Voluntary Action Arun wants to hear from minority groups

Public urged to register today for a series of focus groups in Bognor next Saturday which could help start new community led initiatives and activities, and improve access to local services.

"We are hearing some really good examples of inclusive community spirit and good neighbourliness, but some negatives too"
"We are hearing some really good examples of inclusive community spirit and good neighbourliness, but some negatives too"

A group which helps charities across Arun & Chichester to create a vibrant voluntary and community sector has organised a series of face-to-face meetings to better understand the challenges the minority communities face.

The Unheard Voices Focus Group, run by Voluntary Action Arun and Chichester (VAAC), particularly wants people from minority groups such as Eastern Europeans, black, Asian and other ethnic minorities to come forward.

This is the first in a series of meetings which will hear from all sections of the community, but for now is focussing on the positive strengths and challenges these minority groups face within the area.

Already feedback has shown that the common themes people care about are their children’s education, providing for their families, racial discrimination and access to services.

But Stephanie Mooney, VAAC partnership office, says there is more to discover.

“We have close contacts with the NHS, the council etc, who want to hear that feedback, both positive and negative. We are hearing some really good examples of inclusive community spirit and good neighbourliness, but some negatives too. In some cases people are telling us about discrimination, hate crime and people being scared to go out.

“It’s important these unheard voices are given a safe space to talk, so that we encourage ongoing conversations. For any changes to happen in the community we need a range of responses and opinions, and we want to create an atmosphere where that dialogue is ongoing.”

It is hoped that as a result of the focus groups, and an online questionnaire, challenges and barriers will be overcome and that services will be more accessible for all in the community. They also want to gain a greater understanding on why there is a lack of representation from minority voices.

Stephanie added: “It is also building knowledge and understanding of who is in our communities to break down stereotypes and myths, and we want to ensure minority voices do feature.”

The focus groups are taking place at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish Centre, Clarence Road, Bognor PO21 1JX on Saturday, June 26, at 10am, 1pm and 3pm. Each session will last around one hour, and all the issues raised will be shared with the organisations which can help make changes.

Because of Covid restrictions on numbers it is important people register in advance for a space at the event by calling Stephanie Mooney on 07518 596 698 or by emailing [email protected]

The questionnaire, which covers a range of local topics, is available in 14 different languages to try to make engagement as accessible as possible. You can find the link to that here.