BME scheme handed £130,000

A two-year pilot project to tackle unequal resources and encourage joint service delivery between the black and minority ethnic (BME) and mainstream community sectors has been awarded £130,000 funding.

The "Diversity in Renewal" project, which is supported by the Bridge House Estates Trust Fund, will be jointly managed by Bassac, the umbrella body for "multi-purpose" community groups and the Black Training Enterprise Group.

The project aims to bring local organisations from the BME and mainstream sectors together to develop new methods of jointly delivering programmes in neighbourhood renewal.

It will initially focus on eight yet to be selected outer London boroughs.

However, Bassac is also in discussion with others funders about expanding its remit to towns in West Yorkshire, such as Bradford and Leeds, which suffer from problems of racial segregation.

Bassac's chief executive Ben Hughes said that the project would challenge the channelling of funding to established, mainstream routes and the unequal distribution of resources between mainstream and BME groups. But it was also about the mainstream community sector learning from BME counterparts.

"We observe a complete lack of sharing of good practice, of creative thinking and of the delivery of services between the BME and mainstream sector at the local level," said Hughes.

"Our big concern is that the mainstream sector is losing out - really interesting ideas from the BME sector are not coming through and cross-fertilising. This is about breaking down the carefully guarded barriers between the two sectors. Some of the barriers exist because of both explicit and institutional racism."

Sajid Butt, senior policy officer at the Black Training Enterprise Group, said that the project could help the community sector influence regeneration agencies and change the way statutory services are delivered. "It could be an effective lobby," he said. "The community sector needs to communicate the impact it is having on different constituencies in real terms."

The project will present its evidence to government bodies such as the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit and the Active Community Unit and leave sector funders with the opportunity to support joint service programmes by BME and mainstream groups.

It will be based on action learning and research principles under which workers from different organisations are brought together to identify vocational issues that are tackled in group settings.

The project will create six good practice guides on cross-sectoral working to promote its findings.

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