EALING.NEWS meets Hilal Yazan from Ealing Citizens, a group consisting of six education and faith organisations who are working together to make Ealing a better place for all.
Hilal is the organiser of the group and shares what the group is all about, what some of its members and people it works with face and see as important issues in Ealing.
Tell us more about Ealing Citizens and who you are
Ealing Citizens is an alliance of 6 faith and education organisations, working together for justice and the common good, representing over 10000 local people. Our current members are: Christ the Saviour Church; St Anselm’s Church, Southall; St Barnabas’ Church, Pitshanger Lane; St Mary’s, Acton; St Martin’s, West Acton; and Southall Community College, part of West London College.
We are part of West London Citizens, an alliance of 28 member organisations, using the method of community organising to achieve change.
What are your aims?
As Citizens we have 3 core aims: develop community leaders, strengthen institutions and win structural change. Citizens UK, our national organisation, has been the home of the Living Wage Campaign, and for the past 20 years, has worked to ensure that over 11000 employers have paid more than £1.8 billion into the pockets of working people. In West London, we worked with Heathrow Airport so that they could become an accredited living wage provider, uplifting the wages of 3200 workers.
What have you been doing in Ealing?
In Ealing, we have been organising and working for change around a wide range of issues which affect our members. In the past year, we have hosted a Jobs Fair in Southall to tackle joblessness in Ealing in November with 200 people and a local election Accountability Assembly back in April.
At Citizens, we believe in people before programme which means that each and every thing we do comes out of the listening that we do in our communities. Ahead of the local elections in May, we listened to over 500 people in our institutions about what is putting pressure on them and the people they care about. We then voted on the top issues that we wanted to take forward for our Citizens agenda, these were: a living wage, affordable housing and renters rights, mental health and special educational needs (SEN).
What issues have you been working with to improve?
We heard how there are still too many low-paid jobs in and around Ealing, how renters in Southall and the rest of Ealing are struggling with rogue landlords and how families are struggling to find affordable housing. We also heard from people young and old about how they are struggling to access mental health support and navigate what help is out there and how families of children with SEN can’t get the support that they need for their children, putting a huge strain on families and impacting on their children’s development. Here’s a snapshot of what we heard:
Caetano Fernandes from St Anselm’s Catholic Church in Southall, said:
‘Living on low pay, I have been suffering daily. I cannot feel secure, am very stressed and I cannot save even a few pounds. It’s very hard to know how much you need to get by each month as prices are creeping up and up. My colleagues and I now receive the London Living Wage of £11.05 an hour. Now we are finally able to get some of the things we need. It makes a huge difference to us. Our voice wasn’t listened to before – we were speaking but the message wasn’t getting out. But now we feel our voices are finally being heard. We want to make sure this suffering in our community stops by joining together to push for more Ealing employers to pay the real Living Wage.’
PJ Grayson from St Martin’s Church, West Acton, said:
‘If there are had been mental health champions when I was seeking help last year, it would have been a lot less anxiety-inducing and stressful time. This is why we want the council to create mental health champions and I want to train up as one so that others don’t have to go through what I did.’
Tell us a bit about how the Citizens Manifesto came about
The powerful stories that we heard formed the basis of our Citizens Manifesto, which we presented to Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates at our Assembly with 143 people on 27 April 2022. We made the pre-election assembly into a special night with a game of snakes and ladders to demonstrate the random and bureaucratic experience of parents trying to access the local SEN system. Justin Dodd, Vicar of St Barnabas, Ealing, explained: “Exhausted Special Educational Needs parents are drowning in red tape. We need someone on our side, helping us to find our way in a complex and overburdened system. SEN champions will do just that!”
Tell us more about the recent Ealing local elections in May 2022 and what you did
We received commitments from all of the candidates for all of our asks, including transparency around social care contracts, Ealing becoming a Living Wage place, 10 new renters right workshops, 50 new community land trust homes and council funding for mental health and SEN parent champions. It was a fantastic culmination of our work building our agenda and power for the last 18 months.
Since the Assembly, we are keen to work with Councillor Peter Mason and his cabinet to ensure accountability on our asks, and bring the change that our communities are seeking. Those with a keen eye might have already spotted that our asks are included in the council’s plan for the next four years. We will continue to work with the council, till each of our asks are fulfilled over the next term, to build a happier, safer, healthier borough for all.
We welcomed the announcement from the council that they will be uplifting pay for care workers starting in November, as many carers who need a real living wage now will start to receive the London Living Wage of £11.05, rising to £11.95 in May. Excitingly, we are hosting a joint Ealing Living Wage Celebration with Cllrs Peter Mason, Bassam Mahfouz and Josh Blacker at Southall Community College to celebrate the wins of the living wage campaign in Ealing in the past year on 14th November during Living Wage Week. We’d love for you to join us, as a local business, charity or community group, to hear about the benefits of paying and receiving the living wage for you. Click here for free tickets.
Jackie Ashmenall, co-chair of Citizens UK, and involved with Ealing Citizens locally said:
‘In 3 years time, I see Ealing Citizens growing in power by recruiting more members into our alliance, with the ability to adapt to the needs of our communities by building strong, lasting relationships with each other and those in power to make the changes that we want. What is exciting to me locally in Ealing is that we will be able to deliver much needed truly affordable homes through establishing our very own Community Land Trust, as well as the strength and resilience of our communities to work towards Ealing becoming a Living Wage borough.’
How can people find out more about Ealing Citizens and the work you are doing
We invite local organisations in Ealing, schools, faith institutions, universities, trade unions and more, to join us. We know that the more of us there are, the more power we have to win. If you are interested in finding out more about Citizens, please me, Hilal Yazan, the Ealing Citizens organiser, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07497 425039.