Belinda Webb writes in the Guardian: With councils up and down the country being forced to claw back on services through cuts imposed by the government, one of the areas that will be squeezed dry is youth services. This has troubled the Unite union so much that this weekend it held a Rally for Youth Services.
Inner-city youth groups are a lifeline for many urban communities. They save kids from having to create their own "fun" on grim concrete estates, where boredom and frustration quickly turn to trouble. On the Moss Side estate in Manchester where I spent my teen years we had an old field and a pit. This pit usually contained a burnt-out car that had been "borrowed" for a joyride, along with used syringes and anything else you care to imagine. However, in the past decade Moss Side has started to change thanks to a range of youth services, such as the Powerhouse Library. They have worked hard to overturn the decades of despondency that once blighted the area and which featured regularly in both national and regional press. It has meant a real result – the steady decline of crime.
In fact, the more affluent suburban area of Didsbury and Withington came top of the recent figures for the city, with almost twice as many recorded crimes as Moss Side. The news is a sign that this culturally rich area is returning to better days. Once known as "Little Harlem" in honour of its Caribbean population who were invited to work there following the second world war, Moss Side was also home to Irish and Asian communities. The various groups got along and there was a strong sense of community. In the 70s, however, with higher levels of unemployment, drug-dealing gained a stronghold and its effects were soon felt.
Fuelled by the sustained levels of poverty and lack of opportunities, riots erupted in 1981. I was living in a neighbouring area at the time, and the anger of these years, which followed on from riots in Liverpool, Birmingham, London, Leeds and Bristol, felt palpable even to my eight-year-old self.
In the early 90s gun crime soared; gangs such as the Gooch and the Doddington became engaged in drug and turf wars, and the police were accused of provoking anger through their response. Moss Side gained the title of "Baby Beirut" and Manchester was soon dubbed "Gunchester" by the mainstream media. There was national shock in 1993 when a family friend, 14-year-old Benji Stanley, was shot through the window of a takeaway shop on Great Western street. Benji's murder, thought to be a case of mistaken identity, brought the spotlight back on to youth disaffection and crime in the area.
By the mid-90s, by which time I had moved away, pessimistic conditions gave way to hard resignation. The police came under increased pressure, aided by sensationalist media coverage – and cruising police vans became a common sight.
Spurts of violence continue. In 2006, 15-year-old Jessie James was tragically shot dead – ironically, close to the Powerhouse Library, the youth group that has worked towards helping to bring down the incidence of crime and anti-social behaviour, now also lower than that of the city as a whole. Jessie's murder is another reminder of the work still to be done in the area. But what has been achieved so far should be applauded; it stands against the Tories' cry of "Broken Britain" which helped them win votes in the last election. On a tour of the area in 2009, the then shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, likened Moss Side to the hit US series The Wire, which is set in Baltimore. The comparison justifiably angered many of the area's residents whose real experience had started to tell a different story.
The only way that youth groups will be saved is if competent volunteers step in. But the big society feels like too big an "if". This morning David Cameron delivered a speech to the "Big Society Network", in which he restated his controversial mission. He would do better to ensure that the good work taking place in Moss Side, and other inner-city areas, continues, so that they're not dragged back to 1981.
The government has unveiled its new strategy to grow the social investment market, which it says will give charities and social enterprises access to new, potentially multi-billion pound, capital.
Respublica Fellow John Millbank writes in a piece entitled: Cameron on Islam, liberalism and multiculturalism
"David Cameron's ‘multiculturalism' speech in Berlin has so far generated more heat than light. Its central policy message has been obscured, in part by its own rhetoric. This message is that government support for Islamic organisations who espouse any variant of political Islamism, though not violence in its pursuit, has been a mistake. The aim of this support was to wean Islamists away from violence. But the real effect has been to increase support for Islamism and thereby indirectly for Islamist violence. In any case, as Cameron made clear, even if Islamist objectives are pursued by peaceful means, they are incompatible with European politics, because they involve the idea that Muslims should only be living under an Islamic polity and legality. To support organisations which encourage such views is therefore semi-suicidal.
Many Muslims who oppose Islamism have accordingly come quietly out in support of Cameron's announcement of a crucial policy-change. Also, many on the left, who for a long time have been worried about double-standards being applied to the Islamic right, have welcomed this development.
At the same time, many Muslims and many commentators from all sides of the political spectrum have expressed some unease about Cameron's yoking his new policy to an abandonment of ‘state multiculturalism'.
Here, it seems to me, ‘multiculturalism' lacks clarity as a term and thereby sows argumentative confusion. In essence, Cameron is saying that tolerance of many cultures, as the core approach of the recent past is wrong, because any society and any state requires a strong element of core culture and shared values if it is to function at all. In this he is correct. However, it is not clear that some advocates of a qualified ‘multiculturalism', such as Tariq Modood of Bristol University, a moderate and mainline Muslim academic, would really dissent. All that they are saying is that, under the aegis of a shared, say British culture, there is room (but not infinite room) for much cultural and religious diversity. Moreover, they are also saying that this diversity can contribute to the evolution of the common culture. Indeed they rightly tend to observe that British identity is, for historical reasons, in crisis and they wish to assist in the work of repairing this identity..."
The article continues here:
Dr Rob Berkley of the Runnymede on multiculturalism:
"So we’re back to what is becoming an old chestnut; as the latest senior politician condemns multiculturalism. On Saturday, David Cameron took his place, behind Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Trevor Phillips, arguing that "state multiculturalism” has encouraged "different cultures to live separate lives” with a particular Cameron twist – that the UK needs a stronger national identity to prevent people turning to extremism.
Surely, such a panoply of senior politicians should have been able to organise the end of so-called state multiculturalism by now – unless of course it never existed in the first place, they do not really mean it, or the alternatives are simply too unattractive to countenance.
A key problem in debates around multiculturalism is that the term means different things to different people. Some believe that multiculturalism actively promotes separate religious and ethnic identities at the expense of common values, whilst others believe it simply means the existence and recognition of different identities in a shared political space within a framework of human rights. Runnymede’s understanding of the term has always been the latter."
For the full article: www.leftfootforward.org/2011/02/david-cameron-wrong-on-multiculturalism/
A petition has been started to defend multiculturalism at:
The petition reads: 'We believe David Cameron’s statement that multiculturalism has failed was a dangerous declaration of intent. David Cameron's speech was reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher’s infamous 1978 statement that Britain was "being swamped by alien cultures”. He has branded Britain’s Muslims as the new "enemy within” in the same way as Thatcher attacked the miners and trade unions.
David Cameron is attempting to drive a wedge between different communities by linking Britain’s multicultural society with terrorism and national security. David Cameron’s speech was made on the same day as the English Defence League brought its bigotry and violence to the streets of Luton. Mr Cameron’s aim is simple as it is crude - to deflect the anger against his government’s cuts from the bankers and onto the Muslim community.
We the undersigned believe that our multicultural society and the respect and solidarity it is built on is a cause for pride, and reject any moves by this government to undermine and destroy it.
We must not allow this coalition government to turn the tide back to the days when it was acceptable, through ignorance and fear, for people with a different religion, culture or skin colour to be scapegoated and treated as inferior or outsiders.
Initial signatories include:
Martin Smith (Love Music Hate Racism)
Peter Hain MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Ken Livingstone (Politician)
Salma Yaqoob (Councillor and leader of Respect)
Further analysis and commentary can be found here:
JUST West Yorkshire recently met with the 5 West Yorkshire local authorities on the 17th of January to discuss the impact of cuts on vulnerable communities and the decision making process that has been taken. Below is a summary of their key points:
JUST acknowledged the financial pressures bearing down on local authorities in making very difficult decisions that will inevitably lead to public service cuts. However, concerns were expressed about the lack of openness and transparency in local authority decisions around cuts in public services. JUST asserted the need for accessible and meaningful information to ensure that the Voluntary and Community sector is appraised of decisions made by public bodies that impact on their future sustainability and affirmed the role of the Third Sector as integral partners in reshaping public services due to their historical relationship, skills and expertise in working with communities ‘in need.'
JUST challenged the West Yorkshire Chief Executives to create those spaces in which the third sector could meaningfully influence the shaping of services, highlighting the crucial leadership role of local authorities in ensuring that decisions on cuts are made exclusively on the basis of need and avoids the rhetoric of Race and Class as this could undermine good race relations.
Freedom of Information Request
JUST and JRCT expressed disappointment that its request for information related to decision-making processes on public service cuts had not been forthcoming. It subsequently had to submit a Freedom of Information request. The FOI information JUST has received has been uneven and a request for a more comprehensive response was made.
If you would like to find out more about JUST's approach, please contact email@example.com
David Cameron today announced a £200 million boost for his Big Society vision revealing a deal thrashed out between the Government and the banks.
He told MPs that the Big Society Bank will take £200 million from financial institutions to invest in the third sector.
During a raucous Prime Minister's question time Cameron said Labour "put money into the banks, we are taking money out of the banks and putting it in to the Big Society".
But Labour leader Ed Miliband said the Prime Minister's cuts were threatening his flagship policy.
He said Cameron was "cutting too far and too fast and society is becoming smaller and weaker, not bigger and stronger".
But views from the sector were largely positive, though some were highly qualified in their praise.
Responding to the the extra £200m committed to the Big Society Bank, Sir Stephen Bubb CEO of ACEVO said: "This is good news. It breathes life back in to the Big Society project. If we can marry this much needed spurt of capital with fundamental public service reform, it could ensure the long term growth of the country’s charity sector.”
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, responded to the Prime Minister's announcement: "This is a good start which demonstrates that the Government is listening to the sector’s concerns about the challenges ahead.
"Going forward, a clear timetable for the set-up of bank functions will help the sector to plan with confidence and give a steer on when funding is likely to become available.
"The success of the Bank will also rely on securing sufficient additional private capital, above the amounts available from unclaimed assets, and on the levels of financial capability and investment readiness in the voluntary and community sector."
Social Investment Business view
In turn, The Social Investment Business chief executive Jonathan Lewis, commented: "Today’s announcement is a very welcome move which ensures that when the Big Society Bank opens for business it has significant funds to lend. Just like for SMEs, there is huge appetite from civil society organisations all around the country for more access to loan finance.
"Healthy coffers in its opening months is only the start. This isn’t just a bank that’s being created – it must be a champion for the idea of social investment and kick start transformative growth in the social investment market with new financial products and a new attitude to sector funding.
"The Big Society Bank represents an important move towards recognising that charities, social enterprises and voluntary organisations are more than capable of taking on loan finance. Treating them more like the social businesses they are will allow them to plan strategically and become more financially sustainable.”
John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), said: "An additional £200m for investment in civil society organisations would be very welcome, however, according to the Treasury Statement this money will be provided ‘on a commercial basis’.This leaves the true role of the Big Society Bank even more uncertain.
"Increasingly there seems to be confusion around the role of the Big Society Bank from commentators in both media and political circles, with some suggesting that it will be able to offer direct financial assistance and grants to organisations.
"Today’s announcement, however, confirms that the Big Society Bank will act as a wholesale financial institution working through existing social investment intermediaries.
"More needs to be done to explain how £200m of wholesale finance ‘on a commercial basis’ is going to help the voluntary sector. At best, the impact of the Big Society Bank will be long term rather than immediate, and it is unlikely to solve the problems of the thousands of charities who are currently experiencing difficulties because of increasing demand for their services, difficult economic conditions and funding cuts.
"Social investment is set to play an increasingly important role as part of a diverse funding landscape for the voluntary sector, but it is a very new market and it is still being developed. It is unclear whether the financial needs of many civil society organisations will be met through social investment on purely commercial terms.
"It is important not to raise false expectations and present the Big Society Bank as a financial panacea for the charity sector. Loans must be repaid!”
Social Enterprise Coalition chief executive, Peter Holbrook, commented: "This news is to be welcomed with open arms, especially in this financial climate. The Big Society Bank will help deliver a ‘triple bottom line’ of economic, social and environmental wealth in the UK. It could see the social enterprise community grow and strengthen its position. The capital will be in great demand and so the sooner it becomes available the better.”
Speaking on the detail Holbrook added: "It will be important that the Bank is run independently of government and of existing retailers or other intermediaries in the finance market. It should be established with a clear vision of what impact it expects to achieve in the short to medium term.
"Whoever owns and runs the Bank must have the relevant expertise and credentials in finance as well as in the social and environmental fields. They must representative the sector in its entirety.”
new economics foundation view
Though Tony Greenham, head of Business and Finance at nef (new economics foundation) was more scathing. He said: "The very fact that this pantomime has taken place shows that our banking system is not fit for purpose. Do the governments of other countries need to go cap in hand and plead with their banks to do their job?
"Why have no figures or commitments been given for net rather than gross lending by the banks? Gross lending will only boost the economy if it increases faster than loan repayments by borrowers – a net figure is far more meaningful.
"To what extent might some of the additional lending from the 5 banks (including Santander) simply displace lending from other banks?
"The government is still in denial over the real issue that the excessive pay within the banking system is a clear signal of non-competitive and poorly functioning markets where a small number of companies enjoy unmerited economic power. Government continues to dodge the issue of excessive bonuses in what has become a heavily subsidized industry.
"The UK economy needs and deserves a more diverse and resilient banking system, including banks that are much more focused on the vital job of supporting long-term business investment.
"A small number of giant banks, increasingly run by investment bankers focused on speculation in international markets, is not in the best interests of the economy or society.”
A new report, released today by Oxfam and the Centre for Migration Policy Research at Swansea University, paints a depressing picture of daily life for people seeking asylum in the UK.
Those who have been denied asylum, are appealing their cases and unable to return to their country of origin are living in social and legal limbo due to a scheme that has been purposely designed to discourage claimants. The majority of refused asylum seekers do not apply for support because they have little faith in the system. Many have had their cases refused because they have no access to legal advice or don’t speak English.
Nearly a third of asylum cases that have been refused are overturned on appeal, highlighting the poor quality of the decision making process itself. This harsh regime gives them the choice between returning to their own country, where they fear they may be persecuted, or living here in destitution. The report reveals that:
Many are living a hand-to-mouth existence, depending on the kindness of friends (usually other asylum seekers) to let them sleep on their floor or share a hot meal with them
They have nowhere to go, wandering streets for hours every day, in constant fear of being caught and deported
They are highly vulnerable to crime and various forms of exploitation
Many suffer from ill health as a result of having no accommodation, a poor diet and lack of access to healthcare
Some experience psychological and emotional repercussions of being destitute, when many are already dealing with traumatic pastsIn desperation, some have to resort to entering into abusive relationships or even taking up sex work to survive
Oxfam’s director of UK Poverty, Kate Wareing, said. "These are people who have made heartbreaking decisions to leave their families and flee their homes. They end up living as ghosts on the streets of Britain because of government policy and decision making that strips them of their rights and dignity.
"The current system is designed to make people feel as low as possible and sends out a message that those who are refused asylum are not even worthy of our compassion. It goes against any sense of our common decency.”
The research was conducted by a group of refugees and asylum seekers, many with personal experiences of destitution. The researchers spoke to 45 people over several months, all of whom were, or had been, asylum seekers. Many of the interviewees would not have been willing to take part if the research had involved contact with someone they did not know or trust.
Those interviewed talked not only about their own experiences, but also those of a wide network of friends and contacts, providing an overall picture of the experience of hundreds of asylum seekers in the UK.
Heaven Crawley, professor of International Migration at Swansea University and lead author of the report, said. "This research gives us a rare insight into what life is like for refused asylum-seekers in the UK and shows that there is a deep-rooted lack of faith in the current system. Forcing people to live in destitution is not a humane solution, nor does it lead to them returning voluntarily to their country of origin.”
In the UK, asylum seekers normally receive government accommodation and cash support of £35.52 a week. Those who have had a claim refused are moved to Section 4 Support in the form of an Azure payment card, worth £35.39 a week, but this can only be used in a limited number of shops and is conditional on their agreeing to return home as soon as the UK government considers it safe to do so.
Oxfam is calling for:
Asylum seekers who have been refused to receive cash support until the point of return, so they are not left without support whilst appeals or claims are being processed and can buy what they need to survive, rather than an inflexible payment card.
Improvement in the quality of initial decisions in the asylum-determination process, so those entitled to protection will get the protection they need.
The Centre for Local Economic Strategies argues for a new approach that recognises social and economic equality as crucial for ‘integration’ – both of which are threatened by the government’s spending cuts.
New research published by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) makes the case that efforts to encourage the ‘integration’ of minority groups will be ineffective unless they go hand-in-hand with attempts to overcome social and economic inequality.
In his recent speech at the Munich security conference, Prime Minister David Cameron criticised multiculturalism for "encouraging different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream” which he suggests has contributed to the emergence of extremist views.
Proclaiming the failure of multiculturalism, Cameron calls for a "shared sense of national identity” and efforts to promote "that feeling of belonging in our communities that is key to achieving true cohesion”.
But new research by CLES, entitled Where next for ethnic diversity policy-making at the local level?, argues that whilst shared values and interaction between communities play a role in the social and economic functioning of place, they are not cure-alls: tackling social and economic inequality is the foundation for truly successful communities.
Not many dawns have passed since the sparky Tory chairwoman Sayeeda Warsi spoke up about the "dinner table" libelling of all Muslims, now routine, normalised, unremarkable, intimate, uncontested. I see and hear it, too – prejudices passed around with the balsamic vinegar or ketchup. Some Muslims deserve castigation and worse for the terrible things they do. I frequently denounce them in my columns. But sweeping, indiscriminate execration of any collective is abhorrent and must be confronted. Warsi did that, knowing her words would infuriate right-wing Tories who can't stand the brown little upstart.
Now, how will she react to her leader, who has amplified the small talk of bigotry and boomed it through a megaphone, perhaps to slap her down? I found Cameron's speech in Munich indefensible even though I completely agree with some observations and policy ideas. We discussed these two years back when we met in his office for over an hour. Self-exclusion, special pleading, women's rights, community oppression, anti-democratic attitudes, terrorism, the spread of Wahhabi Islam are serious problems and growing. Laissez-faire multicultural policies do not serve our times. State institutions should fund shared spaces, crossover ideas, openness and modernity. Many of us Muslims would be with David Cameron if his speech hadn't shown him to be selective, hypocritical, calculating, woefully indifferent to Muslim victims of relentless racism and chauvinism. He was speaking the words of white extremists but in posh. There was so much that was objectionable – where he spoke, what he said, the timing, the purposes loitering behind the fine façade of his personality.
Full story: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/yasmin-alibhai-brown/yasmin-alibhaibrown-david-camerons-message-is-that-muslims-are-not-wanted-2206381.html