By Lina Arshad
FUNDING TO battle hate crime in Leeds has been criticised by human rights activists for being too narrow in focus.The plans, announced by Home Secretary, Amber Rudd on November 18, include funding to a Leeds based charity, as well as 59 places of worship nationally, to reduce the number of racial hate crimes.
More than £700,000 has been allocated nationally, with £28,000 given to the charity, Voluntary Action Leeds (VAL), who represent Leeds-based individuals and businesses doing good.
JUST Yorkshire, an organisation promoting racial justice and human rights has spoken out against the government only funding the Leeds-based project.
Ratna Lachman, director of JUST Yorkshire said: “We are not convinced that allocating monies to just one organisation that does not have much of a track record of work in this area will tackle hate crime.
“It is our view that a grassroots approach using a diverse range of agencies working at the coal face with communities and young people offers better results in changing attitudes to hate crime.”
Despite being in the early stages, a summary of the plans by VAL were outlined.
Their statement said: “This pilot project will build our understanding of hate crime through engaging with perpetrators and potential perpetrators and enable us to better understand the drivers of hate crime by this group.
“This project will use discussion and focus groups with young people to identify these drivers.”
This comes following a survey which saw a 20% drop in the attendance of foreign undergraduate students following the EU Referendum.
Rachael Boucher, 21, a University of Leeds student said: “I have actually noticed a few of the foreign students not turning up to lectures.
“I think this new scheme is going to be great. Nobody should live their life in fear of being discriminated against.”
Despite this, Ms Lachman claims the scheme places too much emphasis on young people as the perpetrators and that evidence suggests it is a societal problem that spans generations.
West Yorkshire Police released statistics indicating a 30% increase in the number of racial hate crime incidents in the last year.
Armley is amongst one of the wards which has been recently affected by these attacks, after a gang of youths initiated a racially motivated attack on a 28-year-old Polish man between Town Street and Alliance Street on September 9, leaving him seriously injured.
Leeds City Councillor Alison Lowe (Labour, Armley) said: “Yes the scheme is a good idea but young people are not the problem, they are susceptible to peer influence so home life needs to be targeted too.
“Where do these young people learn these behaviours? This scheme doesn’t seem to be meeting their whole needs.”
VAL declined to comment on these criticisms.