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Unveiling Islam: Beyond Prejudice, Myth & Stereotype shimAdd News354 to Scrapbook

During July Preston Muslim Forum held three workshops titled "Unveiling Islam”. 145 people attended the three workshops including local councillors, police officers, council staff and members of Preston 's diverse communities.

The three workshops hosted by two churches and the Harris Library explored the themes; "Islam in Britain ”, "Jesus in Islam” and " Building Bridges : Our Shared Heritage”, including presentations exploring "What it means to be Muslim” and "The Gabriel Narrative”. All workshops concluded with a lively Q&A, discussing topics such as integration, citizenship, cohesion, shariah law and its compatibility with a liberal democracy, equality, interfaith and the roles of Muslims in Britain.

Reverend Peter Hamborg said "Ali painted for us a very enlightening picture of Britain 's mixed history with Islam, one that was far more balanced than the largely negative portrayal we so often receive through the media. This led well into some further presentation regarding the diverse and complex reality of British Islam today, followed by some quite vigorous discussion which Ali handled with expertise, sensitivity, and nuance".

The second workshop explored the subject of Jesus in Islam, whilst the third and final workshop was titled "Building Bridges: Our shared Heritage” which explored the positive impact of Islam and Muslims upon civilisation and the common ground that exists between followers of the Abrahamic faiths.

Ali Amla, freelance consultant and facilitator said "Unveiling Islam was a great opportunity to demystify Islam by creating a safe space to speak about faith, practice, diversity and an opportunity to answer questions that naturally comes to ones mind in the modern society. All the workshops have been very well attended and I have been touched by the large numbers of people wanting more workshops. This has shown the appetite for dialogue that exists within Preston & Lancashire, which I plan to cater for in the future.”

This is what the participants had to say:

  • "As a Christian I think I need to understand the importance of beliefs as imperative and live peacefully together.”
  • "I hope we can have more similar events, to help promote understanding and friendship in the community.”
  • "It was an excellent meeting. I learnt a lot about the history of Islam in Britain .”

Ali Amla is a freelance consultant delivering community dialogue, education workshops and assemblies to primary schools, secondary schools and sixth form colleges. He regularly provides training to professionals from different sectors on equality, cohesion, extremism and community engagement. Ali is organising Interfaith Week 2011 as a volunteer, in partnership with Preston Faith Forum, Lancashire Forum of Faith, The Harris Library and Preston City Council. Ali has extensive experience in working for the public and 3rd sector delivering projects on Interfaith, community cohesion, research & consultation, prevent, community engagement and community development. For more information, please contact:

New project seeks to establish network of BAME organisations working in the criminal justice system shimAdd News353 to Scrapbook

From the Black Training and Enterprise Group:

Mark Blake has been appointed to the new post of Project Development Officer leading on BTEG's Ministry of Justice funded project to establish a network of BAME organisations working in the CJS.

The project will involve working closely with CLINKS the leading national infrastructure body for voluntary and community organisations working in the Criminal Justice System. Our aim is to bring together BAME led organisations across England working in the CJS and to provide a platform to increase their voice in the development of policy and set an agenda that can support them in delivering quality services and sustaining their organisations.

Web pages will be up in the coming weeks for the project but in the meantime do contact Mark directly

Civil Society Minister meets with North West VCS groups shimAdd News352 to Scrapbook

The Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd MP, visited the North West on Thursday 14 July, to meet with a range of VCS groups and discuss the current opportunities and challenges for the sector.

In a special round-table meeting at the Gateway Centre in Warrington, Mr Hurd listened to concerns from groups over the Work Programme, public services reform, localism, the Transition Fund, the future of infrastructure and changes to VAT.

"The driving force of this government is about transferring power - and it's happening now," he said. "It's not about inventing new things. But please don't under-estimate the change that is coming in terms of power being transferred to communities and individuals. This will change how decisions get made locally, and the possibilities of what can be done locally."

The Minister expressed his belief that the VCS is too reliant on state funding, but outlined specific plans the government would announce to help organisations get ready for more tendering and contracting opportunities. These are explained in an open letter to the sector.


He also outlined what he feels are the three key opportunities for the sector going forwards:
►The opportunity to deliver more public services, although this will happen differently.
►The localism agenda - helping people find their voice is part of the value of the VCS. Local organisations will matter.
►Helping to create a step change in attitudes towards giving money and time.
It was hoped to gain greater clarity from the Minister with regards to Equality and Localism/Big Society. VSNW will pick this up with the minister separately as he committed to receive the research we are currently undertaking. We will also be writing to ask for a summary to the consultations undertaken this year.
What you can do:
►Ensure you inform us of any further issues that you wish to raise
►Write to your MP and Local Councillor to raise your issues
►If your issues are Work Programme-related, stay in touch with VSNW and our Learning & Skills Network
Consultation Response following GEO Reducing Bureaucracy Policy Review shimAdd News351 to Scrapbook

In May, the Government Equalities Office published a policy review paper: The Equality Act 2010: The public sector Equality Duty: reducing bureaucracy.

The revised regulations will simply require public bodies to publish their equality objectives, and information to demonstrate their compliance with the duty. This is in line with the Government's broader approach to the public sector – to reduce bureaucracy and increase transparency. The policy review paper, setting out these revised proposals, was published on 17 March 2011, and was open for comments for five weeks. (A full formal 12-week consultation was not considered appropriate or necessary).

There were 189 responses to the paper. Of these:

· 46% came from public bodies and their representative bodies;

· 32% came from the voluntary and community sector, including equality campaign groups, charities, and religious groups; and

· 22% came from others, including individuals, equality practitioners, trade unions, advisory/consultancy organisations, legal firms, and training organisations.

According to the report, ‘virtually all of the respondents supported the stated aims of reducing unnecessary processes and bureaucracy, and promoting greater transparency and accountability. There was also widespread agreement that the revised regulations would achieve the first of these aims. In particular, some parts of the public sector, especially some smaller local authorities, welcomed the greater flexibility in the revised regulations about what to publish. They had feared that complying with the earlier proposals would have been too onerous and expensive'.

There was much less agreement as to whether the revised regulations would achieve greater transparency and accountability. In particular, a number of voluntary and community organisations were concerned that removing the requirement to publish details of equality analysis, information, and engagement would mean that such analysis and engagement would simply not happen.

The Government has noted this view, but does not share it, and strongly believes that the case law from the previous equality duties supports this position.

Case law on the previous equality duties established that active consideration of the likely effects of different policies and programmes on people with relevant protected characteristics is inherent in having „due regard‟ to the matters set out in section 149(1); and that in some cases this may require some evidence gathering, and engagement or consultation with people affected by its decisions.

The Government will review how the specific duties are working in practice in two years time.
The Government is making arrangements to publish

Open letter from Nick Hurd MP on public services shimAdd News350 to Scrapbook

Nick Hurd MP, the Minister for Civil Society, has issued an open letter to the VCS on public service reform.

In particular he announces:

  1. ‘Listening exercise' for sector on Open Public Services White paper
  2. £10m for Investment and Contract Readiness, a programme to help frontline civil society organisations grasp the new opportunities arising from:
    • New markets in public service delivery, as set out in last week's Open Public Services White Paper
    • New types of social finance – including loans and equity stakes – facilitated through the Big Society Bank

Read Nick Hurd's letter and the Cabinet Office statement.

Read the Open Public Services White Paper.

Urban Forum Briefing on the Open Public Services White Paper shimAdd News349 to Scrapbook


In July 2011 the Coalition Government published its Open Public Services White Paper, in which the Cabinet Office sets out its policy framework for how it wants public services to be owned, delivered and funded in the future, and the roles of the individual citizen and the state in this.

The White Paper sets out an overview of their programme for public services over the next few years. Some of the measures outlined are already underway (Free Schools, Academies Act 2010), some are being taken forward in legislation currently being debated in Parliament (the Health and Social Care Bill and the Localism Bill), and some will be subject to further development and consultation.


Most of the approach to public services outlined here is a continuation of policies of the previous Labour administrations. Examples of these include: the personalisation agenda (individual service users purchasing services directly); large-scale commissioning by public bodies; new ways to bring in private finance (such as PFI); new autonomous and semi-autonomous public bodies (like Academies, NHS Trusts and Arms Length Management Organisations). The paper states that whilst the approach is not new, its systematic application to every area of public service is a qualitative change.

This White Paper was originally expected to be published at the start of the year, following its announcement in the Spending Review in Autumn 2010. The cause of the delay is not known, but many have speculated that it was delayed because of the controversy surrounding the NHS reforms, and in anticipation of similar controversy over proposals around public services as a whole. Debate around both the NHS and wider public service reforms have focussed on the same issues: the desirability of increased competition, and its impact on cost, inequality and quality of services.

Underpinning theory and principles of Open Public Services

Open Public Services is based on the theory that market competition between providers improves the quality of services experienced by service users, and will make them more effective, thereby improving social outcomes, and reducing costs. It identifies an important new role for government as that of having responsibility for ensuring free competition.

The policy framework is based on 5 principles

• Choice of providers for service users
• Decentralisation
• Diversification of providers - ‘any qualified provider'
• Fair access to public services
• Accountability to users and taxpayers.

Commissioned services, Individual services and Neighbourhood services

The paper divides up public services into three main types of service, and outlines its approach and plans for each of these areas.

Commissioned services

In Open Public Services, the Coalition proposes that the default position for public services organised by government or other public bodies should be that they are contracted out. It lists a few exceptions to this: the military, core policing, intelligence and the judiciary. Organising elections is not listed as one of the exceptions, and neither are fire and rescue services. Immigration is highlighted as an area for a commissioning approach to be taken, as are local services in ‘customer contact', planning, property and facilities management, back-office transactional services (accounts, contract management), family support services, services for looked after children (children in care), trading standards, environmental services and housing management.

Commissioned Services are defined as services which the Coalition believes it is not possible or appropriate to pass to individual service users to organise (individual services), nor for community organisations to take over (neighbourhood services).

In terms of who would run contracted-out services, these are identified as ‘any qualified provider'. In Open Public Services, the Government says that public service commissioners could be required to take steps to have at least 3 providers delivering any service, in a process open to ‘any qualified provider', linking their contracts to payment by results, and being open to challenge by providers on decisions (Open Commissioning). There is no announcement of legislation to bring this proposal into force, but there is an announcement that the Government will consult further on this.

The Paper proposes extending the ‘payment on results' approach taken in the Welfare to Work services to services for the rehabilitation of offenders, public health, drug and alcohol recovery, children's centres, and vulnerable people. It also announces that 10 local authorities will test out payment by results in services paid for by Supporting People budgets, and explore the possibility of payment by results in a number of others areas including court and tribunal administration, debt enforcement, immigration and visa administration.

It proposes a different relationship between the commissioner and the provider, with providers of services encouraged to go to public funders with ideas, and commissioners issuing less specification for what services should look like.

The Coalition indicates (subject to further consultation) an intention to extend the model of autonomous providers within the public sector, and to make semi- autonomous organisations fully autonomous (for example Arms Length Management Organisations becoming Housing Associations).

The paper highlights an intention to encourage more use of digital technology in the provision of public services - both in frontline care (tele-health and tele- care) and in back-room functions.

Individual services

Individual services are defined as personal services provided to individuals. They include education, skills training, adult social care, childcare/children's services, housing support, and individual healthcare.

The focus of proposals around individual services is on funding being tied to individual service users and their choices in two ways;

(1) They propose extending personal budgets, with service users ‘purchasing' the services of their choice - through cash (direct payments) or vouchers. Direct payments are already well established in social care services, and the White Paper says that all councils will need to extend personal budgets to all areas of adult social care by 2013, and to the Supporting People budget, which pays for housing support for vulnerable people. It also proposes to explore, and pilot, an integrated personal budget approach across several services, specifically looking at health and social care budgets for sufferers of chronic health conditions, and of health, education and social care budgets for families of children with special needs.

(2) As well as increasing service user ‘purchasing power', the Coalition also wants to give funding to public service providers based on the number of service users using a service. This would mean, for example, extending the system of tariffs already started in parts of the NHS, with providers paid for carrying out each treatment, looking specifically at mental health services and community health services, from 2012/13, and proposing a similar funding mechanism for schools, further education and skills.


Neighbourhood services

The third group of services defined are neighbourhood services, which are provided locally and used on a collective basis - such as maintenance of public space, parking, museums, sports, leisure and recreational facilities, libraries and community safety.

The focus of proposals around these services is again for contracting out and diversification of service provision, and devolution of responsibility for decision-making, organisation and purchasing services to neighbourhood level wherever possible.

In terms of devolution, the White Paper talks about strengthening and reinvigorating neighbourhood councils (parish, town and community councils) and of further consultation on the scope of neighbourhood councils to take over control of services, how to increase their capacity, how to make it easier to set them up, and how to enable them to raise revenue. Alongside this the Government is also proposing devolved budgets, announcing two Neighbourhood Community Budget pilots, following on from the Community Budget pilots (formerly known as Total Place).

In terms of delivery of neighbourhood services, proposals are put forward for an expansion of community ownership, through more voluntary and community groups owning, running and managing services and assets as social enterprises, trusts or co-operatives. Open Public Services says that the Government will encourage local authorities to transfer assets to communities, and introduce new ‘community rights' to bid to run neighbourhood services, buy buildings and land and have more of a say in local development (in the Localism Bill).

Runnymede Report: Big Society risks increasing racial tensions shimAdd News348 to Scrapbook

Ethnic minorities fear the Big Society will fuel racial tensions, according to a new report published by the Runnymede Trust.

Particular concerns were raised regarding the government's flagship policies of free schools and elected police commissioners, with some arguing that these initiatives have the potential to increase segregation.

The report gathered its findings through interviews with residents in Blackburn, Croydon and Newcastle. The majority of the participants were from Black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds.

Read the full report.

Read the press release.

Watch the documentary which accompanies the report.

Transforming Local Infrastructure fund could leave BME VCOs out in the cold shimAdd News347 to Scrapbook

From Voice 4 Change:

On 15th July the Office for Civil Society Transforming Local Infrastructure programme was launched for infrastructure or support organisations. The fund, worth £30 million, is intended as short term funding to transform local infrastructure to better meet user needs and respond to the economic reality.

Grants of between £250,000 and £400,000 per local authority area (or up to £600,000 where there are populations of over 1 million people) are available for activities such as collaboration and consolidation, better links with local business, service redesign and sustainability. Big Lottery Fund (BLF) is administering the grants. They will only accept one application per upper tier local authority area. If there is more than one infrastructure organisation, organisations will have to work in partnership to develop a joint application. If more than one application is submitted per area they will be discounted unless there are ‘frivolous and contentious expressions of interest’ which BLF reserves the right to declare ineligible.

Vandna Gohil said: ‘Voice4Change England is strongly concerned that the Transforming Local Infrastructure fund will marginalise BME and other equality led support organisations. As small, specialist organisations, BME support organisations are unlikely to become lead partners and risk being relegated to an ‘equalities tick box’ role. The short timescales, which are not Compact compliant, allow little time to develop partnerships based on mutual understanding and respect. We believe that BME and generic ISOs need to work better together, but this should be an organic process to better meet users needs and not driven by top down funding requirements. In the past generic services have not had the organisational capacity or reach to act as an effective or trusted voice for the BME VCS’.

Voice4Change England asks:

  • Those leading partnerships to work with BME local and regional VCOs from the outset to ensure BME VCOs are not left out in the cold.
  • BLF to work with Voice4Change England to lead the way on valuing and supporting equality led support organisations in its additional £20m infrastructure programme.
  • Government to explain how it will meet the public sector equality duty; to release any assessment that has been done as to what impact the fund will have on promoting equality; and to explain what monitoring requirements will be in place to ensure diverse VCOs, including BME VCOs can benefit from the fund.

Calling all BME ISOs

  • Will you benefit from the Transforming Local Infrastructure fund?
  • Are you aware of any local partnerships?
  • Have you been invited to join one?
  • How involved in the process do you feel?

We want to hear from you – both good and bad experiences.

Email your feedback

Voice4Change England will be writing to the Government to raise our concerns and to request a copy of any impact assessment carried out.


Southall Black Sisters v- Secretary of State for Justice shimAdd News346 to Scrapbook

From Southall Black Sisters:

On 19 July, the government reversed its decision to deny access to legal aid to abused migrant women. This is a great victory for all of us who work with abused women who have insecure immigration status and who need to seek legal advice and representation to make applications to remain in the UK in order to secure protection.

The hard lobbying that we and other organisations such as Rights of Women conducted has definitely paid off.

We also believe that the legal challenge that SBS initiated against the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) was the final nail in its coffin!

On 4 July we began a legal challenge (by way of judicial review) against the government’s decision to remove non-detention immigration from the scope of legal aid especially for women who are subject to domestic or gender-related violence and who need to make applications under the Domestic Violence Rule. We sent a letter to the MOJ setting out our case and requested an immediate response.

Read more on SBS Legal Aid Challenge

Draft Specific Duties update shimAdd News345 to Scrapbook

Draft Specific Duties regulations were laid before parliament on27June 2011. They were debated in the House of Commons on 11 July. The debate in the House of Lords is expected to take place in September 2011 and the specific duties will come into force following parliamentary approval (replacing thepreviously statedintention to have them in force before the summer recess).

The regulations require public authorities in Great Britain to publish:

  • Equality objectives, at least every four years, by April 2012; and
  • Information to demonstrate their compliance with the Equality Duty, at least annually.

Although the Equality Duty is Great Britain-wide, Scotland and Wales are able to set their own specific duties. The specific duties in Wales came in to force on 6 April 2011 and specific duties that will apply to Scottish public bodies are still being decided.

Click here for Written Ministerial Statement published on 28 June 2011

Click here for information on the Home Office website