ISCRE’s 40th AGM “the best yet”

The Ipswich & Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE)’s 40th AGM, held last week at the University of Suffolk, was “the best yet in terms of diversity of people attending, the range of speakers and the sense of purpose given what we’ve achieved and what we are still doing to promote equality and combat illegal discrimination” according to its business and operations director, Phanuel Mutumburi.

People from across Suffolk, volunteers and staff were treated to great music and food, before the formal proceedings began

ISCRE chair Chris Cumberbatch spoke about the important role the charity has always had in promoting community cohesion, not least as “research carried out recently by the Charities Aid Foundation found that nearly 14 million people feel that their community is more divided than it was at the start of the year, whilst only 12% of people feel that a sense of community spirit in their local area is more noticeable.”

The AGM heard about the many initiatives run by ISCRE which aim to break down barriers, including the community-led Stop and Search Reference Group, Destination Norwich Road and the Ipswich Integration Group. ISCRE’s pioneering work in the prisons and criminal justice system, where BAME citizens are significantly over-represented was also praised for its positive outcomes.

ISCRE’s many legal services were also highlighted and praised for their positive impact in ensuring fair treatment and access to justice for many of Suffolk’s most vulnerable groups. These include Tackling Discrimination in the East which helped 114 people over the last 12 months, the Suffolk Law Advice Centre which handled over 420 cases and the Living Rights Project which ensures EU nationals based in the county are aware and can exercise their legal rights.

Attendees also heard from two keynote speakers, both of whom have close associations with ISCRE.

Joanna Bennett,  a solicitor specialising in human rights legislation at Hodge, Jones & Allen LLP worked for ISCRE on a number of its key projects including the Suffolk Hate Crime Partnership, the Stop and Search Reference Group and leading the Safer Future Communities Network.

Joanna asserted that “the fact that ISCRE has been a strong community voice for 40 years shows how resilient it is but also reinforces the fact that it is needed as much today as it was 40 years ago. There is no doubt in my mind that there have been positive changes and developments throughout the years but it would be wrong for me to say that we do not still have a long way to go.”

The other guest speaker was Sandy Martin, the newly elected MP for Ipswich who has been an ISCRE trustee for over 11 years.

In a moving and very personal speech, Sandy spoke about “by learning to not just tolerate diversity but to enjoy it we grow as people. ISCRE has a vital job to do to help achieve that diverse social cohesion.  It has, and continues to point out individual cases of discrimination.  It will continue to enable groups of people to access their rights.  It can and does create harmony between cultures, and to celebrate diversity.”

Phanuel Mutumburi concluded that “this 40th anniversary AGM was a great showcase as to what stands for, what it is has achieved in the past and the positive impact it hopes to have across Suffolk in the future.”