Refreshed Compact 'a step backwards for BME groups'

Voice4Change England is disappointed by new version of the agreement

Black and minority ethnic groups have been "ignored and marginalised" by the refreshed Compact, according to the main organisation for the BME voluntary sector in England.

A slimmed-down version of the Compact was published last week following a lengthy consultation process.

But Voice4Change England, which represents almost 6,000 BME third sector organisations, said it was "extremely disappointed" by the new version, which, unlike the original Compact, does not have a BME code.

Instead, it contains a section on "advancing equality". But Voice4Change England says the broader emphasis on equality dilutes the Compact's value to BME and other minority groups.

"We are extremely disappointed that the refreshed Compact does not reflect the commitments and undertakings that would enable BME and other equality groups to seek more equitable relationships with the state at all levels," said Arjumand Kazmi, head of policy at Voice4Change England.

"The refreshed Compact is full of gaps as far as small, BME and equality groups are concerned. We have been ignored and marginalised.

"We now have to redouble our efforts at a local level to ensure that the good work done by local Compacts, including local BME codes, is not eroded, and to and highlight good practice so that these groups don't lose out further."

Matthew Scott, director of the Community Sector Coalition, a group of 20 national charities and umbrella bodies, described the refreshed Compact as a "step backwards for equalities and community sector organisations". He said it was too focused on large, service-delivering charities.

In a statement, the Commission for the Compact said: "We believe that the benefits which BME organisations gain from the Compact will be preserved and built on under the refreshed Compact – although, of course, we accept that the new Compact doesn't make specific mention of them in the way that the BME code did."

It added that the benefits would be "bolstered" by new Compact implementation guidance, which will be published early in 2010.



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