Commons launch for BME group

Black and minority ethnic voluntary groups struggle to represent the interests of their beneficiary communities because of a lack of funding and investment in skills and capacity, according to Vandna Gohil, director of Voice4Change England.

Speaking at the group’s official launch at the House of Commons on Wednesday, Gohil said there was an overwhelming case for increased funding for the BME sector.

She said: “Voice4Change England will promote the value and importance of the BME third sector’s role in civil society, but more support is needed to ensure it thrives and continues to reach and deliver services to disadvantaged communities.”

Voice4Change, a partnership of 19 regional and England-wide BME networks, has been in existence for more than a year. Martin Ball, its head of campaigns, said it wanted to hold its official launch in Parliament to highlight the fact that its focus would be on shaping government policy.

He said the group was developing plans to extend its membership and was confident the Office of the Third Sector would extend its funding beyond the current commitment, which runs to March 2009.

Caryl Agard, chair of the group, said V4CE offered policy makers an opportunity to understand the impact of their decisions on BME communities.

He claimed the group had already helped to shape the debate prompted by the Commission for Integration and Cohesion’s call earlier this year for funding for single identity groups to be restricted. The group argued that the proposals were discriminatory and threatened the survival of BME third sector organisations.

Agard said: “Our successful lobbying on this issue demonstrates that Voice4Change England can make a difference, and in the future we will enhance our advocacy function on further policy changes to improve the outcomes for BME communities.”

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