Southall Black Sisters (SBS) has successfully challenged Ealing Council’s decision to withdraw funding from the domestic violence charity, in a judicial review this month.
The west London council withdrew its defence against the review on the second day of a two-day hearing and agreed to review its decision to scrap its £100,000 annual grant to SBS as part of an overhaul of funding for domestic violence services in the borough.
Hannana Siddiqui, joint co-ordinator of Southall Black Sisters, told Community Care she was “delighted” with the decision.
Ealing has grant funded SBS – which provides support to black and minority ethnic women – since the mid-1980s. But last year it decided to commission a new service from the voluntary sector to provide support for women from all ethnic groups fleeing domestic violence, for the same level of funding.
The Public Law Project, which brought the judicial review on behalf of two SBS service users, argued that the race equality impact assessment carried out by the council on the decision was “seriously flawed”. An impact assessment is required under the Race Relations Act’s duty on public bodies to promote race equality.
The Public Law Project said Ealing had failed to consider “the inevitable adverse impact of using the same level of funding for a service for all women that was previously providing a specialist service for only a proportion of women in the borough”.
The case was backed by equalities watchdog the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Ealing Council leader Jason Stacey said the authority withdrew its defence on the understanding that the court “would give local authorities across the country much-needed guidance on grant aid funding”. The judgement, which is expected to give councils guidance on interpreting the race equality duty in the context of voluntary sector funding, is due this week.
He also said the council would be inviting the EHRC to “assist us in refining our equality impact assessment process and this will benefit all councils”.
Stacey added that the council had defended the case “because it believes that all women in the borough, regardless of their ethnic background, should have equal access to domestic violence services”.
He also stressed that the council had “set aside an additional £50,000 which could have been called up if the new arrangements did not meet the needs of specific groups”, such as those currently served by SBS.
Pending Ealing’s review of its funding arrangements, it will continue to finance SBS.