access| home| news| sitemap| search| FAQ| help| complaints| feedback|
Policy NewsNews RSS Feedspacer
Toggle Search Options
Action for ESOL Statement: Government U-turn - Victory for the Action for ESOL Campaign shimAdd News429 to Scrapbook

The Skills Funding Agency has confirmed that full funding is available for ESOL and other adult courses formerly subject to the restrictive eligibility criteria that would have excluded up to 75% of adults on so called ‘inactive’ benefits. This represented a huge attack on adult education, and would have affected students from some of the poorest inner city communities.Action for ESOLwas particularly concerned with the impact on non-native speakers of English who need English to support their children, find work, access education and play a full role in their communities.

250,000 adult places that were risk this year can be now be saved! This is an important victory for theAction for ESOLcampaign.

Action for ESOLbrought together teachers, students and others, from up and down the country, in an effective and visible campaign which included letter writing, lobbying, a national petition, rallies, demonstrations, teach-ins and the London ESOL festival. The campaign was effectively supported by a number of MPs.

Important changes as a result of the U-turn:

Full fundingis available for ESOL and other adult courses regardless of active/inactive benefit status. Students simply need to be unemployed and declare they are seeking work.

There is no financial barrierto colleges enrolling the same volume
of ESOL students as last year. Indeed, recruiting students on inactive benefits will now help colleges to achieve funding allocations which means no clawback and less risk of a reduced allocation in 12/13. In brief, colleges will benefit from providing ESOL classes.

How are colleges reacting?

Colleges around the country have been reacting to the new announcements by

  • asking students on inactive benefits to sign a waiver to say they are ‘seeking employment in the future’ and not charging fees
  • reimbursing students who have already paid
  • changing the learning aims back from literacy to ESOL
  • contacting students who were turned away and asking them to return by placing ads in local papers, and texting students asking them to come back and enrol
  • re-instating ESOL teachers who had been made redundant

Action for ESOLurges all colleges providing ESOL to adopt similar approaches, and where redundancies had been threatened to withdraw such threats with immediate effect.

The U-turn is a tremendous success for the campaign and those who have supported it. It shows how working together as teachers and students, in alliance with other educational, trade union and social organisations, can make a difference. Its success should be a welcome boost to everyone concerned with educational opportunity – including those seeking to defend community learning, Access, and adult education, as well the campaign to restore the EMA.

Where next?

Although this reversal is great news for us, we should not assume that the changes are here for good. The government has set out its position on ESOL very clearly. ESOL remains vulnerable. But at least we have time to draw breath and consider our approach.

Actionfor ESOLremains committed to free ESOL provision, and a right to language education for all those who need it.Action for ESOLthanks the thousands of people round the country, the students who came out on the marches and wrote letters, the MPs, community and refugee groups, NIACE, AoC and UCU, and encourages ESOL teachers to get together with students and others in their locality to continue the campaign over the coming year.

North West contact for Department of Business, Innovation and Skills shimAdd News428 to Scrapbook

BIS now has a network of six teams set up to drive economic growth at local level. The teams will support the delivery of BIS policy on the ground by:

· Supporting BIS Ministerial business including briefing and visits

· Leading BIS’ relationships with Local Enterprise Partnerships and local government to help them understand BIS national policy priorities, assist in coordination of economic development delivery, and help partnerships build their capacity and capability

· Providing hard and soft intelligence and ensure effective coordination of government responses to economic shocks, including major company failures

· Maintaining strong links with selected large businesses, key sectors and local business bodies, to build local understanding and buy-in to BIS policies, and

· Providing BIS with the local intelligence needed to understand the impact of policies and contribute to the development of new policies

The lead contact in the North West is David Higham


Tel: 0161 261 0466
Mobile: 07825 841779

The Guardian - UK riots: David Cameron kicks off social policy review shimAdd News426 to Scrapbook

David Cameron has chaired the first meeting of the social policy review launched in the wake of the riots earlier this month.

The prime minister announced in the aftermath of the disturbances that an internal review of every government policy would take place to ensure they were bold enough to fix a "broken society".

Ministers from the Home Office, the work and pensions department and the communities and local government department are taking part in the review, which is expected to last until October.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said it would look at whether current government plans and programmes are "big enough and bold enough to deliver the change the country now wants to see".

The spokeswoman said the policy review would "see whether it addresses the demands that were made by the public in the wake of the public disorder. It's to do that check on where we are in terms of existing policy development and whether it continues to meet the demands that have been made."

The meeting set out the process of the review, which will look at the wide range of issues around what the government terms the "broken society".

The spokeswoman added: "It looks at the whole set of issues regarding broken society; it could be schools, family policy, parenting, communities, human rights, health and safety, cultural, legal, bureaucratic problems, services the government provides and how they are delivered and the signals that government sends about the kind of behaviours that are encouraged and rewarded."

The internal review is separate from the independent panel on the riots set up by deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, which will look at the impact of the riots on communities.

The makeup of the panel is still under discussion. The review chaired by Cameron will also run in parallel with the review of gang culture led by Theresa May, the home secretary, and Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pension secretary.

The prime minister's meeting was held on the same day that the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, was due to call on the "reckless" government to "learn from the riots" by dropping plans to reduce police force budgets by 20% over four years.

He will warn during a visit to Lewisham, one of the London boroughs hit by rioting earlier this month, that police funding cuts will "weaken the forces of law and order on our streets" at a time when there is widespread concern over safety in communities. The Labour leader will also criticise the coalition's plans to introduce elected police commissioners while pushing ahead with the funding cuts.

"If there is one lesson we should all learn from the riots, it is that it was crucial to have our police bravely standing between home and shops on the one hand – and lawlessness on the other," the Labour leader will say.

"The Conservatives are talking tough but their words are hollow. They are speaking hollow words when, rather than making sensible savings that protect frontline services, this government is insisting that it will press ahead with cuts that go too far and too fast.

"They are speaking hollow words when this government insists on spending £100m to create a new tier of politicians through elected police chiefs at the same time as cutting the number of officers on the street. And they are speaking hollow words when David Cameron pledges the Treasury will stand behind policing costs during the riots but has done no such thing, leaving forces across the country with the prospect of making even deeper cuts than they are currently planning."

Earlier this year, Theresa May insisted the average reductions for forces' grants in cash terms would be 4% in the first year, 5% in the second, 2% in the third and 1% in the fourth. She said pay freezes and a reduction in red tape would mean the impact of the reforms would be "less severe" than people feared.

But Miliband is pledging to force a vote in the Commons on the funding cuts, which he claims will reduce police numbers across England and Wales by more than 16,000.

Carlene Firmin: Riots offer a chance to treat violent girls differently shimAdd News425 to Scrapbook

In the aftermath of England's August riots, a small number of girls have been brought before the court. They have been lumped together by the media, predictably described by their clothes and hair. But the main thing they have in common is that they rioted and that they are girls. Why and how they participated in the riots will differ according to their circumstances.

Sadly, violence touches the lives of some girls and young women in their homes, their schools, their relationships, their peer groups and on the streets. Some girls have to navigate violent landscapes each day. Depending on their backgrounds, their contact with those who can help and their self-esteem or resilience, that violence can impact some girls' choices and outlook.  

Over the past five years, I have worked with and interviewed hundreds of girls caught up in volatile and violent environments. Some have held firearms on behalf of boys, others have attacked boys. Some say they are aggressive so that young men won't see them as sexual objects to be abused and attacked, others because they want to make money. But how many of these motivations are reflected in our response to their violence?

Interventions for children who have committed offences are centred around why boys engage in, or desist from, offending. The Youth JusticeBoard reported earlier this year that in 2009/10 males were responsible for 78% of all recorded offences committed by young people. Amid the commentary that girls are becoming increasingly violent, the youth justice system has never been designed to respond to offending by young women. From the assessment tools used to predict risk to the interventions designed to decrease vulnerability, girls have been an afterthought. If we really want to prevent offending and reoffending this needs to change.

Taking a gendered approach to the youth justice system is not about making excuses for girls who offend, or claiming that boys should be punished and girls should not. We live in a gendered world. Girls experience the world as girls, and the world responds to them in the same way: their involvement in the riots is another example of this. Any response to girls who have committed offences needs to be able to recognise the gendered context within which these offences are committed.

I have lost count of the numbers who have said to me, "How do you think it was for me – I was the only girl?" when recounting their experiences of being in the youth justice system where their needs were ignored. 

While the involvement of girls in violence is documented, we are yet to see a gendered consideration of what needs to happen at a policy level. Speculation about the impact on boys of being raised by single mothers has been plentiful, for example, but what is the impact on girls? Do we know how many girls are in single parent homes because of domestic violence? And even when we can answer these questions, we still need to know the impact of such circumstances on the girls who do commit violence, and the majority who don't. We cannot make sense of young women's involvement in violence until we can pick these issues apart.

We are starting to see progress. Only last month, the all-party parliamentary group on women in the penal system announced that it would hold an independent inquiry into girls in the justice system. Such an inquiry will, for the first time, shine a light on the experiences of young women in a system designed for young men, and make the case for a justice system relevant to girls. The inquiry comes in a year when the government launched its action plan to end violence against women and girls, and backed a plan to tackle child sexual exploitation.

Addressing the victimisation and offending of young women is essential if we are to prevent their use of violence. The recent riots have reawakened the public consciousness to the impact that violence can have on our lives. Now is the time to harness this interest and fear to create a more effective criminal justice system.

Violence damages lives in different ways. A more gendered approach has to be part of the way forward.

Carlene Firmin is founder of the Gag Project to empower gang-affected women and girls.



Voice4Change Members Blog: URGENT NEED: A USP for the BME sector! shimAdd News424 to Scrapbook
In these bleak times, the BME sector urgently needs to find its USP, argues Bryan Teixeira from Naz Project London.

I recently read that the investment income of grant-making Trusts and Foundations may have shrunk by as much as 20%.

And we all know that income from governments to the charity sector has also declined sharply.

On top of that, I see the recent defunding of key BME and other equality organisations, including Voice4Change England. To me, these are challenging times to find ourselves yet again fighting the battle to prove that BME organisations have a place.

In this climate, I worry that the sustainability of the BME sector is at risk. Many charities have BME service users. What's so special about a BME organisation? And wouldn't it be easier (more 'cost effective'? less duplication?) to simply have one service for all residents of an area, BME and non-BME together? I think we can't afford to ignore these questions.

We urgently need to be able to show that whatever services we provide to our communities and indirectly to the public at large are better than equivalent services provided by non-BME public, private or voluntary sector competitors.

Certainly my experience atNaz Project London (NLP) has informed how I think about all this. And for us that has to do with an emphasis on the self-help peer model. For years, we seemed unable to reach out to Black gay and bisexual men until we found a Black gay man to lead on that work. This approach is also true in our other services where, for example, Latin Americans work with Latin Americans, or Asians work with Asians.

It seems to me that working from such a framework makes it far more likely that we have a sound grasp of the relevant needs and expectations in our communities. Again, taking NPL as an example, we ensure that the majority of our Board, staff and volunteers - we aim for 80% - come from the communities we serve. This ensures we have a deep reach into those BME communities, with minimal insider/outsider gap between our staff and our beneficiaries. I believe the concept of 'hard to reach' usually emerges in situations where there is an obvious gap between the service provider and the service user.

And lastly, I don't see how we can illustrate our unique effectiveness without some well chosen numbers, stories and acknowledgements.

The responses to the recent riots in England are a good example of how some have jumped to solutions that are not primarily based on evidence but rather on ideology, knee jerk reactions and fads.

We need to be able to show that what we are doing makes a real difference. To do this, we need numbers. But at NPL we are particularly aware of the value of community engagement and support. We therefore also put a high premium on powerful testimonies from our service users as well as from leaders in and outside of our communities.


Migrants' Rights Network: Migration who will take the lead at local level? shimAdd News423 to Scrapbook

As we know, the government’s policy about what happens in cities and neighbourhoods is based on its principles of ‘localism’ and encouraging the ‘Big Society’. On the other hand, its policies on migration are essentially national ones – cutting net migration and introducing a whole raft of detailed changes in the different kinds of migration status and in migrants’ entitlements to services. 

Where localism meets migration policy is of course – or should be – in government plans about integrating migrants and tackling issues of community cohesion in neighbourhoods where migrants are living. Here there is a huge gap. The previous government’s modest Migration Impacts Fund has finished and their refugee and migrant integration policies no longer apply.  A new policy on integration generally is promised, but so far we only have speeches by ministers to go on. These have often been more worrying than reassuring, in seeing the issues not as ones of neighbourhood integration but very much in terms of addressing Muslim extremism – which is, to say the least, taking a limited view of the pressures that occur in places where new migrants have settled.

So there is a leadership gap – who will address the everyday problems that exist both for new migrants and for the neighbourhoods where they live? For the last two years the Housing and Migration Network has been looking at ‘leadership’ as one of a range of issues, and has now published a 'Viewpoint' paper about addressing the leadership ‘gap’. As part of the argument, it shows how housing organisations have played key roles and could potentially do more.

A prime example is from the North West, where the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) acts as co-ordinator both for asylum dispersal and for migrant integration across eleven different local authorities. The region has delivered about two-thirds of the placements of refugees under the Gateway Protection Programme, as well as accommodating significant numbers of asylum seekers. Financial resources from asylum dispersal contracts helped 'glue together’ the partnerships needed to deliver these arrangements and to carry out wider neighbourhood integration work. This included supporting Refugee Action as the regional partner, as well as a range of links with small, community-based groups. Housing providers have had a lead role in many of the initiatives.

Could leadership examples like this be replicated elsewhere? Of course, there already are examples in other regions and in Scotland and Wales too, but there are a number of new challenges. One is the pernicious effect of the spending cuts, which not only means services are reduced or withdrawn but that it becomes even more controversial to respond to migrants’ needs. At the same time, cuts in services clearly lead to tensions, which might result in conflict between communities (that so far – even in the recent riots - seems to have been avoided). 

Another threat is the changes in asylum dispersal contracts, which are increasingly going to private companies rather than social landlords. This makes it unlikely that any surpluses will be invested in integration work, as they have been up until now in Greater Manchester and elsewhere.

But even in this climate, housing organisations have a particular role and more organisations could build on the experience that others have. The needs that exist in neighbourhoods where migrants have settled are no less urgent: tackling issues of neighbourhood quality (the ‘crime and grime’ issues that can easily be blamed on newcomers), changes in local housing markets and their effects, new pressures on local facilities, addressing the lack of jobs and skills.  Housing providers can and do have a role in these and other issues.

Finally, in many areas migrants are still struggling to build their own local organisations, to provide advice services to new arrivals and help in neighbourhood integration. Housing providers, who often have experience of working with and fostering residents’ organisations, can help here too. They may be able to support community groups with training, office space or perhaps secondments. They may be able to broker their membership of wider networks or help them secure grants.

Even if overall levels of migration fall as a result of government policy – and it is far from certain that they will – the effects of recent migration are here to stay. Many places are going through a process of change: migration may be only one of the factors but it can be a critical and sensitive one. Because of their role in neighbourhoods, housing providers are uniquely placed both to recognise the issues and to act on them. The paper published this week aims to encourage more of them to do it.

Read the summary report JRF: UK migration: the leadership role of housing providers


Office for Civil Society to trial 40m social impact bond scheme to support 'problem families (but not in the North)' shimAdd News422 to Scrapbook

Nick Hurd announces four local authorities will run pilots, offering contracts to charities and social enterprises to tackle 'the pointless cycle of crime and deprivation'

The Office for Civil Society is to ask private and charitable investors to purchase social impact bonds worth up to £40m that will fund new schemes to support "problem families".

Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, announced today that Westminster,Hammersmith and FulhamBirmingham and Leicestershire local authorities had been chosen to pilot schemes.

"We must not be afraid to do things differently to end the pointless cycle of crime and deprivation which wrecks communities and drains state services," said Hurd. "Social impact bonds could open serious resources to tackle social problems in new and innovative ways."


Each council will devise a contract that specifies targets for families, which might include an increase in school attendance, a fall in criminal behaviour or a reduction in drug or alcohol abuse. 

Charities and social enterprises will then bid for the contracts and find private and social investors to give financial backing.

If the charities meet targets specified in the contract their investors will receive a financial return. If they don’t, they may not get all their money back at the end of the investment period. Each council will work out its own system.

An OCS spokesman said Big Society Capital, formerly known as the Big Society Bank, might be able to offer some investment in the scheme.

Dominic Llewellyn for Conservative Home: Rebuilding British society...must involve empowering communities shimAdd News421 to Scrapbook

The last couple of weeks have shown us British society at its best and at its worst; the horrific scenes we saw of rampaging youths rioting across some of our major cities and the inspiring internet campaign that saw thousands of us clean up our streets. The inspiring campaign however must not mask the fact that pockets of British society are broken and that our communities are fragmented. We need a stronger and bigger society.

Governments have made significant mistakes in the way they have worked with civil society over many decades. Some have sought to control people through the machine of the state, whilst others have abdicated responsibility. I am hopeful that this Government is looking at a different approach. Indeed, in his speech last Monday, David Cameron commented "Government cannot legislate to change behaviour, but it is wrong to think the State is a bystander. Because people’s behaviour does not happen in a vacuum: it is affected by the rules government sets and how they are enforced”.

Both seeking to control society or abdicating responsibility for it have allowed the conveyer belt to speed up and not slow down. The causes of such a conveyer belt are strongly intertwined with what the Centre for Social Justice term as their five pathways to poverty - family breakdown, educational failure, worklessness, serious personal debt and addiction to drugs and alcohol.

As well as addressing these causes of poverty, however, the Government needs to continue to look at another problem: how to increase the glue that holds our communities together – social capital, too many people lack aspiration, hope and a sense of belonging to society.  97% of communities have become more fragmented in the last thirty years and even the strongest communities today are weaker than the weakest in 1971.  

Increasing social capital is not about creating some left wing utopia; it is about slowing down the conveyer belt to crime. Statistics show that crime is lower in places where people know their neighbours, when parents take an active interest in their child’s school, the teachers try harder and the children do better, and connected communities are good for children: babies are born healthier, teenage pregnancies are fewer, and young people are less likely to get involved in crime.

The ways of doing this are many and complex, but Government can play a role. If social capital is not built, disenfranchisement amongst communities will only increase and we will continue to be stuck in a system of top-down control where people continue to lack aspiration and hope.

In order to facilitate the building of social capital, the Government needs to:

  • Go further in decentralising power, ensuring that we see ourselves more as citizens with a responsibility for our communities’ well being; instead of us seeing ourselves as taxpayers and clients of the state and statutory providers;
  • Encourage local governments to share this freedom with citizens in as broad a way as possible with more co-designing of public services & community engagement;
  • Re-evaluate the model of top down Government contracts. The Government’s announcement that its Community First funding is largely on a match basis (with a financial value placed on time given) is a good start but I am concerned that as long as the UK Government pursues a model based on top-down contracts without community participation, we are increasing top-down control and not enabling bottom-up societal ownership. In an age where we can buy and sell products through eBay, why can’t communities have more of a say in funding decisions or even bid for outcomes?
  • Make the engagement of communities a requirement for funding for community-based projects;
  • Ensure funding is more accountable to communities of – let’s not forget – taxpayers up and down the land. National and local governments should be looking at increasing the amount of participatory budgeting so that responsibility for decreasing taxpayers’ spending is in line with community priorities;

In short, it is no good just stopping the conveyer belt to crime; if we are to create a stronger and bigger society, we all need to walk on a different path. We must make sure that we are tackling poverty in a way that empowers communities and builds social capital; without this we will be falling into the same top down mistakes of previous years and won’t enable people to escape the cycles of poverty that many are trapped in.


Ruth Grove-White from Migrants' Rights Network reflects on CERD shimAdd News420 to Scrapbook

Overall, the UN review of the UK this week was a pretty intensive process. Both UK race equality NGOs and the UK government were quizzed about the state of race equality in the UK over a three-day period. It was my role to try and draw the Committee's attention to migrants' rights issues, and the discriminatory aspects of many immigration policies.

First up on Monday were the NGOs from the UK, ranging from international organisations to local NGOs. I was part of a UK race equality NGO delegation coordinated by the Runnymede Trust, and involving the Discrimination Law Association, Equanomics, Just West Yorkshire and many others. The NGO sessions were our chance to try and influence the agenda for the Committee’s main examination of the government and we packed them with written and oral briefings supporting our concerns. For more on this, have a look at  my previous blog, and in our full report here. I had just a five minute presentation and a Q & A session to try and summarise our key migration-related concerns for the Committee - not easy!! 

After the NGOs' time was up, representatives from the UK government took the stand on Tuesday afternoon to offer up their side of the story. And then finally, the Committee members responded with their impressions of what is going on in the UK.

Overall, UN Committee members pointed out that the UK has built a strong reputation in terms of race equality legislation and policy. But a number of members said they were concerned about changes since May 2010 which risk undermining race equality. In particular, they refered to the risk that public sector spending cuts could unfairly affect minorities, raised concerns about the 'localism' agenda, and pointed out that parts of the Equality Act 2010 have still not come into force. The recent riots in Tottenham were commented on by almost all Committee members, who were concerned that they reflected deeper issues about the socio-economic position of some ethnic minorities. Another issue raised by many members was the imminent eviction of Irish Travellers from Dale Farm and a lack of appropriate sites for many UK Gypsies and Travellers.

Immigration and asylum issues were brought up by Committee members too, and in particular, the government had to field questions on:

  • Restrictive border controls and prohibitive visa fees which limit nationals of developing countries – and lack of reciprocity on visa regimes between the UK and other countries
  • Closing down of consular offices in Africa making it difficult for Africans to get visas to come here
  • Whether the UK government is really committed to providing protection to asylum seekers given the dropping levels of asylum claims in the UK
  • The unfairness of withdrawing settlement rights for migrant workers and their families
  • Increasing vulnerability of migrant domestic workers and migrant care workers in the UK
  • What is being done to counter negative media coverage of immigration – one member suggested that ‘the UK should take a long hard look at itself’ when it comes to media reporting on immigration and asylum.
  • Objections to the ‘take the best and leave the rest’ policy championed by subsequent governments towards migrant workers.
  • Limits on foreign students bringing their family members to the UK

At the end of the trip I was satisfied that, although immigration was not the ‘top issue’ at the meeting, we got our issues on the table. It is now up to the UN Committee members to agree and write up their Concluding Observations next week which will go to the government. We now have our fingers crossed that they reflect some of the very real concerns that we have about how immigration policies impact on race equality in the UK today.


Open Public Services White Paper: 1NW discussion article and survey shimAdd News419 to Scrapbook

The Open Public Services White Paper (OPSWP) crystallises the policy development around Big Society and Localism, which the NW BME Policy Forum has been discussing since summer 2010. The OPSWP is a framework for the reform of the public sector that brings together some policy changes already underway and proposes further consultations and legislation changes.

This signals a shift away from the post-war welfare state and shows that after all the debate and confusion, the Big Society is primarily about Small Government. This is a total rejection of the old centralised approach to public service delivery and promises to open up nearly all public services to tender. The OPSWP has far-reaching implications for all users of public services and the voluntary and community sector (VCS) that require consideration.

The White Paper sets out five key principles for modernising public services, which are as follows:

  • Choice – wherever possible we will increase choice
  • Decentralisation – Power should be decentralised to the lowest appropriate level
  • Diversity – Public services should be open to a range of providers
  • Fairness – We will ensure fair access to public services
  • Accountability – Public services should be accountable to users and taxpayers

These require equality analysis and we must ask the question of how will these fundamental issues impact on BME communities: will the proposed reforms lead to improvements in public services for all, will it improve the quality of our democracy and will the be included within the new model?

One North West: Open Public Services White Paper - A Discussion Paper raises these questions.


To take part in our short survey and to be part of our response, please follow this link: