Jeremy Corbyn MP for Islington North, and Leader of the Opposition, addressed the Islington People’s Rights (IPR) Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Tuesday 15 November at Resource for London. He highlighted the very real impact of recent welfare reforms on some of the most vulnerable in society. The recent change to the Benefit Cap affects many households in Islington and throughout the country. Changes to Disability Benefits and the Bedroom Tax, have affected many more. Benefit sanctions can have a devastating impact on individuals and their families, as highlighted in the recent award winning film, “I, Daniel Blake”, directed by Ken Loach. Ros White, Advice and Rights Manager at the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), detailed the work they have undertaken to help children and their families in these difficult times, and the successes they have had challenging unfair welfare benefits decisions. Cllr Richard Watts, the Leader of Islington Council opened the meeting making clear the Council’s commitment to ensuring free advice services are available to residents of the Borough. Wesley Harcourt from Advice UK, the umbrella organisation, representing independent advice agencies through Britain, outlined their work, and also their role in helping establish the Black Advice Network (BAN). The formal business of the AGM demonstrated that IPR is in good shape to continue its important work, with a strong board of trustees elected, and funding from Islington Council secure to March 2020.
Earlier in the day, IPR had organised the BAMER Advice 2016 Conference, in conjunction with the Enhance Project at Resource for London. This event was aimed at voluntary and community sector organisations that provide advice to Black Asian Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) communities across London. Speakers highlighted the challenges faced by BAMER Communities in London, notably: Mulat Haregot, Director of the Evelyn Oldfield Unit; Kunle Olulode, the Director of Voice4Change England; and Ruth Hayes, the Vice-Chair, Law Centres Network. John Muir, Voluntary & Community Sector and Equalities Development Manager at Islington Council, outlined their new model of advice delivery in the Borough. Workshops looked at key issues for the BAMER advice sector; notably welfare benefits, debt, employment and discrimination, housing, and immigration matters, and were organised with support from Islington Advice Alliance partners. IPR has recently secured a further 2 years of funding from Trust for London to continue its Access+ project, delivering advice and other support to key BAMER organisations based in Islington.