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Charities must be seen to be tackling racial and other key inequalities

Apr 30, 2015 - Comments: 0

As the General Election approaches and we consider what the next five years hold for our country,  the issues we care about, and the organisation and sector that we work in – the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector – we should challenge ourselves to have strong agenda for change. 

My challenge for our sector is to be more progressive on equality and inclusion.

The public, private and voluntary sectors all have their strengths and weaknesses but when all are valued, society wins. All sectors strive to be efficient and effective and the VSC is certainly able to make a real difference, often with very few resources. Its strength comes from highly committed people, unpaid and paid, who see a social or environmental need and go all out to make the situation better for their fellow citizens.

As a member of the Queens’s Award for Voluntary Service National Award Committee, every year I see great examples of the real difference volunteers make in their communities for every section of society.

But the VSC is a wonderfully diverse sector and I want to see the large organisations in the sector move to the forefront of tackling social justice and racial inequalities. Our best known charities should be publishing information on equality and diversity on their websites - about their staff profiles and service users - and we should set our actions to address the main equality performance disparities where they exist.

The VCS should be beyond the public sector equality duty, we should be advocating for a levelling up of the legalisation, but all too often the sector actually lags behind the public sector on equalities.

How many of the top 100 charities boards reflect Britain’s ethnic diversity?

How many have senior BME leaders?

These valued charities must be seen to be tackling racial, and other key inequalities. Greater transparency is vital and leaders in the sector need to put the sector at the forefront of equality and diversity best practice.

Bristol Manifesto for Race Equality Event

Apr 22, 2015 - Comments: 0

On the 16 April BTEG had the pleasure of speaking at the Bristol BME Voice Strategic Leaders’ event.

The purpose of this ground breaking event was to bring together leaders within Bristol’s public sector to share their perceptions of Bristol in relation to race equality and to start to start the process of identifying actions that they can take individually and collectively.

The Bristol Manifesto sets out a vison for Bristol and a range of practical actions that the BME Voice Manifesto Advisory Group want to see implemented. Public sector leaders were very open about the challenges in Bristol and some felt the city remains ‘ethnically segregated’ and that challenges remain to increase the representation of BME people at senior levels in their organisations, as well as improve their service delivery.  

In his short speech BTEG’s Director, Jeremy Crook, focused on leadership and race equality and the need for leaders to demonstrate, on a daily basis, their commitment to tackle racial inequalities as employers and service providers. This means working with their senior management team to mainstream race equality in everything that they do and to develop a culture in their organisations where leaders and managers are expected to perform on race equality. The Equality Act  should serve to underpin the visible efforts made by public sector leaders.

Improving the culture within organisations is not easy.  It requires leaders to put their heads above the parapet and demonstrate confidence in the subject. This in part comes from regular interaction with BME staff in their organisations and their service users. Tackling race equality may not always be ‘popular’ or welcomed by other senior leaders in their organisations Unless this happens and leaders start to work together, the situation will continue for a very long time. Individual leaders can make a difference but collective leadership in a city or town can be transformational. At a time of limited resources, public sector leaders need to pool their resources and share their expertise.

The event highlighted the past successes of positive action programmes in the city’s housing sector and how that led to progression for a number of the BME participants. However, it wasn’t sustained. If leaders today, across the public sector, work together they can develop leadership programmes that are sustainable for both BME middle mangers and young BME people.

BTEG commends Bristol BME Voice and the City’s leaders and will continue to encourage and support their efforts to make Bristol the number one city on race equality in the future 

Inequalities in the labour market:

Mar 12, 2015 - Comments: 0
the next Government should make ethnic minority youth unemployment a priority

BTEG is disappointed but not surprised to read recent headlines about the rise in long term unemployment among ethnic minority young people. Unemployment rates have been higher for ethnic minority people in the UK, of all ages, and particularly for people from black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups, for as long as these figures have been published.

It was always apparent that young people from black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups were hit hardest by rising unemployment from 2008. And despite falls in the unemployment rates for white young people over the last two years, unemployment rates for ethnic minority young people have continued to rise. Since 2011, when the overall unemployment rate began to decrease, the unemployment rate for ethnic minority young people has been twice as high as the unemployment rate for white young people.

BTEG has long campaigned about inequalities in the labour market opportunities for young people. With support from Trust for London we conducted research in 2013 which focused on young black males, the group which experienced the highest unemployment rate, at 50%, of all young people in 2012. Around 200 young black men contributed to this research by sharing their experiences of trying to find jobs.

Regardless of their educational background from those who left school with no qualifications to those with a Masters degree, these young men had all experienced racism, discrimination or negative stereotyping when searching for work. Those we talked to, without exception, had been in job interviews where they believed that the interviewer would rather not employ a young black man. They cannot prove that this is why they didn’t get the job, and there is no route from them to complain about being treated unfairly, so the young men don’t generally discuss this. Unemployment is somehow seen as ‘their fault’. As a result, it’s not too extreme to say that a lot of these young men are in a state of despair - they don’t see any chance of finding a decent job and have lost hope of ever having a reasonable income and a regular lifestyle.

Another key discovery from this research is that there is remarkably little evidence of what works to help young black men get into employment. To address this, one of the main outcomes from this research is that Trust for London and City Bridge Trust have set up the Moving on Up programme.

Moving on Up is funding six projects from April 2015 to test new approaches to helping young black men to get jobs, building an evidence base for what works. An Advisory Group, which we hope will include representatives from the Department for Work and Pensions, the Greater London Authority, Jobcentre Plus and employers, will be following the progress of these demonstration projects over the next two years. 

It is difficult to see how a society which leaves so many of its young people without opportunities and without hope can be considered successful. When the lack of opportunities and lack of hope affects ethnic minority young people at a disproportionate rate, then it is difficult not to conclude that racism, discrimination and negative stereotyping are indeed the explanatory factors. When these racial inequalities have persisted for as long as the statistics have been collected, then the need for stronger action to deal with this becomes urgent.

The next Government should make ethnic minority youth unemployment a priority. It is hard to see how this equality deficit will be tackled unless the Government sets national and local targets to increase the employment rates for young ethnic minority people to the national average.

To vote or not to vote?

Mar 10, 2015 - Comments: 0

I recently read a news article discussing the Government’s new funding initiative to encourage students to register to vote. It said the Government has invested £530,000 to help fund an NUS competition in universities across the UK, with the aim of maximising student registration as young people are less likely to vote.

Since I turned 18 I have always voted and am always amazed at how many young people do not vote.  I did some research and was astounded by the statistics:

At the 1970 election the overall turn out was 72 percent

  • Among 18-24 year olds it was 65 percent and for those over 65, it was 77 percent.

Since 1997 the gap between the younger and older voting age group has become increasingly wide:

In 2005, 74 percent of the over 65’s voted compared to only 38 percent of the 18-24 year olds.

  • Last year, the number of people on the electoral role dropped by 920,000.

Many young people think they are treated unfairly when it comes to issues like the minimum wage, youth unemployment and housing benefit.  However, many of the same people will not vote in the May election. 

It is important to remember that we are lucky enough to live in a democracy; meaning we have the right to vote for who we like in fair and free elections. Many other countries do not allow their citizens this right.  

Some people believe their vote doesn’t make a difference but every vote is important and has the power to make a change. If you do not agree with any of the parties you can leave your ballot blank – more effective than not voting at all! 

The more young people vote the more likely politician’s are to make policies that benefit us.

The deadline to get on to the electoral register in order to vote in May’s election is the 20thApril, so it is fast approaching! It only takes a few minutes to sign up online and it is really simple.

If you want changes and different policies in the UK, sign up and vote!

Volunteers: commitment vs cost

Feb 25, 2015 - Comments: 0

       

During my working life I have met so many people who have inspired me through their passion and commitment to volunteering for a particular cause or organisation. Despite busy lives, their commitment often left me in awe.

However, for some of those individuals their offer of time and/or expertise was not best utilised by the organisation hosting them. It is a shame when this happens. Unfortunately, it is all too common, especially in small voluntary community organisations.

Is it a lack of capacity in the organisation?  Although this has some truth, I would suggest that it is more likely that the volunteer and the host organisation have not spent enough time discussing the opportunity available and the opportunity cost – the benefit of taking on the volunteer rather than not -  of the proposed role of the volunteer.

Some key questions that need to be asked before taking on a volunteer are:

  • Do you know what the volunteer wants to get out of volunteering - what’s their personal agenda or goal?
  • What are the best skills of the volunteer and does the proposed role/task utilise these skills?
  • What is the cost of managing and supporting the volunteer?
  • What is the opportunity cost of the proposed role?  

Before taking up a volunteering position or taking on volunteers consider these questions and decide whether – for both sides - the return is worth the investment of time and commitment.

To make the volunteering experience as beneficial and productive as possible for both individuals and organisations BTEG is launching Capital Volunteers.

For further information on this exciting new project contact Tebussum Rashid Tebussum@bteg.co.uk

Follow Capital Volunteers on Twitter @CapitalVol

Election 2015 - "May you live in interesting times"

Feb 25, 2015 - Comments: 0

           

2014 was a challenging year for our sector, but which years haven’t been? Together, though, through a great deal of both individual and collective energy, we have been able to provide the services and work towards the solutions that are so needed.

This year, however, presents a new, probably unprecedented, challenge.

In the past British elections were a binary choice; the new government was either going to be Labour or Conservative. Both sides could be lobbied to try and get them to include in their manifestos commitments that would benefit our sector.

Since 2010 that’s all changed. Going into that election it seemed to be business as usual but after the votes were in it was all up for grabs. The eventual coalition between Conservatives and LibDems led to policy compromises and a new agreement.

This time we have the uncertainly going into the election:

  • Labour and Conservative are playing nip and tuck in the opinion polls, so is it likely that either side can win an outright majority? The Electoral Calculus website suggests that there is a 50% chance of a hung Parliament.  One recent YouGov poll puts each party at 33%. You can test other scenarios with the UK Polling Reports Swing Calculator .
    • Will the SNP, UKIP, Ulster Unionists or the Greens hold the balance of power?
    • Regardless of what’s in each party’s manifesto, what will be the programme of a cobbled together coalition?
    • Not knowing what that programme will be or who will be presenting it how can we hope to influence its content?

There’s said to be an old curse “May you live in interesting times”.

Well, this year is certainly going to be interesting. 

The Brixton Pound

Feb 05, 2015 - Comments: 0

There is one question that is asked over and over again by the black community - why are there so few black businesses and how can we make them sustainable?

According to the Government report on Ethnic Minority Businesses and Access to Finance it states that “Results from the 2011 Census…there are higher aspirations to start-up in business amongst ethnic minority, especially Black African (35%), Black Caribbean (28%) groups (compared with 10% for White British counterparts), but conversions to start-ups remain very low”.

There is no easy answer to this question and many reasons why, but interestingly enough one of the first answers I get to this question is around community support.

We know that immigrants from the Caribbean came to Britain to work in the public sector (London Transport or the NHS), but then many were determined to start their own business once they were established and build a better life for themselves and their family. It is therefore untrue when we are led to believe that black people have no entrepreneurial spirit and are too cautious.

I know of two black families back in the 60s who used their entrepreneurial skills to create their own businesses. Unfortunately, due to racism and fear of rejection from the banks these businesses were unable to flourish.

This issue has not disappeared with time. As quoted by Tim Campbell (a black entrepreneur) in The Guardian “"If you go down the traditional routes, there is discrimination. The banks will probably turn you down.

So what do we do?

We will find those who will want to invest in us, for example Lord Alan Sugar embraced Tim Campbell and supported his business venture. The question is how we keep that business afloat. Businesses can only survive if they are financially stable, so this would require support from customers and word of mouth (publicity). Unfortunately, from conversations I have had with members of the black community we do not support our own businesses, except for takeaways and hairdressers.

This is why when I heard of the concept the Brixton Pound I was so intrigued!

The Brixton pound was launched in September 2009 to provide a local currency for the community in support of local businesses. The slogan for the Brixton pound is ‘money that sticks to Brixton’! According to The Guardian article in 2010 the community in Brixton want to ‘preserve the area's unique identity, foster community spirit, strengthen local bonds, and defend local businesses from the onslaught of chain stores by paying for goods and services with the local money.’

This is a fantastic approach one in which the black community could and should adopt if we want black businesses to succeed. If we generate the ‘black pound’ we could use this currency to provide a support system for black businesses and boost more black-led start up businesses. The black pound’ would be used to purchase items/services from black businesses in order to support them; help them to be financially stable and sustainable. It is time for the black community to support one another; inspire the next generation to become successful entrepreneurs and strengthen our economy. 

‘Enough is enough’ why we should all support this surgeon’s plea to stop the knife epidemic

Feb 04, 2015 - Comments: 0

The Evening Standard reported on 2 February Dr Tom Konig’s tragic account of his efforts to save the life of a 17 year old young man who was stabbed during a house party. The Standard quoted Dr Konig as saying “Enough is enough. It is time to put your knives down.”

How many times have we heard grieving families also say enough is enough? But the situation is getting worse and all too often the victims are hard working young men with no gang affiliation. The vast majority of young black males are not in gangs and don’t carry knives.

My charity works with hundreds of young black males, aged 11-25, to inspire them to succeed at school, college and work. One young man we met recently in Hackney was also stabbed to death last month just as he was starting to focus on something he was good at.

Reducing the number of stabbings and deaths will not be easy.

Young men living in poor areas of London have few job opportunities and daily exposure to gang and drugs. If we listen to their views we might start to understand the real challenges that they face just going about their everyday lives. They learn not to make eye contact with each other to avoid confrontation and not to venture into the wrong areas.  None of them want to make money on the streets but finding ways out is hard. They feel that selling drugs, despite the risk, is better than the stigma of claiming benefits.

Young black men want help to get off the streets but they also want a living wage that allows them to be independent. They feel that society only hears the negative narrative about young black men and this creates more barriers for them to overcome. In these circumstances they also find it hard to develop a positive identity.

Agencies working with young black men need to create the space where the young black men can explore these difficult issues and be supported in finding their own solutions. 

As Dr Konig rightly pointed out, it needs families, schools, colleges, black male role models, police and local councils to directly engage with our young black men and do things differently. We know from listening to young black men that they all have aspirations to make a positive contribution.

What’s on offer today is failing too many of them.

Thank you for the opportunity

Jan 15, 2015 - Comments: 0

The importance of communication skills

I recently had a meeting with a group of boys from West London, who expressed an idea to set up a local community project for other young people.

To break the ice at our first meeting, we took it in turns introducing ourselves, talking about our achievements and interests. First impressions really do count and the importance of building a foundation of trust comes to mind.  At the end of our meeting the young boys were beaming with energy and enthusiasm saying “Thank you for the opportunity”.

This got me thinking about the power of communication and the importance of having the confidence and ability to articulate yourself in front of people you don’t know.

How often are young people given the opportunity to talk about and their talents and ideas or even express their opinions?  Having an idea is great but unless you have the skills and knowledge to communicate your idea and implement it, then it remains just an idea and it will always be an idea. If young people are to do well in further education and employment they have to have good speech, language and communication skills and, importantly, project management skills.

Having the opportunity to communicate their interests was very important to the boys I spoke too. I was able to listen to their needs and wants and to offer my support and knowledge in return.

One of the boys was less confident at speaking about himself. He came across as being very introverted at times, struggling to complete full sentences and not engaging with full eye contact. These are barriers he will have to overcome in order for him to show off his many hidden talents.

The way we communicate has changed dramatically during the last decade. The rise of technology, the Internet and social media has changed the way we live, work and communicate with family and friends.

Many people will opt to writing a quick text rather than picking up the phone or make a phone call rather than seeing someone face to face.

It is that face to face communication that needs to happen more; especially communication between young people and their parents.

As a child I was always encouraged to get actively engaged in different activities:

  • From gymnastics, to singing and reading in church.
  • I can remember having to watch Newsround on children's BBC and having to read from a newspaper communicating back to my mother what was happening in the world.
  • Visiting our local library and choosing books was also part of our weekly routine. It is a known fact that reading can broaden your vocabulary so it can help you with better communication skills.

How many parents communicate with the children on a daily basis?

How many parents read to their children or with their children?

How may parents communicate with their children about expectations, hopes and beliefs?

Being a parent myself I can happily answer yes to all these questions.

Sadly many children who fail to communicate appropriately go on to have behaviour problems thus lowering their chances of success in later life.

Parents need to encourage their children to actively engage in activities thereby increasing their child’s intellectual and social development.

Good communication is key….wouldn't you agree?

The Unemployed Graduate

Jan 14, 2015 - Comments: 0

Guest blog by Alice Bailey (BTEG volunteer)

After graduating from university in July I, like many other graduates, believed finding a job in my desired field would not be too problematic. I had obtained a respectable degree level and my work experience has been varied and vast, so I assumed finding my ‘dream’ job would not be too challenging. I had read some articles and overheard discussions on the news about youth unemployment and the rising graduate unemployment but I hadn’t paid much attention to it.

After applying for numerous job positions and receiving little feedback, I then began to realise the overwhelming problem of unemployment for graduates.

The number of unemployed graduates is not too surprising when you look at the figures. It is estimated that employers receive at least 85 applications for every graduate vacancy and in some cases over 200 graduates are chasing each opening (The Association of Graduate Recruiters, 2013). But why does the number of unemployed graduates keep on increasing?

Every year universities across England and Wales offer new degree subjects such as Airline Management and Culinary Arts. Previously people would learn the skills through apprenticeships or by working their way up the job ladder. However, as new degree subjects are being offered, more young people are attending university to study rather than working as an apprentice.

In December 2013 George Osborne announced that universities would be free to expand on their student intake with no cap on admissions. This year 30,000 more places were made available and in July 412,170 students had had their place at university confirmed, a rise of 3% compared to the figures in 2013 (The Guardian, 2014). However, the growing number of students graduating from university every year does not mean extra graduate jobs are being offered. After graduating many young people find themselves in menial jobs and one in twelve is still without work six months after graduating (The Telegraph, 2012).

The graduate job market is not going to dramatically change overnight so how can I and other graduates improve our chances of securing a job:

  • Seek help when writing your CV and personal statement. After graduating I soon realised that I did not know how to write an excellent CV or personal statement. Employers receive hundreds of job applications; make sure yours stands out. Remember to always check your spelling and grammar before sending off a job application. Nothing is worse than applying for a job and then realising you made a simple spelling error. Learn Direct and the National Careers Service offer helpful information on how to write your CV and personal statement.
  • Always network. You never know who you might meet, whether it’s on the tube or at an event. I attended a women’s brunch morning which discussed the topic of work life balance. I met a woman who was a trustee for a children’s charity and she offered me some great advice and information to help my job search.
  • Any work experience or volunteering you can undertake in your chosen field can be really valuable for your job application. Even having a job that is not partially skilled is respected by employers because it can show responsibility. Even though I work full-time, I still take part in a number of volunteering roles as this adds experience to my CV and I can concentrate on something I enjoy doing in a sector I wish to work in.

The important thing to remember is to not give up on your job search. It may take a little or a lot longer than you hoped but it will pay off.

photo credit: GeoBlogs via photopin cc

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