ISSUE 52 - April 2012
Policy E-Newsletter


In this issue:
Mayor's inquiry into London schools - update

BAME Prisoners, Mental Health and Wellbeing and the Government Work Programme

Race Equality Scorecard Launch

Social research ranks grow with newly certified young Tamils

Racism is making an unwelcome resurgence

Children, young people and schools

Mayor’s inquiry into London schools - update

On 11 November the Mayor of London announced a new education inquiry aimed at exploring the critical challenges facing London's primary and secondary schools. Key issues will be: How to support schools to continue to drive up standards; Meeting the demand for good school places; Increasing investment in school buildings and supporting the growth of academies and free schools; Encouraging more partnerships between state schools and independent schools, businesses and charitable or cultural organisations; Tackling underachievement of particular ethnic groups, boys and those from disadvantaged backgrounds; Driving school improvement and keeping class sizes to maximum of 30 pupils; Increasing take up of key subjects such as Languages and STEM (Science, Technology and Maths) to ensure London’s workforce are skilled for the future economy; Exploring the role of vocational education, careers support for future work; Provision of after school clubs and supplementary education.

The interim report from the inquiry has now been published for consultation.

ROTA has produced a briefing on the interim report which is available here.

ROTA, BTEG, the Runnymede Trust and the National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education will be working together to ensure this Inquiry considers the inequalities faced by London’s BAME children and young people in education, highlighting the key role supplementary schools play in addressing these.

To find out more and to work with us in responding to this Inquiry please contact Barbara Nea, Senior Policy Officer on or tel: 020 7842 8531.

To read the Mayor of London's press release about the Inquiry here.

Criminal justice and mental health

BAME Prisoners, Mental Health and Wellbeing and the Government Work Programme

In March, the Government announced that people leaving prison who go on to claim Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) will be referred immediately to the Work Programme and any benefits will be lost if ex-prisoners refuse to cooperate.

Employment minister, Chris Grayling, has argued the new measures are designed to reduce reoffending. Grayling said:"Getting former offenders into work is absolutely crucial to tackling our crime challenge. The rate of reoffending in Britain is far too high, and we have to reduce it. In the past we just sent people out onto the same streets where they offended in the first place with virtually no money and very little support."

It is anticipated that up to 30,000 prisoners who leave jail each year, who then claim JSA, will be referred to the Work Programme (one third of all those claiming job seekers allowance have criminal records, with 28% on employment support).

ROTA welcomes the joint pledge on Mental Health and Wellbeing from the Work Programme prime providers and hope this is reflected in effective support and services. This should go some way to helping people with mental ill health gain and sustain paid work. It is imperative that this support is equally available for people leaving prison and that it recognises the links between health and employment so that they are offered together.

ROTA’s research into commissioned services for ex-offenders highlights the importance of employment support taking place in a “through the gates” fashion to increase success. See the executive summery of the Effective Commissioning to Reduce Re-offending here. This will be a challenging aspect for the Work Programme prime contract holders who will need to balance the nuanced needs of prisoners, including those where there may be a skills gap. Adding sufficient flexibility within the work programme is absolutely crucial and may go some way towards reducing the racial inequalities particularly experienced by black and black British ex-offenders in obtaining employment.

Wider concerns for prisoners

ROTA welcomes the investment into diversion and liaison services across courts and police stations. However, ROTA is concerned that there has not been equal focus on supporting and effectively diverting ex-offenders with mental health conditions. As commented by Sean Duggan, Centre for Mental Health, "Nine out of ten prisoners have a mental health condition. It is vital that people leaving prison are assessed accurately under the Work Capability Assessment and given the right level of support from the Work Programme based on their personal needs”. The delivery of mental health support in prisons remains a pressing concern for ROTA. For example, evidence shows that 26.1% of Irish Travellers in prison have 1 or more mental illnesses. In comparison, it is estimated that 10% of the prison population has ‘serious mental health problems.

Without adequately identifying and thereafter supporting prisoners with mental health conditions whilst in prison, then efficiently coordinating health and employment services upon their release success will be limited. Therefore it is necessary to ensure user led involvement shaping the delivery of the Work Programme.

Equality Act 2010 update and Training
Currently no new updates.

Tamil oral history project

Tamil Community Centre women exchange stories of migration for International Women's Day

On 30 March, a Tamil Community Centre women's group hosted a story hour on women and migration to celebrate International Women's Day.

Women in the group shared their experiences of life in the UK and reflected on the circumstances for women in their country of origin. Participants spoke candidly about the impact of social change and migration on women in Sri Lanka and around the world.

To hear their stories, stay tuned for a series of short films, currently in development for the Through the generations: Tamil oral history project, due out in late 2012. The session was made possible with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Oxfam and Race on the Agenda. For more information, visit our website.


Social research ranks grow with newly certified young Tamils

Fifteen young Tamil volunteers, aged 12 – 16, earned introductory certificates in oral history and social research at a workshop delivered by Dr. Lorena Arocha of the University of Bedfordshire.

The participatory workshop, hosted in conjunction with the Through the generations: Tamil oral history project, included discussions on the value of community heritage and the importance of sharing memories of home. The young researchers developed their communication, interviewing and critical thinking skills, while applying their knowledge of technology to audio recording.

Certificates will be awarded during a Hounslow Tamil New Year celebration in April. The young volunteers will also be participating in photography workshops, with the work set to be featured in a larger exhibition on Tamil migration in West London in Autumn 2012.

For more information on taking part in future sessions, please contact Ryan Mahan,


ROTA Events and Training

Seminar series: Shaping the future: Race and racism in 21st century Britain

In partnership with Tower Hamlets CVS, the Osmani Trust, Hackney CVS, the Selby Centre and Islington BAME CVS, this seminar series has now been successfully delivered. Through the series, over 200 representatives from the voluntary, community, statutory and private sectors considered the broad questions: “Is there an elephant in the room? If we live in a post-racial society, why do certain ethnic groups continue to experience disadvantage? This seminar series was launched in November 2011 at the House of Lords to coincide with the retrial into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. It had a particular focus on solutions to persistent and emerging inequalities faced by BAME children, young people and their families.

A full report will be available soon.

National and Regional news

‘Broad brush’ approach to integration strategy points finger without direction

The Department for Communities and Local Government’s integration strategy arrives at a time of popular anxiety over the economy, security and immigration. Unfortunately, its broad brush brand of vintage populism provides none of the strong leadership demanded of the situation, argues Elizabeth Henry, ROTA CEO.

The current debate on multiculturalism and immigration set out in the DCLG’s Creating the conditions for integration focuses on two reasons for our ‘integration failures’. One, according to the paper, policies based in legal rights and anti-discrimination law have ‘not solved the problem and, where it has encouraged a focus on single issues and specific groups, may in some cases have exacerbated it’. The second failure is alleged to be consequence of those migrants who are ‘unwilling to integrate’.

This repetition of myths about ‘red tape’ bureaucracy and ‘hard to reach’ minorities immediately sets off alarm bells. What evidence do we have that particular groups are failing to buy-in to the UK’s value system? Should we be lumping the vast and super-diverse individuals who populate modern Britain into groups of ‘will's’ and ‘will not's’? Are muscularly ‘localist’ policies that give local groups the power to ultimately decide who does and does not belong responsible? Where is the evaluation of the strides we have made? What about the role of the BAME voluntary sector?

There is a third, unavoidable failure that we have to consider if we are to properly judge the merits of the strategy.

See here for more.


Unemployment and ethnicity

The Department of Work and Pensions have released data analysed using the Labour Force Survey. The data reveals that the rate of unemployment for young black people is 44% compared to 20% of the white population. This is important when research has clearly stressed that unemployment rates for people from minority ethnic groups rises faster than average unemployment during recessions (Berthoud, 2009). This is a pattern which has been repeated in past recessions (Smith 1977, Jones, 1993) with ethnic minority unemployment rising faster than white unemployment. How fair is that?

More information and DWP additional statistical analyses can be found here.


Racism is making an unwelcome resurgence

The racially aggravated abuse of Mauro Demetrio by PC Alex MacFarlane is one of a string of abuses gaining coverage in the media. Add to that those who have taken to Twitter to abuse black football players from Fabrice Muamba to James Perch and we have a situation in need of swift action. What is frustrating is that in the wake of the Evra/Ferdinand affair(s), few, Twitter abusers without the requisite institutional backing aside, are actually being held to account for their actions. Months after convictions were finally gained in the Stephen Lawrence case, the fact that PC MacFarlane has not been held to account is a symbol that we can not drop our guard.

This leads to one suggestion. A study by the LSE’s Alan Manning on sense of belonging among minority ethnic and white British communities argues that Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities say they have a strong sense of belonging to Britain and their local community, despite factors such as residential segregation. It is the white British respondents who reported a lower sense of belonging, especially when asked if they agreed if one can belong to Britain and maintain a separate/religious identity. In one sense, the integration strategy follows this line of logic, it gives precedence to these anxieties of the majority population, without advocating policy that diffuses them, dispelling myths about migrants and speaking in clear terms about issues of integration, legislation and identity.

A related point has been made that Government policy on multiculturalism has never been the heavy-handed and deep set of prescriptions we are made to believe it is. The suggestion here is that it has failed because it has not been applied liberally enough. Controversially in London, one of the most diverse cities in the world, should be implementing substantive policies and programmes that address intercultural relations between minority ethnic groups, tackle racism and impact on the real, material circumstances of belonging – education, criminal justice, access to health, jobs and physical security. At the same time, this should reject the idea that celebrating difference widens the gap between us all.


London Councils consultation

London Councils latest consultation on the London Borough Grants Scheme closed on 23 March 2012.

Through the consultation, London Councils asked about its proposals to further reduce the scheme, which for years has funded the voluntary and community sector to address inequalities in London. A significant proportion of the fund has been targeted at disadvantaged BAME communities. It is possible that the budget for the scheme will be reduced to as little as £8 million in 2013 – 14. In 2009 – 10 the budget was £26 million.

ROTA has submitted a response which is available from the publications pages of our website at along with responses to previous consultations.

London Councils will make a final decision about the future of the London Borough Grants Scheme on 12th June.


External news, events and training

Race Equality Scorecard Launch

On 30 January, the Runnymede Trust launched its Race Equality Scorecard project in partnership with the Kingston Race Equality Council. The project aims to enable communities to hold local authorities and strategic stakeholders, such as the police and NHS, to account for how they are working to combat racial inequalities. To find out more email


Integration strategy fails to address race equality

The Government’s integration strategy, ‘Creating the Conditions for Integration’ was published on Tuesday 21st February. This document does little to address racial inequalities.

The strategy presents integration as being a one way process, with an emphasis on adhering to ‘British values’ and the social norms of the ‘majority’. It also has little evidence backing up its approach, very few policy solutions and very little focus on race equality. In addition, the strategy fails to consider the benefits of working with BME voluntary and community organisations to promote integration and achieve equality, despite the valuable work they do across the country.

Voice4Change is running a campaign for a fairer society calling for a Race Equality Strategy, for further information please click here.


Runnymede report identifies race as a causal factor in the 2011 riots

Runnymede’s report of the Riot Roundtables project was published in March 2012.

The Riot Roundtables brought key local decision-makers, professionals, young people and members of the community together to find out what happened during the riots and what can be done to prevent something similar happening again. Runnymede was keen to find out if race played a role in the riots.

To find out more about Runnymede’s Riot Roundtables, please click here.


Seminar: It’s time to move on from ‘race’

30th April 2012, from 11am to 2pm

Dr Yasmin Gunaratnam of Goldsmiths, University of London is chairing a seminar to celebrate the a launch of a new book from Policy Press. Understanding ‘Race’ and Ethnicity: Theory, history, policy, practice edited by Gary Craig, Karl Atkin, Sangeta Chattoo and Ronny Flynn refute the claim by politicians that the issue of ‘race’ is well covered by the present policy and political context.

The seminar is on the 30th April 2012, from 11am to 2pm with refreshments and a light lunch provided. The venue for the seminar is Resource for London, 356 Holloway Road, London, N7 6PA.

To attend please contact by the 16th April.


Restorative Justice Training

Community Empowerment Network are hosting a 2 Day Restorative Justice Awareness course (Saturdays 5th and 12th May and a 4 Day Restorative Justice Facilitators training course (Saturdays 5th, 12th 19th & 26th May 2012 ) to be held in the Shakespeare Business Centre, 245a Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, SW9 8RR.

Restorative Justice is ‘…a process whereby all the parties with a stake in a particular offence (or incident) come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and the implications for the future’ (Marshall, 1999).

The two day (RJ Awareness) and the four day (RJ Facilitators) training courses are aimed at anyone who wants to either familiarise themselves with RJ principles and background as well as those who want to be able to provide RJ conferencing and includes school staff, youth workers; youth offending services; social care services; residential care; community and voluntary services; probation services; police forces; local authorities; and human resource personnel.

For further details and to register, please contact Deuan German, Training Officer at Communities Empowerment Network T: 020 7733 0297 M: 07958 546 113




Race on the Agenda
c/o Voluntary Sector Centre, International Press Centre
76 Shoe Lane London EC4A 3JB
Tel: 020 7842 8533 Fax: 020 7842 8535





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 on London policy developments which are likely to impact on BAME communities.