June 2008   Issue 19 header_top

1. Equality and Human Rights

The Human Rights Dimensions of Community Cohesion

ROTA in partnership with IARS are carrying out the EHRC funded project “The Human Rights Dimensions of Community Cohesion”. The project aims to construct a conceptual framework within which EHRC and government will work to improve community cohesion by using human rights as a tool. To this end a new agenda will be constructed building on existing and new evidence. A good deal of evidence has become available about community cohesion, including both the nature of problems and ways of tackling them. This review draws on that existing evidence, embedding it within a wider human rights context. The review takes account of the human rights issues and principles that apply to good relations, focusing specifically on the six equality areas. It draws together a range of data and evidence on equality issues, human rights and community cohesion including new evidence that was collected through in-depth interviews with fifteen experts in human rights and community cohesion. Twenty equality and human rights organisations were also consulted through the HEAR network. The fieldwork and report is now completed and will be released later this summer. For more information contact theo@rota.org.uk

In this issue:
01 Equality and Human Rights
02 Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour
03 Community Cohesion and Empowerment
04Education and Young People
05Third Sector News

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Women Roundtable

ROTA has been invited to contribute to a meeting with Barbara Follett MP in her role as Minister for Women and Equality. In particular we are being asked to comment on their third priority for women ‘Empowering Black and minority ethnic women to build cohesion within their communities and as a bridge between communities.’ This links to the other priorities focusing on women as carers within families and violence against women and tackling women who commit crime. We intend to feed in that we believe that the discrimination in terms of sexism and racism faced by BAME women needs to be tackled both within our communities and broader society before the role of tackling cohesion is placed on BAME women. The issue of employment is also one we feel needs to be tackled with the employment rate for BAME women at 52.8% compared to 74.9% rate for the overall population. If you have issues on these areas or others you think we should raise than please contact dinah@rota.org.uk and for further information on the Government women’s priorities please see http://www.equalities.gov.uk/about/ministers_priorities.htm


2. Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour

Home Office Tackling Gangs Action Programme Report

In May 2008 the Home Office’s Tackling Gangs Action Programme, which was set up in September 2007, published a guide for local authorities, CDRPS and other local partners, for tackling gangs. The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said, 'I set up the Tackling Gangs action programme last September because I was convinced that by focusing our activities on local hotspots, we could make progress on an area of crime that devastates families, communities and neighbourhoods.' She stated that she now wanted to focus on providing witnesses with guarantees that their identity will be protected and that they can give evidence safely, stopping guns from coming into the country and providing safe housing and education opportunities for young people leaving gangs. The TGAP areas that were focused on were London, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

ROTA welcomes this report as it highlights the importance of taking a local focus when tackling the issue of gangs; emphasising the differences between the cities and the complex nature of what is happening in London. While the monitoring of the report states that 75% of gang members identified were of Black Caribbean origin it also highlights that in Liverpool gang members were predominantly white. Given the impact that the recommendations will have on London’s BAME communities ROTA will be looking at these findings in detail and featuring them in their Building Bridges Project report due to be launched in July. To download a copy of the TGAP report go to http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/about-us/news/knife-crime-funds. For further information on the Building Bridges Project please contact carlene@rota.org.uk

Operation Blunt Two

On the 14th of May, the Metropolitan Police launched a knife sweep, Operation Blunt 2, after several young people were killed in attacks involving knives. The programme involved stop-and-search teams in boroughs across the capital. The Home Secretary said that she and Justice Minister Jack Straw would be working with the criminal justice service in London to ensure that the use or possession of knives is taken into account when criminals are sentenced saying: 'I have spoken to the Mayor of London today on this issue, and we agree that we must be unfailing in our commitment to our communities and our young people to tackle these difficult issues'.

While ROTA welcomes acknowledgement of the serious nature of the situation in London, there remains concern around the use of stop and search as offering a short term and reactive response to something that requires long term preventative solutions. The negative impact that stop and search has on BAME communities, and especially young people, can hinder responses to serious attacks and damage relationships between the police and communities. Furthermore, ROTA would stress the need for the Home Secretary to be working closely with voluntary sector and community organisations dealing with these issues, alongside consultation with the criminal justice service. The findings of ROTA’s Building Bridges Project, due to be launched in July, emphasises the need to take proactive and preventative, rather than purely reactive and punitive, steps in order to see a real reduction in violent crime amongst young people in London. For further information please contact carlene@rota.org.uk

Restoring Relations Project (RRP): ROTA Conference on Addressing Hate Crime

On 8th April, ROTA launched the second phase of its Project Restoring Relations (RRP): Addressing Hate Crime through Restorative Justice and cross-sector Partnerships: a London Study. Over 100 people attended the conference representing a wide range of statutory bodies and Third Sector organisations from London and across the UK. Much positive feedback was received within evaluation forms regarding the conference and the content and quality of the report as ROTA continues to tackle keys issues that people are concerned about. ROTA will endeavour to utilise the comments and advice from delegates that were present to contribute to future work ROTA intends to continue in this area. The post conference report is now available on the ROTA website. For information please contact anthony@rota.org.uk

Hate Crime Training: Restorative Justice and Cross-Sector Multi-Agency Partnerships

As part of ROTA’s Restoring Relations Project (RRP), ROTA commissioned the London Action Trust to undertake based on the findings and recommendations made in the RRP report. The training aims to increase awareness of the use of restorative justice and multi-agency cross sector partnerships to combat hate crime in London. Training was undertaken on 6th and 9th May and a number of key stakeholders were present, including representatives from Government Office for London, Metropolitan Police and London Councils. The training proved to be very successful and a number of encouraging remarks have been made within evaluations forms about the content of information provided and the quality of the training facilitators Liz Dixon from London Probation and Elena Noel from Southwark Mediation Centre. The participants generally reported better informed about the value of restorative justice, the dimensions through which hate crime can impact or the necessity of a multi-agency cross sector partnership to tackle hate crime. For information please contact anthony@rota.org.uk

Hate Crime, Restorative Justice and Multi-Agency Partnerships: Continuing The Good Work!

ROTA has recently received funding from the EHRC to continue the work it has produced as part of the RRP. ROTA will continue to raise key issues and concerns of London’s BAME population relating to racist violence and hate crime more generally. In terms of taking this work forward and using the data that has hitherto be obtained, ROTA will now use the findings from the report and the feedback gained from the RRP conference to continue meaningful work in this area. ROTA’s work will involve forging and sustaining multi-agency cross-sector partnerships within London that can work collaboratively to combat hate crime. In addition ROTA is currently evaluating the successes of its recent hate crime training with the intention for further training to be provided in the near future. For information please contact anthony@rota.org.uk

Racial Bias in Reporting Crime

A recent report produced by the Runnymede Trust has drawn emphasis to the inimical visions and racial stereotypes the media has the potential to impart in the minds of the public. The report which is based on the content analysis of newspaper articles over a 2 month period in 2007 presents strong evidence that any particular media report can contain various text and exert various connotations dependent upon whether the perpetrator of the crime involved in the report is black or white. The author goes onto assert that such coverage serves to influence public opinion and policy, therefore contributing to the reinforcement of racist stereotypes.

The report chimes with the findings from ROTA’s RRP youth advisory group in that the media play a critical role in reinforcing and making sweeping generalisations about minority ethnic groups and criminal activity. A key finding of the report was that “Gang, gun and knife violence is regularly identified as 'cultural' and then attached to particular ethnic groups. The effect is that entire 'communities' are criminalised on the basis of their 'cultures'". For more information contact anthony@rota.org.uk

New Police Tactics May Lead to ‘Racist Targeting’

The recent fatal deaths of 16-year-old Jimmy Mizen and 22-year-old Steven Bigby has resulted in the Police adopting “in your face policing” as officers make use of additional powers. Such additional powers mean officers can stop and search youths without having reasonable suspicion of their intent. Inevitably, these extra powers bring with them an array of problems not least that stop and search is thought to disproportionately impact BAME youth. In particular stop and searches are believed to disproportionately affect Afro-Caribbean communities by up to 27 times for stops in which officers do not have to have reasonable suspicion to search someone. Ultimately the there are fears we can expect more stops and searches based on racial and ethnicity grounds. For more information contact anthony@rota.org.uk


3. Community Cohesion and Empowerment

Update on CLG’s Cohesion Guidance For Funders

Communities and Local Government’s (CLG’s) consultation on its draft Cohesion Guidance for Funders closed on 24 May 2008. The guidance forms part of CLG’s response to the Commission on Integration and Cohesion’s final recommendations, in particular its recommendation that ‘single groups’ (e.g. BAME organisations and other groups supporting specific equality communities) should be funded as an exception. It aims to advice funders on ‘practical ways in which local authorities could help to build strong communities by promoting cohesion and integration locally.’ While it recognises the good work of ‘single groups’ in supporting excluded communities, it could be seen as encouraging funders to focus funding on activities that bring communities together (‘bridging’ activities) over those that aim to strengthen particular communities (‘bonding’ activities). It places additional conditions on funding for ‘single groups’ and may also lead local authorities to disregard the public duties placed on them by the equality legislation on race, gender and disability.

There has been a great deal of concern within London’s third sector and amongst others that this approach would further exclude the most marginalised by challenging the survival of their organisations, which are best placed and most effective at meeting their needs and supporting them to engage in wider public life and society. There was also concern as there appears to have been instances of the guidance already impacting on funding decisions, even though it was still at consultation stage. Southall Black Sisters, for example, which provides a range of services for BAME women was told that Ealing Council no longer wants to fund a domestic violence service dedicated solely to the needs of this particular community, and instead wants to fund a generic service. ROTA’s response to the consultation on Cohesion Guidance for Funders is on the ‘Consultation responses’ pages of ROTA’s website at www.rota.org.uk.


4. Education and Young People

Ill-Treatment of Bame Children in Hillingdon

Much criticism has been voiced towards the London Borough of Hillingdon for its treatment of unaccompanied asylum seeking children. A report from the Children’s Commissioner for England has found that the basic needs of children, such as health and education, have been neglected. Basic services were found to be difficult for children to access, especially health care where many children were not accompanied by interpreters whilst concerns have also been raised that children are not being involved before or during reviews into their care situation, and were informed about the outcome of reviews by a letter, written only in English, which most of the children could not understand. Hillingdon responded to the report by claiming that it was working with limited resources. For more information contact anthony@rota.org.uk

White Paper Launched to Tackle Poor Behaviour and Support Excluded Pupils

On the 20th May, Schools Secretary Ed Balls announced plans for a major overhaul of how excluded young people are worked with in order to avoid them ending up involved in crime or unemployed. Around two thirds have a special educational need and this White Paper focuses on what support they would need to address their behaviour and set them on a positive path. Ministers will pilot new types of schools and programmes for young people who are educated outside the mainstream. Plans include: closing the poorest performing Pupil Referral Units (PRUs); encouraging more use of innovative private and voluntary sector providers; publishing performance data for both alternative education providers and for local authorities for the first time; and a new emphasis on early intervention to prevent the need for exclusion.

Given the disproportionate level of black boys excluded from schools, ROTA welcomes the prospect of cross-sector working to help support excluded young people, and the acknowledgment of the negative impact that exclusion has, and its links to crime. However, other aspects of the White Paper which extend stop and search powers to schools and the allow for metal detectors and screens are concerning given the cost of the latter and the possibility of targeting certain young people with the former, without due consideration to consequences. ROTA would question how these methods, and their impact, would be monitored and would suggest that the financial cost be better put towards preventative methods that address why young people feel unsafe in a school setting and therefore choose to arm themselves. For more details on the white paper visit http://www.dfes.gov.uk/pns/DisplayPN.cgi?pn_id=2008_0095


5.0 Third Sector News

Consulting with The Third Sector

The Office of the Third Sector has commissioned a research project to look at how consultation with the third sector in England could be improved. The three key questions are:

  • How can government most effectively consult with third sector organisations?
  • How can it reach organisations normally under-represented in government consultations
  • Are there specific ways in which consultation with the third sector differs from other government consultation?

The organisation, Involve, is heading the consortium of organisations commissioned to deliver the research. Their final report is due in October 2008.

New Commissioner for The Compact

Sir Bert Massie has been appointed as the new Commissioner for the Compact. This role involves pushing for greater public sector compliance with the Compact, the partnership agreement between the government and VCS.

This happens at a time when the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) and the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA) have written to the Minister for the Third Sector, Phil Hope, calling for the Compact to be given legal status.