Sajda Mughal: Boris Johnson should invest in relationships with grass-roots charities

Local charities maintain powerful relationships with communities and could be invaluable in helping the government resolve societal divisions

Sajda Mughal
Sajda Mughal

A month ago, Boris Johnson became Prime Minister of the UK, shortly after being elected leader of the Conservative Party. A politician who has been surrounded by well-publicised controversy that spans much of his political career, Johnson has regularly been accused of attempting to further his own route to Number 10.

The controversies that surround Johnson have (perhaps unsurprisingly) accompanied his premiership journey and could complicate his job of unifying a divided country. So what will his time as Prime Minister mean for grass-roots charities?

There is little doubt that Johnson’s premiership, overshadowed by Brexit, brings with it an unprecedented amount of uncertainty. Such uncertainty is likely to hit marginalised communities the hardest, those who have already felt the effects of years of austerity and the growing strain on public services.

Johnson needs to prove he is able to tackle these issues with some urgency, ensuring communities that have been continuously let down by successive governments feel Westminster is addressing the issues that are most relevant to them.

This could partly be achieved by effectively engaging with grass-roots charities such as the Jan Trust, working on some of the most complex issues currently facing society, aiming to build bridges within and between communities.

After the 2016 EU referendum, there has been increasingly fractious division in the UK, and Johnson and his Cabinet face the task of uniting an ever-divided society.

Mending this division undoubtedly requires Johnson to build a strong relationship with civil society and those who work at the heart of communities. Charities that have strong grass-roots connections are capable of being at the very core of evolving policies to bring the UK back together, and a strong relationship with the Prime Minister would help assure the security required for these charities to fulfil their work.

Economic security is often one of the most pressing issues that grass-roots charities face in the continuation of their work, so if Johnson is serious about working with them to overcome divides he must ensure the financial security small charities need to access the necessary resources.

For example, the Prime Minister has made comments about his support for and commitment to English lessons in the UK for those who do not have English as a first language.

This is precisely the kind of policy that could involve a grass-roots charity such as the Jan Trust, when you consider that as an organisation we have already organised English lessons in the local Haringey community for 30 years. With adequate funding and resources, not only could we continue this work, but we could also expand English lessons to serve and educate more communities.

Moreover, by working with grass-roots charities, projects such as English lessons will be appropriate to community needs: they have strong links to the communities they work with, a clear understanding of what locals want and regular opportunities to improve thanks to feedback from local attendees.

However challenging the landscape, small grass-roots charities will continue to ensure the communities and people they work with are able to thrive even in the most uncertain of times. Part of this is grass-roots charities continuing to hold the Prime Minister and government to account on behalf of these communities.

The UK is in the middle of an existential crisis that requires urgent and effective action from the Prime Minister. In these times of uncertainty, the issues the Jan Trust has worked to challenge over the past 30 years have become more apparent across society: marginalisation, violence against women, extremism and hate crime.

Johnson must work within his powers to ensure an effective working relationship with the sector to ensure we are able to combat these issues as a united society and build a better and brighter future for the next generations.

Sajda Mughal is chief executive of the Jan Trust

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