Community Education and Training Services

UK Registered Charity No.: 269681. Est. 1975.

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Text Box: A Response to the Government reforms of the public sector and public services and The Impact of Change to the Voluntary Sector on Organisations at the Black  and Ethnic Minority Grassroots.
Developing The Infrastructure of The Voluntary and Community Sector
By Dr. Vince Hines
National Director,
 On behalf of
The Black European Community Development Federation (BECDF).
Presented at The Public Policy Seminars
University of London
22nd October 2004

The Role of the Black European Community Development Federation

THE BLACK EUROPEAN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT FEDERATION (BECDF) (incorporating The National Federation Of Self-Help Organisations (NFSHO)) was formed by ordinary members of the Black Community in 1975, in order to create an effective and collective voice for Federation members and associates.

The Federation has developed a national network of Black and ethnic minority self-help and community groups over the past twenty nine years.  The Federation’s objects are charitable, which are implemented through local grassroots organisations.

These organisations are from a variety of fields: community, youth, sports and leisure, education, training, racial equality, multi-faith groups, housing, health, community business and the arts. The Federation is a membership organisation, and accepts only groups as members.  

Brief History of Black Volunteering in Britain 

Most people of African and Asian heritage came to Britain during the 1950s throughout the 1980s as economic migrants, dependences, students, refugees and tourists. They were
from former British colonies as the Caribbean, Guyana, Belize and the sub-continent of India. Many came as students from, what was then called, British Commonwealth and Dependant Territories such as East, West and South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Cyrus and Sri Lanka (Ceylon).  

Between 1948 and 1971, there were two crucial British legislations which allowed Black people into Britain. The 1948 British Nationality Act created citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. The 1971 Commonwealth Immigration Act allowed automatic citizenship from the Commonwealth, but restricted to certain individuals, mostly people from the ‘white commonwealth’ – Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Rhodesia, and so on. The 1971 Act reduced black immigration to Britain substantially. Black immigrants to Britain were serious political issues at the time.  

A core of the new immigrants felt that they were not given the welcome they deserved or being appreciated for their contributions to regenerating Britain’s war-torn Economy. And so, members of the Black Community challenged the 'bad old' days. Britain was without material anti-racist legislations, and a multi-racial/cultural minority forged unity, including members of the Jewish Community, worked tirelessly and persuaded the British majority to change the status quo and put RACE and Equal Opportunities on the agenda. The rest is history. 

Campaigning anti-racist leaderships’ successes of the 1960s and 1970s contributed to an historic momentum, which leads to the populating of today's Parliamentary Statute Book of 'equalities' legislations - race, gender, sex, disability and, soon, age.

Pioneers in Social Structures

Some of the early self-help social organisations created by black students and immigrants were needs led. West African Students Union was set up earlier during the 1920s, and continued to operate during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. This Union had strong influences in places like Manchester, and catered for African students, many of whom returned to colonial Africa after graduation and made historic changes on the Continent. 

West Indian Students’ Union (WISU), based in 1 Cunningham Gardens, Earls Court, Kensington and Chelsea,            London, provided an effective forum for Caribbean students to express their ideas and provided voluntary support to the ‘harassed’ working class Caribbean immigrant community, during the 1960, 70s and 80s. Andrew Salkey - Trinidadian, Gerry Burton - St. Lucian, Arif Ali – Guyanese, Chris LeMaitre – Trinidadian, John La rose- Trinidadian and Horace Lashley – Trinidadian, were some of the leading lights of the WISU.

The West Indian Standing Conference (WISC) was set up in 1958 – as a response to racial attacks in Notting Hill Gate, West London, on members of Caribbean immigrant Community by so called ‘Teddy Boys’, made up of some  mislead White youth. One of the first street riots by disgruntled immigrants happened at the time. For the next decade, WISC was led by Glem Byfield - Jamaican, Joseph A. Hunte - born in St. Kitts, Jeff Crawford - Barbadian and William Trant – Montserratian.  All were from the Caribbean. These are only a few of the many contributors. Today, WISC is still doing good work in Britain.

The Notting Hill Carnival Movement was launched in Ladbroke Grove, West London in 1963, by Leslie Palmer, a Trinidadian. The first Caribbean Street Carnival was organized in Brixton, South London, in 1958 by Trinidadian, Claudia Jones, and Joseph A. Hunte. Today, this Caribbean initiative is named as ‘Europe’s largest street party’ and one of the main money spinners for British Tourist Industry.  

The Black Supplementary Saturday School Movement was started by Caribbean education and community workers association (CECWA) later gave way to the Caribbean Teachers Association (CTA) in 1970. This was a response to the negative experience of black children in English school, who were wrongly placed into Educational Subnormal Schools (ESN) by the Inner London Education Authority. This was partly because of flawed Eurocentric culturally bias IQ tests. Bernard Cord, a Jamaican educationalist working with the ILEA at the time exposed the injustice being done to the immigrant children. Trevor Carter, Trinidadian and Huwie Andrew, Dominican, were leading contributors to the Black Supplementary Saturday School Movement.

Saturday schools developed to give head start to immigrant children were very successful initiative.  (Today expensive private fee paying schools are using the supplementary education ideas to push up their grades in school league tables). 

The Black Sound System Movement (Mobile Discothèque) was started in 1950 by Vincent Forbes, Jamaican. His Sound System was called ‘Duke Vine’. ‘Duke Vin was based in Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill, and West London.  This system was adopted by members of the black community to provide culturally sensitive entertainment for a large number of people, who were not given access to white-run social clubs at the time.

Britain’s first grassroots credit union was formed by a Jamaican collective in 1950. Today, Britain’s credit unions are flourishing.

Social housing – hostel for homeless youth 1960s and 70s. Britain’s pioneers in self-help social housing targeted homeless youth and lone parents in 1968. Some of these initiatives were the Black House, in Holloway, North London, and run by the Racial Adjustment Society (RASS) and headed by Michael Defretas, who was born in Trinidad.

Another initiative for homeless youth was called Dashiki, run by the Dashiki Council, and founded by Vince Hines- Jamaican. Dashiki was based in Notting Hill, West London  and provided temporary housing and educational support for homeless immigrant children in need.

Harambee Project was headed by   Herman Edwards -Montserratian. The Project provided temporary hostel accommodation for homeless youth and based in Islington, North London. Rupert Morris Home for Boys, founded by Rupert Morris, Jamaican, and based in North London, also support homeless black youth. These services were used extensively by the local social services.  Black self-help initiatives could be found in Liverpool, Birmingham, Leicester, Leeds, Bristol, Wolverhampton, Northampton, Southampton, Ipswich, Luton, Bedford, Basingstoke, Huddersfield, Bedford, Derby, High Wycombe, Slough, Swindon, Bath, Gloucester, Sheffield, Nottingham,  Manchester, Cardiff, South Wales, normally where a significant number of immigrant settled at the time.

Religions at the Grassroots

Churches, mosque and temples were some of the community initiatives set up by the immigrant communities and grew rapidly during the 1960, 70s and 80s. These institutions are still in place and are some of the most stable among the immigrant institutions, and not dependent on state funding. Many members attending religious gatherings are expected to give ‘to God’ at least one tenth of their yearly earnings. Some institutions grew very rich.

The vast number of religious followers, who can afford it, adhered to this tenet of offerings. This type of tithe has been with us for over five thousand years, even during Moses time.

Pioneering Community Radio in Britain

 Members of Britain’s Black Community pioneered Britain’s Community Radio Movement during the 1980s, long before current local public and commercial radio came on air.  One of the first community radio stations was started by a group of African immigrants from the Caribbean in 1979. The Station was called “DBC” – Dread Broadcasting ‘Co-operation’ [Corporation] and broadcast on the FM band. The Station was founded and based in Neasden, the North London Borough of Brent and moved subsequently to Ladbroke Grove, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, West London.  Pre-recorded taped music and a low level transmitter were placed on high rise buildings and transmitted to Londoners over 10-20 mile radius. DBC audience consisted mostly of immigrants and settlers from the Caribbean. Jamaica’s Reggae Music was very popular with DBC audience. DBC came about partly because main stream radio was not catering for the new immigrants and settlers. The station was founded and operated by volunteers. Today, some of DBC’s founders and presenters moved on to broadcasting on public and commercial radio stations. Community radio, still operated by volunteers, continues to gain prominence.

The Police and the Black Community

Black pressure groups during the 1960, 70s and 80s, helped to create the conditions for better police accountability through anti-racist pressure campaigns, rallies and demonstrations against police malpractices at the time. The Campaign against the Vagrancy Act 1824 – the ‘sus laws’, used by some members of the police to harass members of the Black and ethnic minority communities, which culminated in the repeal of that Act. Some Leading Lights of the Campaign were Solicitor Paul Boateng – British born of Ghanaian heritage and Mavis Clarke - Jamaican (Now Mavis Best) Rhodan Gordon – Grenadian, of the Black People Information Centre (BPIC), Ladbroke Grove, in Notting Hill. Paul is now a Member of Parliament, HM Treasury Chief Secretary and Cabinet Member.

There were many more black self-help initiatives from which Britain gained a great deal, some of which were based in the black entertainment and sport industries, race and community relations and the black press.

Birth of the British Black Self-Help Movement

Nearly all of the immigrants’ social initiatives were based on self-help. Adequate core funding to develop their social initiatives was not available. Thus the Black Self-Help Movement was born. Members of the Black and ethnic minority communities volunteered their time and gave money in order to achieve immediate and better social conditions for members of their communities.

Black voluntary community and youth workers were at the front-line of social needs in Britain.  Black managed voluntary and community groups, from the on-set, provided culturally sensitive services to their beneficiaries, who were socially deprived and excluded.  

Also working on the Front line for social change, was the Indian Workers Association. Joining later this tradition of Asian voluntary initiative in Britain was the Bangladeshi Education and Welfare Association, Pakistan Welfare Organisations, Chinese Information and Advice Centre, and others, in their responses to their communities’ needs.
Initial and Pump-priming Funds 1976-1986.

The Community Relations Council (CRC), later called the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) provided small pump-priming funding to some self-help groups. Trust and Foundations and the Churches Funds also provide small project funding for up to £3000-£5000. This aided survival for a while.

Metropolitan Authorities, like the ‘late’ Greater London Council (GLC), under the leadership of Ken Livingstone, led the way in supporting black groups, during the 1980s, but this support was short lived partly because of rate capping under the Thatcher Government. Local authorities could not or would not provide the core funding that was required by local black and ethnic minority groups to create capacity and infrastructural development.

Social Needs and Financial Pressures

The social needs generated by the Black and Ethnic minority communities, like youth unemployment, crime, education under achievements, teenage pregnancies, had seriously impacted on the fledging Black-led voluntary and community sector. Many Beneficiaries had unrealistic expectations as to the services they could expect from their black community groups.

Black groups needed to adopt new approaches to service delivery. They needed to up-grade management structures for greater effectiveness as they deal with additional and complex case work. What used to be ‘voluntary’ is now being forced to take on ‘professional’ aspects, which meant full time and part-time paid staff, in order to sustain development. Resources were not available to sustain this new pressure.

Grant culture was replaced by contract culture. Black and ethnic minority self-help groups were expected to become ‘professional’ over night, as it were, in order to compete on the same playing field as other traditional voluntary/community organisations, many of which were well resourced, with developed infrastructures and full-time workers and  consultants to assist with new and sophisticated funding  bids and application forms.  

Many funders and potential funders now expect grassroots organisations to meet set targets. To compete effectively,  grassroots organisations would have to be assessed   on a value for money basis in addition to finding ‘partners’ for match funding or to provide solid working relationships.

The Decline of Black Self-help Groups

The Black led voluntary and community groups were expected by new funding regimes to restructure, without the provisions of associated resources to help the process of professional governance, capacity and infrastructural building. Neither were they offering  re-training or up-grading of skills so that current voluntary and community workers, who had invested years in developing black and ethnic voluntary groups could compete on a levelled playing field. 

This involved major challenges to black-led groups, which required strengthening leadership for better governance and management of very scarce resources, strengthening weaknesses in fund-raising and develop better monitoring-and-evaluation systems. Other requirements were facilitating the availability and use of strategic information, ensuring efficient cooperation between different community groups, and work within local, regional and national umbrella community organisations, for collective support.

What appeared to have been forgotten was that, while those administrative changes were being evolved, black self-help groups’ beneficiaries increased monthly, as many drifted in social exclusions and anti-social behaviours and became harder to reach.

Many black-led groups folded over the past twenty years, owing to lack of adequate core funding in order to build capacity and infrastructural support. Some groups remained only on paper. In effect, they have become ‘paper’ organisations. Sir Herman Ouseley, now Lord Ouseley, while he was Chair of the CRE, made the point in his presentation at NCVO 1998 Conference, that while he was the Chief Executive of the London Borough of Lambeth Council, there was a thriving Black voluntary sector of over 1000 organisations. Since he left and as at 1998, “there was only a handful remaining.”  

The Black Self-Help Movement, being marginalised and excluded, continues to decline, yet it is well placed to identify and respond to community needs. Beneficiaries have confidence in the work of their own community initiatives.

The seeds for social exclusions of black and ethnic minority voluntary and community initiatives were planted during the 1970s and 80s by policy makers who did not seem to consider the consequences for posterity, by ignoring substantive calls from Black and ethnic minority leaderships to provide capacity building and infrastructural support towards an equitable Britain.

Local Strategic Partnerships and the Black Self-Help Movement

The current government, if asked, would say that it was making available record amount of funding to the 

Dr. Vince Hines

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