where they are lower; spreading opportunity and improving public services, particularly where they are weak; and restoring local pride across the UK.

“The Government will publish a White Paper that will drive forward our central mission to level up every corner of the UK, setting out further details on future devolution and our plans for strengthening local accountable leadership.”