An independent and detailed report into an initiative aimed at helping the most disadvantaged citizens across Suffolk and Norfolk to tackle unlawful discrimination has praised its achievements and suggested that it is an example for similar bodies across the country.
Tackling Discrimination in the East (TDE) was launched in 2013, after the Ipswich & Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) secured funding from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities programme, with a brief to provide free, high-quality, confidential legal advice and raise awareness of unlawful discrimination and hate crime among disabled people, young people, organisations and employers.
TDE is now part of the Suffolk Law Centre, itself part of the ISCRE family of services.
The report, by the Big Society Community Interest Company, covers the period 2016 – 2019 and details the volume of casework handled over that time by TDE, as well as moving testimonies from citizens across the two counties whose lives have been improved thanks to the assistance of the TDE team.
TDE is looking to achieve three main outcomes:
- People who experience unlawful discrimination will be enabled to better overcome related barriers to work, training and/or accessing services
- People who experience unlawful discrimination will improve their mental wellbeing
- People, vulnerable to unlawful discrimination and harassment, will gain specialist knowledge, equipping them to recognise, avoid and challenge it
Over 250 people have been directly helped by TDE’s legal team since 2016, with another 260 or so attending the various workshop delivered as part of the project. The TDE team – comprising a small number of paid staff, supported by volunteer law students – has also secured £186,000 for successful claimants against unlawful discrimination.
According to the Big Society Community Interest Company report, TDE achieves very high satisfaction ratings from those using its services:
- 92% now had a better knowledge of their legal rights and a better understanding of how to enforce them
- 91% would recommend TDE to other people experiencing discrimination
- 90% reported an increased confidence in being able to challenge unlawful discrimination and overcoming barriers to work and accessing
- 83% reported being highly satisfied with the support they received
- 80% reported improved mental wellbeing having accessed TDE’s services
Comments from users include: “It has been a very positive and informative experience. I feel more empowered”, “They changed my life completely, supported me and gave me the confidence that I needed” and “I certainly wouldn’t have been able to challenge my employers without them.
Audrey Ludwig, director of legal services at Suffolk Law Centre said: “It’s good to see just how effective TDE has been in helping our fellow citizens deal with unlawful discrimination both in the short term and also in building up their knowledge and resilience in the longer.
“Many of the people we work with are quite vulnerable: no fewer than 70% of all the cases we have dealt with to date relate to unlawful discrimination against people with disabilities.”
“Most are seriously income-deprived as well: 52% earn less than £1000 per month, making access to justice beyond their means.”