Many members of our local community experience barriers when accessing basic services on a regular basis, this can be in relation to their age, faith, ethnic heritage, disability, gender or sexual orientation. The pandemic has further highlighted the stark disparity within access to healthcare for certain groups.

One of our core aims at Watford & Three Rivers Trust is to “ensure that our community benefits from voluntary organisations that are welcoming, effective, sustainable and accountable.”

The pandemic has forced us to reflect on our activities in this area, asking ourselves, are we as welcoming and accountable as we could be? Are there any groups in our community who don’t feel welcome in the work we do, or within the wider local voluntary and charity sector?

This led us to commission a research project by Brick by Brick Communities and Herts Equality Council in late 2020 to help us improve our awareness of issues impacting local people from Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds*. The report (available on request from W3RT CVS) highlighted three key barriers:

1. Information poverty – a need was identified for clear information on relevant platforms that is accessible in community languages.

2. Structural barriers to funding – many groups who took part in the research weren’t aware of existing funding available, and some do not have formal governance structures, so cannot access usual funding streams.

3. Lack of representation – process for dialogue or feedback to W3RT or wider service providers wasn’t always clear.

Needless to say, this has provided clear feedback for W3RT CVS on areas we need to pay particular attention. In response, we hosted a BAME Engagement event in September 2021 in partnership with the CDA Herts Covid Recovery BAME Project, Hertfordshire County Council and both Watford and Three Rivers Councils to gather views and ideas and have developed an initial action plan based on feedback from the event. You can download the full event evaluation report including feedback and our action plan response here.

This is only the beginning of our journey, and we’re committed to working collaboratively and inclusively with all local groups and communities to ensure that all members of our diverse and vibrant local community benefit from voluntary organisations that are welcoming, effective, sustainable and accountable.

We are keen continue our journey to improve our understanding and awareness of the lived experiences of different community groups to ensure we can live our values and create the welcoming and accountable voluntary sector we can all be part of and benefit from. We will be sharing regular updates on our blog on activities relating to equality, diversity and inclusion to be accountable to local groups in our efforts in this area.

If you would like to discuss or share your views on any of the topics outlined in this blog post, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch with me via email.

*Throughout this blog post, after the initial use of the term 'Black Asian and Minority Ethnic', the collective term has been changed to the acronym ‘BAME.’ It is recognised that this term has significant limitations, as it groups together a wide range of people and their various lived experiences. At some point this terminology may be subject to change and we are open to discussions on this. Until then, we will continue to use this classification of BAME to refer to processes and experiences, related to the broad and diverse group of individuals that fall under this broad umbrella term.

Clare Baars-Gordon


Head of Community Development and has seven years’ experience leading volunteering and community programmes.