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ESF Funding – a patchwork quilt?

Mar 24, 2014 - Comments: 0

At a meeting today, one of my colleagues used the term ‘patchwork quilt’ when describing European Social Fund (ESF) funds.

Reflecting on this I agreed that over the last 10 years, that is exactly what ESF funding has been like:

  • overlapping programmes
  • sudden announcements of new programmes
  • extremely short deadlines at times
  • delayed decisions.

This is on top of the enormous pressure of completing the paperwork.

It is extremely hard for small community based organisations to tap into such money unless they approach it via lead organisations.

Saying that, I have to stress that the ESF was set up to improve employment opportunities in the European Union and so help raise standards of living. It aims to help people fulfil their potential by giving them better skills and better job prospects.

The 2007-2013 England ESF programme invested £5 billion over seven to provide new opportunities to people who face the greatest barriers to work and learning.

By the end of May 2013, there had been:

  • over 3.8 million participant starts on the programme
  • over 357,000 unemployed or inactive participants have been helped into jobs.
  • over 149,000 participants have gained basic skills
  • over 433,000 participants have gained qualifications at level 2 or above
  • over 403,000 disadvantaged young people have been helped to enter employment, education or training.

More BME organisation need to explore potential opportunities and tap in to this resource.

For a comprehensive list of Providers and subcontractors in your area have a look at the links below.

  Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – London

  London Councils

  Greater London Authority

  London Development Agency

  Skills Funding Agency – London

  London – Technical Assistance

  National Offender Management Service

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The indomitable Steve McQueen - a role model for our times

Mar 20, 2014 - Comments: 0

The triumph of British film director Steve McQueen has been an inspiration on a variety of levels.

The movie 12 Years a Slave had a trio of victories at the Academy Awards:

  • best film for director McQueen, born in the UK of Caribbean parents
  • best screenplay to African American John Ridley
  • best supporting actress to Kenyan actor Lupita Nyong’o 

This reflected the triangular geography of the Atlantic slave trade itself with the victors representing the Black African diaspora of Europe, the Americas/Caribbean and Europe.

The film itself, as well as providing an empowering personal story, has given us the most authentic glimpse of the realities of the Atlantic slave trade ever seen on screen and reminded or given a new audience to the life of Solomon Northup.

The horrors of the slave trade have been airbrushed from history and certainly do not form any significant part of modern school history curriculums either here or in the USA. McQueen has given us not only a searing memorable piece of art that will stand up over time as a classic but he has made a huge cultural and political contribution to pulling off the shroud surrounding slavery.

Art has always been at its best when it is challenging, educational and political and McQueen is an artist who encompasses all of these in his work.

When I saw the film I was reading a book by Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers. In the book Gladwell develops a concept called cultural legacy. This is the notion that values, principles and culture can affect communities for many generations.

Gladwell himself states about cultural legacies that they

“persist, generation after generation, virtually intact...and they play such a role in directing attitudes and behavior that we cannot make sense of our world without them."

After seeing the movie I wondered what are the cultural legacies of slavery?

My personal affinity with McQueen grew after reading an interview with him in the Guardian by Decca Aitkenhead.

The dialogue was interesting because McQueen, like me, is the son of West Indian immigrants. Hearing him speak about his schooldays, which he described as a waste not just in terms of his own experience but also the waste of talent around him, really echoed with my school experience in multi-racial London comprehensive in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

In a BBC interview with Mark Kermode McQueen spoke about making his first film Hunger about the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. He talked about how the events of 1981 the inner city riots and the hunger strikes left an indelible impression on him as they did on me at the same time.

McQueen comes across as a very private man. He lives in Amsterdam with his Dutch partner and children, “Anywhere but New York, London or LA’ he told Kermode in his BBC interview. He is certainly not an attention seeker, so it was a revelation in his Guardian interview when he spoke for the first time of his own challenges and demons with dyslexia.

The term role-model or even black role-model, are possibly ones McQueen himself would spurn. However I would suggest McQueen is the perfect role model, the reluctant role model, the role model who lets his work do the talking.

In an age where celebrity and consumerism saturate our modern lives McQueen would certainly be the kind of role model I would want my two sons to look up to.

As the actor/producer Brad Pitt introduced him at the Academy Awards he is undoubtedly the indomitable Mr Steve McQueen.

Here are the links to the Guardian interview, the BBC Culture Show Special on Steve McQueenwith Mark Kermode  and Malcolm Gladwell’s website

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Time to expose black boys to black self-development programmes

Mar 19, 2014 - Comments: 0

Recently, Baroness Lola Young and I spent an interesting afternoon visiting a prison as part of the Baroness’s review into young black and/or Muslim males in the criminal justice system. 

Government statistics show that young black males are more likely to end up in the criminal justice system and more likely to reoffend on release. Baroness Young wants to help reduce the reoffending rates among these groups through influencing public sector commissioning specifications, especially in the National Offender Management Service.

This is not going to be easy and trying to understand why so many more young black and/or Muslim men end up in the criminal justice system and then go on to have higher reoffending rates is difficult. Is it down to racism, stereotyping, lack of opportunities, and the problematic status of black men in this country?

We spent a few hours in discussion with the Governor of the prison and, separately, with a group of black inmates that had completed a voluntary black self -development programme (BSDP). The men were from a varied age group and serving a variety of sentences. 

I have listened and talked to black men in several prisons. The conversation has usually been about enterprise and encouraging the men to think about self-employment as an option on release. Many of the men are enthusiastic about this route. But on this last occasion the conversation was about the difference that the black self-development programme had made to the men.

It was clear that the BSDP had made a difference, perhaps in many cases a profound difference, to the participants.  When asked about the impact of the BSDP, the men made the following comments:

 ‘I hadn’t released that this (racism) has been going on for so long’.

 ‘I have released the skills I have are interchangeable’.

‘There are a lot of pathways to rehabilitation. All the other courses are about offending behaviour’

‘They teach you certain values, before I thought that crime was the only way out and I didn’t have regard for other people’

 ‘My family situation (parents separated) made me feel left out and I craved attention and being bad at school was the symptom’

 ‘We need young people to see how long this goes back (the experience of black people in dealing with racism)’

‘There is no one outside to push their things (i.e. things that they are good at). I want to draw and make music’.

Spending time in prisons with groups of black men has made me think about why, as a society, we wait so long before helping black men to realise that they have potential, helping them identify their real interests, developing a sense of identity, self-worth and skills. Most of the black men we met thought that black boys should be encouraged to attend similar programmes whilst at school to prevent them entering the criminal justice system in the first place.

I wonder if what makes the difference with these kinds of programme is the space it provides for black men to reflect on their life journey, their situation with other black men and to learn and challenge each other intellectually, in a non-threatening environment, with the direction of an educated facilitator of African/Caribbean heritage. 

I wonder if this is precisely what is missing in many mainstream rehabilitative services for black male offenders! 

Too cool or just afraid of rejection?

Mar 17, 2014 - Comments: 0

Last week a group of young men attended a Routes2Success enterprise session where they met with R2S role models and other young entrepreneurs. The young men discussed their interests and were given advice on the first steps of business.

After hearing some of the young men talk about their interests and passions one entrepreneur’s feedback was that he believed the young men’s’ approach was ‘too cool’ and that this was a problem for a lot of young people.

I pondered on this for a while; as a young person myself was I too cool?

I thought back to the R2S steering group meeting we had the week before where it was suggested that another big issue young people were struggling with was rejection or the fear of it. I could relate to this more than that of being ‘too cool’.

Throughout my years studying I always appeared calm and collected when it came to exams and coursework. I didn’t go crazy with revision or spend weeks in the library BUT I was just as worried and nervous as the next person. However, I refused to let anybody know this; not my mum, friends or teachers.

This was not a good thing.

I feared failing which caused me to adopt a blasé attitude. No matter how badly I wanted something I couldn’t put my all in, just in case I failed.

To others I may have seemed ‘too cool’ or unenthusiastic but the reality was I lacked self-motivation; a common issue for a number of the young men that have engaged with the R2S programme.

Some of the young men we meet have amazing ideas and are passionate about what they want to do. When you are passionate about something you will invest your time, money, energy, effort and everything else you have left to give to see it succeed. Unfortunately fear of wasting that time, money, energy and effort accompanied by the fear of rejection and failure can see some of these young men never feeding their passion and bringing it to life.

Speaking from experience, two of our role models - Bola Abisogun and Gifford Sutherland -advised the young men at the enterprise event to ‘fall in love with rejection’ and when it gets hard ‘passion will be the only thing that will get you through’.

Too cool or afraid of rejection?

Either way you are blocking the world from seeing and sharing your amazing passion! When you want and believe in something SHOW IT!

I overcame my fears, expressed my passion and got myself this great position working for BTEG on the R2S programme.

What doors will you allow your passion to open for you?

Janine Goodin Deer
Project Support Officer
Routes2Success (R2S)
 

 

Confidence, confidence, confidence...

Mar 16, 2014 - Comments: 0

Cat looking in the mirror at a lionTrying to secure jobs or move up the career ladder can be difficult in the current economic climate. It is even more difficult when coupled with barriers such as language, accent, pronunciation, education, religion race, age and disability.

However, I believe that one of the main barriers in trying to secure employment is lack of confidence.

Delivering a series of employability workshops made me realise that all of the people in the room actually lacked confidence - a key element that was inhibiting their success in securing work more than some of their other issues - age, lack of computer skills, dyslexia or pronunciation of some English words.

I was pleasantly surprised that giving them some short exercises to do at home* and giving them some constructive feedback was a vital trigger for many of them to: 

  • change their perceptions of themselves
  • challenge some of their negative thoughts
  • set clear short term goals to give them a sense of achievement and success.

These participants came back with smiles, the ability to stand and sit tall and an assessment of their strengths. Above all they seemed to have unlocked energy and aspirations that they had forgotten they had. This change is such a short space of time made me smile too.

The moral of this blog is that we all need a constructive friend to push us along and encourage us to have a ‘CAN DO’ approach.

* For example, one of the exercises is to read a page of a book – out loud. This helps the brain get used to hearing your voice and therefore reduce the shock when speaking at interviews

Black young people - shut out of the labour market?

Mar 16, 2014 - Comments: 0

Our action research project to produce an action plan for improving employment rates for young black men in London will be completed next month.

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show that in 2012 the unemployment rate for young black men in England was 50 per cent while the unemployment rate for young white men was 22 per cent. Our research is asking: why is the unemployment rate for young black men so high?

A lot of people think they know the answer to this.  During the research we have heard the same explanations over and again:

  • young black men are in gangs
  • they do badly at school
  • they have low aspirations
  • they get involved in crime.

But what do young black men themselves think are the reasons why unemployment is so high?

We asked young black men this question in an on-line survey and received over 80 replies. They mentioned all the usual things - gangs, crime, aspirations - but these weren’t the main reasons.

Ahead of all other explanations by a long way was racism. Around half of them said that young black men find it harder to find jobs because of racism, discrimination or the negative perceptions that employers have of them. Many gave examples from their own experience; of turning up for interviews and being told that the vacancy had already been filled, or sensing from the interviewers that they are just not going to appoint a black man.

It is impossible to prove racial discrimination in individual cases like these. But there are systematic differences in employment outcomes for black young people; for example, unemployment among black university graduates (12.7% for those graduating in 2011/12) is more than double the rate for white university graduates (6.0%). When all other explanations have been eliminated, to misquote Sherlock Holmes, then what is left must be the answer.

The answer here is what many young black men experience every day as they try to find a job; that racism, discrimination and negative stereotyping by employers are shutting them out of the labour market.

Mind how you go - enterprise in disadvantaged communities

Mar 16, 2014 - Comments: 0

Surveys show that the aspiration to set up one’s own business is consistently higher amongst ethnic minority groups compared to white people. Furthermore, new migrant communities, whilst facing some challenges, are also showing a promising tendency towards entrepreneurship according to a new report. Business and social enterprise support schemes are thus important to support enterprise and entrepreneurship.

Of course, as most race equality campaigners and development specialist know, the mere presence of schemes does not generate fair and equitable access. This has to be worked on - and there are wider challenges that go beyond access issues. Strategic challenges remain because many black and ethnic minority groups are concentrated in disadvantaged areas, which generate their own constraints. Although dispersal from inner city areas is growing many BME communities still live in relatively less prosperous areas. And such areas tend to consistently display lower levels of actual enterprise and entrepreneurship compared to prosperous areas.

Harnessing higher levels of entrepreneurship requires both direct and indirect barriers to be addressed. The former, for example, in terms of generating self-belief and know-how amongst local communities and the later in terms of providing access to finance and premises, boosting the reputation of areas and putting in place long-term regeneration plans. Yet, with the demise of mass area-based initiatives, many local communities are becoming much more dependent on enterprise to create opportunities for local people and stimulate community change.

But risks remain if small scale projects end up generating low-quality entrepreneurship. I can hear some arguing that even low-quality entrepreneurship may be better than the poor quality jobs, being locked out of certain job markets or prospects of unemployment.

Generating low-quality entrepreneurship need not be the default option for disadvantaged communities. We, for example, now know more about what factors explain differences in BME enterprise performance. According to Ram money, management and sectors go a considerable way to explaining these differences.

At the recent launch of BTEG’s Opening Doors Network Enterprise Programme, aimed at young adults aged 18 to 30, delegates also identified a number of other issues we need to be mindful of:

  • When it comes to sectors, we shouldn’t get seduced purely by technology. Young BME entrepreneurs are now creating new starts up in a wide range of industries.

  • And in a connected world, building social capital needs to be integral to any approach

  • There is a need to focus on up-stream enterprise education but the emphasis should be on inspiring entrepreneurship not simply providing employability skills

  • When trying to rejuvenate high streets, ‘pop-up’ premises can help create space for testing new ideas and provide start-up premises - but these only work if set within a wider regeneration plan for the area.

Armed with a broader and richer picture, we should be in a better position to encourage higher quality entrepreneurship in disadvantaged communities.

Your Life is Your Business

Feb 19, 2014 - Comments: 0

A guest blog by Tony Henry, a Routes2Success volunteer role model

Your Life is Your Business

We say that we want a life full of Love, Joy, Peace, Happiness, Laughter, Harmony, Kindness, Patience. However, far too often we end up pointing the blame finger at any and everything else other than ourselves as to why we don’t have what we say we so desire.

How many times have you pointed the finger at your teacher, your parents, your friend, your worst enemy? Remember when you point your finger at someone else there are three fingers pointing back at you.

Sure, there will be situations in life where you will have little or no control as to what happens in your life; however the key is to know and understand that you can control how you react to any given situation or circumstance and that the choice is yours to take.

Which leads me onto a very interesting poem:

That’s Not My Job:

This is a story about four people: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it.

Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did.

Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody's job.

Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Somebody wouldn't do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Not taking RESPONSIBILITY means asking someone to do for you the things you must do for yourself and being angry when they don’t do it.

It cannot be said loud enough “Your Life is Your Business” Think of it this way, if you choose to relinquish RESPONSIBILITY for your life, how can you expect to be RESPONSIBLE for the good things you say you want to receive in your life. How can YOU ensure that you get the best out of your education? How can YOU make sure that you leave school/college/university with the best grades? How can YOU make sure you choose the right career path? If you take RESPONSIBILITY for your own life you can have very few regrets!

In closing Life will work for you, when you make the decision to work your Life. Make a decision today to review your life, identify the areas that you are not satisfied with, make a list of all the things you can do to create the needed changes and in the words of Nike “Just Do It

Live Life, Love Life, and Do life your miracle is waiting around the corner.

Your Lift Doctor, Tony Henry (R2S role model)

Are you positive about your self-image?

Feb 12, 2014 - Comments: 0

What does self-image mean to you:

  • What others think of you?
  • What you have achieved or not achieved?
  • What you see when you look in the mirror?

I guess everyone has their own definition of what self-image means to them.

Having worked with young people in a pastoral capacity for over seven years and from attending a Routes2Success session on Friday, I have found that most young people base their perceptions of themselves on what others’ think of them. The thoughts and feelings of others towards young people make them either feel positive or negative about themselves.

Interestingly enough on Friday, when a group of young black boys was asked whether they had a positive self-image about themselves, the few that put their hands up to say they didn’t referred to the fact that they got into trouble at school a lot and now had a reputation. This made them feel like they had a negative self-image. Their self-image was based on what others tended to say about them or thought about them, rather than what they thought about themselves.

Of course, it is always important to think about and consider what other people say about you, but at the same time it is important for us to be positive about ourselves. If you can’t say one positive thing about yourself, how can others see the positive in you?

A definition of self-image “is a person’s mental picture of themselves in terms of both their physicality and personality. It’s a combination of someone’s thoughts about what they think they look like, how they see their personality, their beliefs on what others think of them, how much they like themselves and how they see and feel about their status in life.” which is said to link closely to one’s self-esteem.

What concerns me particularly with some young black males is that stereotypes lead them to constantly have a poor self-image which leads to low self-esteem which further leads to low aspirations. If the perception of others’ makes up part of how you feel about yourself then some black boys, based on media stereotypes and statistics, are going to have quite a negative self-image.

This somewhat pains me, which is why I believe the work that the Routes2Success role models do is not only important but necessary to help instil a positive self-image to black boys and help them to raise their aspirations.

What I took away from the session on Friday, and from the feedback from some of the boys at the school, is that self-image is not only about what others think of you, but also about how much you like yourself and see your own potential.

So, what do you think about yourself?

Read more about promoting a positive self-image here

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere

Feb 12, 2014 - Comments: 0
Black inmates - social mobility, aspirations and community

Most mornings I jog to work down the busy north London roads of Archway, Holloway Road and Caledonian Road to BTEG’s office in Kings Cross. Along the `Cally Road’ (as it’s known by to the locals) is one of London’s oldest prisons, Pentonville, which was opened in 1842 and houses around 1300 inmates.

My work at BTEG revolves around the justice/penal system and the over-representation of BAME groups within our jails and on the wrong side of the justice system. Running past one of London’s Victorian landmark jails often triggers thoughts of the lives caught up inside and what can be done to keep young people and particularly BAME young people out of these places.

Last November, I was lucky enough to be invited to a challenging debate on social mobility, aspirations and community organised by inmates of HMP Pentonville.

Over 40 inmates attended the debate in the prison library and the level of questions from them was extremely high and perceptive. I was humbled to be part of an auspicious panel of high-achieving people which included journalist Hugh Muir, musician and poet Andrew Ward and broadcaster and social entrepreneur Ricoh Edwards-Brown.

For me, if you are looking at issues of social mobility, inequality has to be mentioned. On all the indicators the UK is becoming a more unequal society and this is hampering social mobility generally compared with other western countries. But for the black community, I suggested, the lack of social mobility was becoming more entrenched, systematic and perversely invisible.

When forces such as discrimination, poverty, widening inequality and, what I would call, institutional inertia on the challenges combine, things can be difficult to change. But the panel members all gave uplifting analyses and personal testimonies to the power of personal change.

Change from within has to be accompanied by wider change in society; as Martin Luther King said `injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ In our sometimes apathetic times, it’s a quote that should rouse our passion. Mine was certainly roused by the intellect of the inmates.

I was delighted to give my copy of the Spirit Level – the landmark book by Professor Richard Wilkinson and Dr Kate Pickett which led to the development of the Equality Trust (read more here) - to the event chair Peter, a prisoner in Pentonville. He told me he writes and hopefully one day we will see his words in print.

You can read more about the debate on the Prison Education Trust site here

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