Unite has accused Northumberland County Council of rejecting its responsibility to help tackle rising racism after its decision to pull Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC) funding for schools in the region.
The Tory-controlled council has pulled £15,000 of funding for teacher training and student workshops by the anti-racism charity for 25 schools – a move Unite said should be reversed.
SRtRC education manager Sue Schofield said the charity’s work is “needed now more than ever” because of the impact austerity and Brexit has had on spreading the ideas of the far-right.
“With (fan racism in Montenegro) in the England football game on Monday night, it highlights how important it is,” Schofield added.
“After Danny Rose was abused by fans, Raheem Sterling tweeted ‘get some education’, and that’s exactly what we give children.
“It’s all about education, and helping children understand that language is not acceptable.”
Schofield said she is concerned that ending SRtRC workshops in Northumberland schools will adversely affect the fight to tackle racism in the county.
“We’re needed now more than ever and it’s so disappointing. It seems the council don’t have an understanding of the work we deliver,” Schofield said.
“Over 14,000 children and young people have benefited from our workshops, we get consistently positive feedback, people say we’ve changed their view point.
“It’s about laying the foundations for them to question where their ideas come from.”
The funding cut prompted local Labour councillor Liam Lavery to start a petition calling on the council to reverse its decision.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner called the decision to pull the funding “short-sighted”.
“At a time when the twin evils of racism and the far-right are once again rearing their ugly heads in our communities, the work organisations like SRtRC do is more important than ever,” Turner said.
“We know that education is key when it comes to tackling the fear, division and hostility those who are preaching doctrines of hate wish to spread and if Northumberland’s councils leaders believe that the lies of the hate-mongers do not reach the ears of our young people they are sadly mistaken.”
Turner said the rise of the far-right and racism is a global issue, but that one of the vital steps in countering it is done on a local level.
“The council has rejected its responsibility to do just that,” added Turner.
“SRtRC are nationally recognised experts in providing children with the tools to identify and reject racism when they encounter it, which is why Unite supports their work.
“I would urge Northumberland Council to reverse this ill-thought decision and do the same.”
A Northumberland County Council spokesperson said, “Available funding can be better targeted to enable a more broad range of resources for schools which covers all areas of potential discrimination.”
Sign the petition to restore Show Racism the Red Card’s funding in Northumberland here.