Hackney domestic violence charity petitions for new premises

Founder of Sistah Space Ngozi Fulani speaks about premises dispute. Picture: Andy Commons

Founder of Sistah Space Ngozi Fulani speaks about premises dispute. Picture: Andy Commons - Credit: Andy Commons

A domestic violence charity has launched a campaign urging the council to help it find new premises, despite a previous joint statement which appeared to bring the long-running dispute to a close.

The Mayor of Hackney, Phillip Glanville, at a Sistah Space event celebrating Ethiopian Christmas earlier this year on...

The Mayor of Hackney, Phillip Glanville, at a Sistah Space event celebrating Ethiopian Christmas earlier this year on January 7 at its Mare Street premises. Picture: Holly Chant - Credit: Holly Chant

Sistah Space, a charity supporting Black and African-heritage women who are the victims of domestic abuse, set up a petition coinciding with an international campaign calling for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence.

The charity aims to get 16,000 signatures in 16 days, and then submit the petition to Hackney Council, asking it to “fulfil its duties” under the Equalities Act and help the organisation find a new home before its current license ends in January.

READ MORE: Domestic violence charity reaches agreement with council over premises dispute

However, Hackney Council said in October Sistah Space agreed - following independent mediation - to leave its temporary site in Mare Street in January 2021 and start its own search for new premises.

The council says the charity accepted it could not guarantee accommodation.

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A letter of support for Sistah Space was sent to the mayor of Hackney, Phil Glanville, from Hackney Liberal Democrats, Hackney Greens and the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) when the petition launched on November 25.

The parties wrote: “We are concerned that the council has failed to assist Sistah Space with finding long-term premises so they can focus on providing essential domestic violence services, rather than having to worry where they will operate from month-to-month, especially in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

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“We understand the council wants to treat Sistah Space equitably compared to all other voluntary and charitable organisations regarding the application process for voluntary and charity sector (VCS) units.

“However, we’d like to remind the council that Sistah Space is a specialist service catering for Black and African-heritage women, an already disadvantaged group that is entitled to additional support under the Equality Act.”

The letter states that the application process for VCS premises would “perpetuate disadvantage” for the charity and its service users unless priority access is given.

Several requirements are also listed, including the need for 3,000 sq ft of space, four rooms with a kitchenette and accessibility for prams and wheelchairs.

The letter also said that the charity has been on the waiting list for a “suitable, safe VCS premises” for five years.

READ MORE: Hackney domestic abuse charity hits out at council over eviction in accommodation dispute

It states: “Helping Sistah Space find new premises is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to the Hackney community that the Black Lives Matter motion was not passed in vain.

“We continue to remain available and willing to assist in any way we can to secure the future of this vital service.”

Hackney Council says no spaces are currently available, but Sistah Space is free to take part in any competitive process for council buildings when they are available.

Sistah Space took part in this competitive process when it successfully secured its former base at Lower Clapton Road.

The organisation was temporarily moved to its Mare Street home with the intention of moving back once the council had renovated the property.

However, Sistah Space resisted moving back to the charity’s former premises, arguing it would have a negative impact on its services.

The dispute sparked protests attended by hundreds of people outside Hackney Town Hall in June, but a council spokesperson said after mediation, both parties “agreed to make no further public comment” on the matter.

READ MORE: Hundreds protest plans to move Hackney domestic abuse charity into “unsuitable premises”

The council spokesperson said: “It’s disappointing that less than two months later, Sistah Space has decided to start a new campaign against the council.”

They continued: “It would be inappropriate and unfair to the many other charities, also there to support our diverse and marginalised communities in Hackney, if there was not a fair and transparent letting process open to all voluntary and charity sector organisations.”

READ MORE: Domestic abuse charity lodges formal complaint against Hackney mayor amid premises dispute

To sign Sistah Space’s petition click here or support by using the hashtag #16daysOfSistahSpace

To read the council and Sistah Space’s joint public statement from October click here

For more information or if you need support, visit hackney.gov.uk/domestic-violence

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