Leeds charity Hamara Healthy Living Centre has won a major national award for its work to reduce health inequalities and poverty, particularly among people from ethnic minority backgrounds, in Beeston and Holbeck.

Following a rigorous selection and assessment process, Hamara Healthy Living Centre was chosen from more than 500 charities across the UK as one of the 10 winners of the 2024 GSK IMPACT Awards, which are delivered in partnership with The King’s Fund.

Now in its 27th year, the awards are a mark of excellence in the charity sector, designed to recognise the outstanding work of small and medium-sized charities working to improve people’s health and wellbeing in the UK.  

Hamara Healthy Living Centre, established in 1994, is now the largest ethnic minority charity in Yorkshire, serving the population of Beeston and Holbeck – an area where people face significant health challenges.

As an award winner, Hamara Healthy Living Centre will now receive £40,000 in unrestricted funding as well as expert support and leadership development provided by leading health and care charity, The King’s Fund.

Beeston and Holbeck faces considerable health disparities. For example, male life expectancy stands at 76.4 years, which is seven years less than men who live in Harewood – one of the most affluent areas in Leeds.

Additionally, 40 per cent of Year 6 children are classed as ‘very overweight’ in Beeston and Holbeck compared to 10 per cent in the least deprived communities in Leeds. Significantly more people are also recorded as having diabetes in the Beeston and Holbeck community.

The award win comes at a time when the triple threat of rising costs, falling income and increased demand continues to put small charities and their finances under extreme pressure.

Despite this, the award judges were impressed by the breadth of Hamara Healthy Living Centre’s interventions. This includes providing a range of health-related services, running a food bank, community cafés, a Saturday school, and dedicated programmes of work to target older people including those with dementia, as well as activities for young people, and people with learning disabilities.

The award judges also commended the charity’s strong relationships across the NHS and with Leeds City Council. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the charity played a key role coordinating food deliveries, running a prescription delivery service and undertaking wellbeing calls.

In 2021/22, the charity distributed almost 5,500 food parcels via its foodbank and 12,200 food parcels via the Cultural Food Hub, which provides a culturally appropriate foodbank via local community groups, as well as carrying out almost 7,000 wellbeing calls with its local population.

It also delivers the Patient Ambassadors scheme for a group of 12 GP practices in East Leeds, which work one to one with people to improve their health and wellbeing through health education and supporting them to understand what services are available.

Many of the health issues they see are compounded by language barriers and non-medical issues such as poor housing and poverty.

To tackle this, each ambassador has a specialism such as drugs and alcohol, and between them the team speaks seven languages. Separately, through its digital cafe, Hamara Healthy Living Centre helps people to use the NHS app so they can self-manage their GP appointments and repeat prescriptions.

The award judges specifically praised the work the charity is undertaking with people with learning disabilities. This includes the Halo project, a day service for people with learning disabilities to develop life skills and support parents.

The charity also secured management of the Cockburn Centre, which it is fundraising to convert into a vibrant facility, run and managed by people with learning disabilities and open to the whole community.

Hamara Healthy Living Centre also works with researchers to ensure the experiences of people from ethnic minority backgrounds’ voices are heard in large-scale projects such as one on poverty by the University of Leeds. The charity is now being consulted as a potential partner as Leeds City Council aims to become a ‘Marmot City’ – a city in which local organisations work together in a system to reduce health inequalities.

Lisa Weaks, Senior Associate at The King’s Fund, said: “Through its broad range of services, Hamara Healthy Living Centre is embedded within its local community, dedicating itself to tackling stark health inequalities faced by its population whilst ensuring the community voice is heard at a strategic level.

“It has effectively identified various challenges – such as food poverty and language barriers – and created targeted programmes of work to address these sensitively, with a culturally-appropriate approach. Hamara Healthy Living Centre is a trusted partner of local communities, who greatly benefit from the committed work of the charity, Leeds City Council and the NHS.”

Commenting on the award, Raheem Mohammad, Director of Hamara Healthy Living Centre, said: “It is through the commitment and hard work of our entire team, partners and stakeholders that we have been recognised for the work we do in the communities that face the highest health inequalities.

“We are truly honoured to receive this award and we will strive to continue our work on making a positive impact.

“Hamara has a robust plan of growth over the next 3-5 years that will allow the organisation to support a wider population of people, and this award and training program has come at the perfect time.”

Developing leaders in the charity sector is a key aim of the GSK IMPACT Awards programme and all winners are invited to build on their success and take part in a tailored leadership development programme run by The King’s Fund.