ISSUE 43 - October 2010
Policy E-Newsletter

Welcome to our new look policy bulletin.

Finally, the long-awaited consultation on the Public Sector Equality Duty of the Equality Act 2010 is here and we have begun coordinating a response from the BAME sector through our Winning the Race Coalition. We will hold an event, a series of one day training sessions for voluntary and community groups as well as discussions with the Winning the Race Coalition.

In addition to our in-house activities, we will be out and about. This month you will see our Chief Executive, Dr Elizabeth Henry speak about race equality at the ‘Health for All’ conference in Islington and at the London Empowerment Partnership's event, ‘Ensuring equality in a changing London’ on 21 October. Our Senior Policy Officer, Carlene Firmin, has two engagements this month. After speaking about women and the justice system at the Conservative Party Conference, Carlene will attend the Manchester Domestic Violence Forum and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Conference to discuss our Female Voice in Violence Project.

We are also attending a range of events in celebration of Black History Month. Check out your local authority's website to find out what is going on in your area.

We are still very concerned about the review of London Council’s commissioning programme, which provides £26.4 million to the voluntary and community sector. Since a significant portion of this money is targeted at disadvantaged BAME communities, we urge you to get involved in our work with MiNet and Voluntary Sector Forum on the consultations.

We are also recruiting for our Chief Executive and Company Secretary. To find out more please visit our website here. The closing date for applications is 15 October.

Best wishes until next month.

Ryan and Barbara

Children, young people and education

National Audit Office report on academies

A recent report by the National Audit Office (NAO), the government’s spending watchdog, has shown that the gap in attainment between wealthy and poorer academy students is growing. Additionally, gaps in attainment levels within academies are wider than in comparable maintained schools.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has based his school reforms on the expansion of the academies programme, arguing that academies improve three times faster than maintained schools.

By contrast, the NAO has found that while the grades of disadvantaged pupils – have improved in academies, the gap between them and their peers has actually grown in academies than in comparable maintained schools. In such cases, pupils on free school meals, with English as an additional language or with special educational needs have been negatively affected.

The NAO report also claimed the government's attempts to rapidly expand the number of academies is "risky" and could create a new generation of schools that provide poor value and are financially unsustainable.

Read our comment on what the Academies Act means for the future of race equality in education.


ROTA’s response to the pupil premium for disadvantaged students

Government is currently consulting on a new pupil premium to raise achievement among disadvantaged children to start from 2011.

ROTA will be responding to this, highlighting the need to consider how children and young people from certain BAME backgrounds are disadvantaged within the education system. If you have views or evidence to inform our response please contact Barbara Nea on 020 7902 1177.

Read our comment on the pupil premium and how you can take part in the consultation.

What's fair? Applying the fairness test to education

The Coalition Government's plans for increased funding for disadvantaged pupils is not enough in itself to deal with some of the deep-seated problems of division and segregation within our school system, says a new report published by the Fabian Society.

The report argues that it is not good enough to simply accept educational segregation and seek to compensate those who it acutely disadvantages with more funding. It says the underlying vision of educational reform has to be one of greater social mix.

The report explores progress made by the Labour government in tackling educational inequality during its time and considers the new Coalition Government's proposed reforms.

The report is available here.


Investing in our Future

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is currently consulting on a ‘Simplified Further Education and Skills Funding System and Methodology’ for post-19 learners.

This consultation may have significant implications for race equality. In particular:

  • It emphasises that employers and individuals should invest in their own learning. This could disadvantage poorer groups and those who may have more dependants - among which BAME communities are over-represented - unless adequate subsidies are retained and targeted.

  • It asks for responses on how subsidies for disadvantaged students should be targeted. Yet, there is no mention of BAME communities that have been traditionally disadvantaged in skills and further education.

  • The new performance management system it proposes includes significantly reduced monitoring requirements. Yet, this will impact on providers’ ability to ensure they are meeting their equalities obligations.

  • It considers how to ensure that colleges and training organisations meet the needs of different customers. Yet, it fails to include proposals that encourage organisations to engage and respond to the needs of groups that have been traditionally excluded.

This consultation also has significant implications for BAME organisations that deliver skills and further education programmes. The proposed commercialisation of the skills and further education sector is likely to disadvantage the BAME sector, where many organisations have less capacity to compete with larger mainstream VCS and private sector organisations. Other issues of concern include:

  • The proposed ‘payment on results’ model will exclude small organisations without cash flow.

  • The desire to reduce the number of contracts with an apparent bias against bureaucracy of sub-contracting may limit the diversity of the sector.

  • The focus on value for money and efficiency, without any recognition of the unique value smaller VCS organisations bring, for example in engaging excluded communities, which actually costs more and takes longer.

If you are a BAME organisation with an interest in skills and further education we recommend you respond to this consultation, highlighting these concerns with any evidence you have. If you do not have the capacity to respond, please contact Barbara Nea on 020 7902 1177 for additional support.

The deadline is 14 October 2010.


Crime and criminal justice

Coalition Government’s plans for sentencing reform

The Ministry of Justice has announced its plans for sentencing reforms, which will be proposed in a Green Paper to be published this November. The proposals will cover changes to sentencing, and in how courts operate and to legal aid, in how offenders can access education while on sentences.

In a speech in June, the new Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke revealed plans to review how courts sentence people. Measures such as minimum and maximum prison sentences and issues attached to qualifying for release before serving the minimum sentence will be part of the review.

These proposals are aimed at promoting consistency and giving the judiciary greater discretion in sentencing. That said, given the disproportionally high level of custodial sentences affecting some BAME communities, this will have a major impact on how equality is ensured within the criminal justice system. The government will also be consulting judges and courts on the effectiveness of non-custodial sentences.

BAME organisations with good cases and an interest in ensuring better sentencing policy should seek to influence the Ministry of Justice. If you are such an organisation but do not have the time to submit a response, please contact Ewan Kennedy for support.

Read Kenneth Clarke’s full speech about these reforms here.


BAME young people are treated differently in youth justice system

King’s College Institute for Criminal Policy Research has recently published research that argues that the Youth Justice System treat BAME people differently. Mixed race offenders, for example, are more likely to be sent to court than given a police disposal. A key finding of the research is that police in some cities use an adversarial style of policing, which has led to an over-representation of BAME communities within crime statistics compared to other areas with less adversarial styles. It raises important questions about the style of operational policing.

Read the research report here.


NACRO campaign to shorten time for spent criminal convictions

NACRO launched a new campaign in September to reform the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. The Change the Record campaign proposes to shorten the period of time that criminal convictions have to be declared in job applications.

These proposals come at a time when a recent poll revealed that criminal convictions are the most embarrassing things for an employee to tell employers. NACRO hopes that the campaign will allow for more employment opportunities to be created for ex-offenders.

With the disproportional numbers of BAME people forced through the criminal justice system and the additional barriers BAME ex-offenders face in gaining satisfactory employment, ROTA supports the campaign and encourages others to do so also. Find out more about NACRO’s campaign here.


Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill aims to make the police service more accountable to the public by introducing several new measures:

  • Directly electing individuals to lead police forces to increase police accountability to local people

  • Amending health and safety laws

  • Improving and strengthening immigration controls

  • Providing stronger powers to tackle alcohol-fuelled crime

The Bill may change policing significantly. Therefore the Home Affairs Committee – a committee of Members of Parliament – is conducting inquiries into present police activity.

The Committee is particularly interested to hear views on replacing appointed police authorities with elected police and crime commissioners. As one of the key elements of the Bill, this proposal may be significant for BAME communities. Elected commissioners could address lack of confidence among some BAME communities in many police forces. A similar model in the United States succeeded in some areas. On the other hand, there is a risk that elected commissioners could lead to greater populism that could, in turn, affect more marginalised communities.

ROTA encourages BAME groups with an interest in criminal justice to contact the Committee conducting inquires with any evidence you have. If you would like to comment but do not have the capacity, please contact Ewan Kennedy for support.

Find out more about how to inform the Committee’s work here.



Implementing the Equality Act 2010

The introduction of the Equality Act 2010 brought together over 300 pieces of previous equalities legislation, including those on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation and transgender discrimination into a single Act. One of the main aims of the Equality Act was to simplify previous legislation.

Most of the Equality Act came into force this month. Other provisions will come into force at different times to allow for people and organisations affected by the Act to prepare for them. The new Government has also yet to decide whether to bring into force several parts, including positive action and dual discrimination, which have been considered important by the BAME sector. The Winning the Race Coalition will continue to highlight the importance of these protections to the Government over the coming months.

Other important parts which have yet to be confirmed are:

  • the socio-economic duty on public authorities

  • gender pay gap information

  • diversity reporting by political parties

  • prohibition on age discrimination in services and public functions

  • civil partnerships on religious premises


New specific duties

The most important provision in the Equality Act for race equality and the BAME sector relates to the Public Sector Equality Duty, which comes into force in April 2011.

The new Public Sector Equality Duty applies to eight protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. It is the duty on public bodies and other bodies, such as voluntary organisations that deliver public services, to consider how they will promote equality of opportunity, eliminate discrimination and promote good relations. It will replace the general duty for race from the Race Relations Act from April 2011.

The specific duties are the regulations which will help public bodies meet their Public Sector Equality Duty. They are important because courts will use the duties to judge whether public bodies are doing enough to ensure equality both in the services they provide and as employers.

In July, the government announced its consultation on the new Public Sector Equality Duty. The consultation document is available here.

ROTA is pleased that the proposed new Public Sector Equality Duty will require public authorities to collect more transparent equalities monitoring data. However, we are concerned that it will not require public authorities to consult communities and that there is no increase in enforcement powers. We are concerned that the new Public Sector Equality Duty might make it more difficult for BAME communities and their organisations to ensure public bodies are delivering equality of opportunity to all communities.

If you would like the read our briefing on the new Public Sector Equality Duty, contact Ewan Kennedy.

We will be developing our response over the coming months. We would like to engage as many BAME organisations as possible to ensure race equality can be taken forward through the new Public Sector Equality Duty. We will hold a consultation event in London on 26 October. More information is available here.

To find out more about our work on the Equality Act, please contact Ewan Kennedy on 020 7902 1177.


ROTA’s training on the Equality Act

We have also developed training for voluntary and community organisations and others working with BAME communities on how to use the Equality Act to hold public authorities to account. The next three dates for this one day introductory course are 28 and 29 October in Central London and 1 November in Bristol (in partnership with Black South West Network). More information is available here.


Female Voice in Violence

Since 2008 ROTA has conducted research on the impact of serious youth and gang violence on women and girls. This began with a London-focused study from 2008 to 2010, and has now developed into a national research programme covering Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.

Through this project, a Coalition has been created to raise awareness among voluntary and public service providers and policy makers at local, regional and national levels about the impact serious youth and gang violence has on women and girls.

The Coalition includes any individual or agency with an interest in the issues relating to women, girls and serious youth violence. Find out more and join the Coalition here.


Health inequalities

The Health White Paper – Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS

The White Paper proposes one of the biggest reforms of the health service ever seen and is likely to significantly impact on race equality in health and the BAME sector. The Afiya Trust are developing a response from the BAME sector and are calling for organisations to complete their questionnaire on health and sign their response. To find out more, please visit the Afiya Trust’s website here.

Improving health and social care support for carers from BAME communities

The Race Equality Foundation’s latest Better Health Briefing, ‘Improving health and social care support for carers from black and minority ethnic communities’ is available here. It draws attention to the experience of BAME carers of mainstream service provision and recent policy developments such as the National Carers Strategy. It acknowledges that marginalisation in health and social care is often a consequence of lack of support for both carers and BAME communities. The paper brings together research evidence and examples of leading practice and emphasises the importance of addressing and not concealing existing inequalities in current changes in policy focus.

Minister announces re-shaping of mental health strategy

In September, Paul Burstow, Care Services Minister, announced work to re-shape government’s mental health strategy. In an article for Community Care magazine the Minister calls for a wholesale shift in emphasis to give mental health parity with physical health in the NHS.

ROTA welcomes the recognition given by the Minister in his speech of the need to join together strategy to link poor mental health and deprivation, unemployment, housing, children’s services, environmental planning and community empowerment. He also spoke of the essential role of charities and community groups in supporting those with mental health issues.

In the months ahead, we will be following developments and will keep you informed of opportunities to shape the new mental health strategy. We will continue to raise the following points made in our response to the previous government’s consultation on its latest mental health strategy launched earlier this year:

  • There is a need to address the detrimental impact certain areas of government policy have on the mental health of BAME communities, in particular, criminal justice. In terms of mental health issues, BAME women fare even worse than BAME men and white British women in the criminal justice system.

  • The unique and vital role the BAME sector plays in addressing the mental health issues faced by many BAME people should be acknowledged.

  • The barriers those from many BAME communities face in accessing appropriate community-based mental health services needs to be addressed. These barriers mean that certain BAME people often follow more coercive and complex pathways to the mental health system, including higher rates of referral from the criminal justice system.

  • Government’s mental health strategy should take forward the work under ‘Delivering race equality in mental health care: An action plan’ from 2005 until 2010. Despite improvements made under this programme, BAME communities continue to face acute inequalities in mental health.

Paul Burstow’s article can be read here.

ROTA’s response to the previous government’s mental health strategy, ‘New Horizons: Towards a shared vision for mental health’ can be read here.

The Department of Health’s new webpages about the government’s approach to mental health can be read here.


ROTA’s latest magazine on mental health

In September we launched the latest edition of our quarterly magazine,Agenda, with a special focus on mental health. It gathers together a number of experts in the field to present their view of the mental health landscape as experienced by BAME communities. It also highlights the unique and vital role grassroots BAME organisations play in addressing such inequalities and presents a number of inspirational case studies. Agenda can be read here. Hard copies can be ordered by contacting Ryan Mahan.


Young, black women are at greater risk of self harm

A recent study of 15,000 people in accident and emergency has found that young black women were over-represented among those who self-harm.

The study recommended that programs and services that interface with people who self-harm should become more “culturally sensitive”. It has important implications for the way services are provided to those who self-harm.

The researchers have suggested this over-representation may be linked to the higher degrees of social problems faced by young black women. These include unemployment, housing and academic pressure, since young black women are more likely to be students than their white counterparts.

The study also highlighted barriers this group faces in accessing appropriate mental health services, making them more vulnerable to ongoing mental health issues.

Find out more about the study here.


Seminar: BAME Mental Health & Well Being, 21 October

On 21 October, The Asian Health Agency will bring together community groups, policy makers and service providers at this seminar in order to explore the mental health issues affecting BAME communities. To find out more contact Farah Chaudhry on 020 8981 2146 or 07961 712 392.

Other national news

New findings on BAME youth unemployment

The Roots Research Centre, released its National BAME Youth Unemployment Survey last month. The study looked at employment experiences and barriers facing BAME young people in London, Liverpool, Leicester and Sheffield.

The study highlighted the need to:

  • Make Job Centre Plus services were tailored to the needs of young BAME people

  • Raise young people's aspirations and positively influence their attitudes when looking for work; and

  • Explore what schools can do differently to motivate young BAME people.

Read the full findings and recommendations here.

Big Lottery publishes report on equal support

In October the Big Lottery Fund published a report which suggests that for small VCS organisations led by and for minority groups, the quality of organisational support is more important than the identity of the provider.

The study considered whether BAME organisations and lesbian, gay and bi-sexual (LGB) groups receive better organisational development support if it is delivered by infrastructure organisations that share their identity.

Some of the studies key findings include:

  • Small BAME and LGB groups share many of the same support needs with other small VCS groups

  • Many BAME and LGB groups do however work across borough boundaries and face challenges in using borough-based voluntary infrastructure support services

  • In areas where there is not a critical mass of BAME or LGB communities, equality concerns may be marginalised

  • More partnership working between specialist and generic providers is needed.

The full report 'Equal support: Do identity-based voluntary and community groups need identity-based organisational development' is available here.


London news

Ensuring equality in a changing London, 21 October

On 21 October, ROTA’s Chief Executive, Dr Elizabeth Henry, will address the question ‘as the government’s priorities change, how can we make sure equality and diversity stay top of the agenda?’ at the London Empowerment Partnership’s ‘Ensuring Equality’ event. Other speakers include Vivienne Hayes of the Women’s Resource Centre and Sarah Crowther of Refugees in Effective and Active Partnership. To book a free place at this central London-based event contact Claire Harding.


ROTA and MiNet's meeting with the London Assembly about GLA’s equality schemes

In August ROTA and MiNet met London Assembly member, Jeanette Arnold, about the race and gender equality schemes the Mayor was consulting on at the time. We have subsequently noted that a number of our key recommendations were included in the Assembly’s final response to the consultations:

  • Specific actions and targets relating to race equality should be included in the race equality scheme and the mainstream area of policy that they relate to.

  • The schemes should set out who the key external partners are in the delivery of the Mayor’s vision, along with details of how they will be involved in the work.

  • Senior stakeholder reference groups bringing together expert representatives of different equalities strands should be set up.

  • The need for greater support for the voluntary and community sector through the equality schemes.

Additionally, the London Assembly's response proposed the following questions for discussion with the Moyor in December:

  • How the Mayor’s desired outcomes and performance measures correspond with his equalities duty.

  • What specific things, beyond those of general application to all Londoners, the GLA has put into place to promote substantive equality and what the impact has been.

  • If the equality impact assessments of all Mayoral strategies have been completed.


Mayor’s Question Time, 15 September 2010

During the 15 September event Richard Barnbrook (BNP, London wide) challenged the Mayor on his approach to race equality: “What barriers remain in London for an individual to seek work who is talented, creative and hard working?”

In response, the Mayor said the "reality cannot be ignored" that discrimination and prejudice still exist in London. He pointed to a recent study that showed that there was an hourly pay gap of between 13 to 21 per cent between Pakistani and Bangladeshi men and the general population of men of the same age and qualifications.


London Councils’ commissioning programme

London Councils currently awards £26.4 million funding to the voluntary and community sector each year through its commissioning programme. A significant proportion of this is targeted at disadvantaged BAME communities. London Councils is now consulting on the future of this fund, including its proposals to considerably reduce it.

We are very concerned that the process to determine the future of London Councils’ commissioning programme is being rushed through too quickly. We are concerned that without careful consideration, a significant reduction in this fund risks irreversible damage to the BAME voluntary and community sector and other equality sectors in London.

We urge you to respond to the online consultation which closes on 10 November, highlighting the need to take a more considered approach to decisions about the future of this important fund and the need for it. Voluntary Sector Forum (VSF) have produced a hard copy of the online consultation and a background paper which should be read alongside it.

If you would like help completing a response, please contact Barbara Nea or call 020 7729 1177. Alternatively, if you have any evidence on the importance of funding pan-London, sub-regional and cross-borough projects that address inequality, especially in relation to health, violence and victimisation and poverty, please email Barbara Nea.

ROTA is also working with MiNet and VSF to inform the London Councils consultation. Through its campaign, VSF have produced a range of resources including template letters you can use to write to local councillors and MPs with any concerns you have about the impact of cutting this fund.

This consultation follows one in January this year on future priorities for the commissioning programme, to which ROTA sent a comprehensive reply having consulted our membership.

Read Alison Benjamin’s article on the review of London Councils’ commissioning programme in the Guardian on 8 September here.



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About the newsletter
Our policy newsletter provides a monthly update on developments under our three policy priorities – health, education and criminal justice – as well as from our policy projects which fall under these areas. It also provides a more general update, from ROTA and MiNet, on London policy developments which are likely to impact on BAME communities.

About MiNet
MiNet is London's BAME third sector network which provides a voice for London's BAME population in the development of regional policy. Since 2002, MiNet has been hosted by ROTA on behalf of London's BAME third sector. Find out more about MiNet here.