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The new Rehabilitation Services market: will it improve outcomes for BAME and Muslim offenders?

Nov 05, 2014 - Comments: 0

`Opening up the market, injecting new energy and thinking to crack some of society’s most entrenched social problems, reinventing the probation service for the new century ’

This was some of the thinking behind the drive by Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Justice, to break up the Probation Service and create a market for the provision of rehabilitation services in England and Wales through the Transforming Rehabilitation reform process.

On 29th October - earlier than anticipated - the Secretary of State saw his vision come one step closer when the successful bidders for the 21 regional contracts to run the rehabilitation services were announced. The winning partnerships are a range of private, voluntary sector and mutual providers.

BTEG wishes the winning consortiums well. We will watch closely to see how they progress in this very different operating environment. The key issue we will look for is how they ensure that the outcomes for Black and/or Muslim young male offenders are improved.  

This is the focus of the Young Review which BTEG and Clinks initiated, under the stewardship of Baroness Lola Young. When the Secretary of State gave his endorsement to the Young Review he saw the challenge of improving BAME offender resettlement outcomes as exactly the sort of issue that the new Rehabilitation Services market would be better equipped to tackle. The final report from the review will be launched in December.

Our hope is that the competition winners will herald a period of open and honest engagement on the issues facing BAME groups in the criminal justice system by:

  • engaging better with BAME communities and community organisations. We believe there is a strong case for such organisations to be part of supply chains.
  • looking critically at the participation and outcomes from BAME offenders who participate on approved/accredited programmes. There has been a long standing issue of poorer outcomes and take up from BAME groups for these programmes. This has to be addressed and in our opinion may have to include the development of group specific programmes.

The overriding issue from BTEG’s work with the Young Review, and from work we are undertaking for the Barrow Cadbury Trust’s T2A Alliance (a race equality review of the programmes work), is how certain BAME groups suffer disproportionately at the sharp end of the justice system, particularly children and young people; police stop and search being the obvious example.

This disproportionality has a wider context, however. The Transforming Rehabilitation announcement happened in the same week that a Home Office review into international drug strategies concluded that the UK’s approach to drugs - treating the user primarily as a law breaker and sending them to prison - was ineffective as a deterrent. The report has highlighted a difference of opinion between the governing coalition partners on the issue.

Drugs policy is an area of huge ethnic/racial disparities across the justice system. Black people use fewer drugs than white people but are six times more likely to be stopped and searched for drugs! This and other facts are detailed in a report from Release and the LSE.  Drugs policy can often be a yes or no argument on decriminalisation but what is needed is a more rounded discussion on the punitive nature of our justice system and the outcomes it produces.

Certainly BAME communities are amongst the biggest losers under the current approach. Current political discussion around crime and the justice system fail to address this fundamental issue.

The question has to be asked: can you deliver positive outcomes for BAME (or any) offenders in a system that many see as focussed on punishment and retribution? 

photo credit: conservativeparty via photopin cc

Are Apprenticeships really for everyone?

Oct 23, 2014 - Comments: 0

For the past few months I have been planning an apprenticeship event for the Routes2Success National Role Model Programme,

I haven’t taken much interest in apprenticeships and it is not a route to employment I am used to encouraging young people to take. However, in my new role as Routes2Success Programme Manager at BTEG, I have begun to explore alternative routes into employment and value them.

Earlier this year, I was watching the BBC News and realised how valuable apprenticeships can be as a route into employment. I saw many white working-class  and middle-class young male students who were starting apprenticeships that would lead in to long term-employment.  It made me ask – where are all the young black male students? Why aren’t they being represented here?

Then I remembered the research that was undertaken by BTEG on young BAME people and apprenticeships. I realised young black males were very much under-represented in apprenticeships for several reasons.

Some of the under-representation of young BAME people in apprenticeships is down to negative stereotypes from employers, self perceptions and cultural values of higher education. The question I asked myself was what can we do to bridge this gap?

As the unemployment rate for young black males is so high we need to get them to consider alternative routes to employment. Even many black graduates are finding it difficult to secure a job – is this just a lack of experience?

Apprenticeships can provide a young person with practical experience as well as increasing their employment networks; a barrier into employment that some young black males face.

The Trades Union Congress report in 2012 reported that 1 in 25 Black and Asian apprentices entered engineering (3.2 per cent), construction (3.4 per cent) and electro-technical (3.7 per cent) in 2011/12 – this is a very low proportion considering apprenticeships should be offered to all young people. This is also reflected in the labour market, as there are few BAME young people in engineering or construction jobs.

This research and its findings increased my need to host a Routes2Success event on apprentices, volunteering and work shadowing which would give young black males the opportunity to find out more about applying for an apprentice, interview skills and the benefits of getting hands on experience.

Apprenticeships are for everyone, but unless all young people are exposed to apprenticeships and the benefits of them, they will continue to be under represented. 

Routes2Success Local Project Launch

Oct 08, 2014 - Comments: 0

During the first year of the R2S programme we met many young black males who have brilliant ideas about projects that they would like to set up in their community, but believe that this idea will never become a reality due to lack of funds or support.

Through our work on the R2S programme we have encountered young people who feel that there are not enough activities in their community to keep them off of the streets, so through this initiative we want to encourage the young people to do something for themselves whether it is setting up a debate club, football classes, drama workshops or music workshops we would like to help.

The Routes2Success team would like to offer practical support and expertise through a new initiative to assist a group of young people lead on their own project.  This how we will do it:

  • Earlier this year we produced a Local Project Handbook which our Routes2Success National Role Model Programme would use to support young black males aged between 11- 25 from African, Caribbean and mixed backgrounds to successfully complete a local project.
  • BTEG has employed Collette Noel as the R2S Local Development Officer, who will match the young people with R2S role models to help them successfully plan their project and get it off the ground.
  • The R2S team would like to work with a group of young people from a youth club, school, faith group or community organisation to successfully execute their project with the assistance from our role models and handbook.

The successful group of young people will be awarded a monetary sum to support them in implementing their project. This could be used to hire a venue, cover travel expenses, buy equipment, catering costs or any other resources agreed by the R2S role model.

If you know of any young men aged between 11-25 who would be interested in receiving support in setting up their own project, please tell them to get in touch with the R2S team / 020 7832 5800 or  / 020 7832 5832.

A positive state of mind: real life stories of desistance

Sep 03, 2014 - Comments: 0

A conference on desistance and the secure estate would not be everybody’s first choice for a Friday night out. It’s a testament to the high regard in which the conference organiser Bilal Dunn is held in that nearly 100 people made the trek to the Hendon campus of Middlesex University, in the outer reaches of north London, to attend a captivating and emotional event on Friday 1st August.

The evening had a range of speakers from Kevin McGrath -  the High Sheriff of London and the founder of the Clink restaurant charity,  which runs a number of high cuisine restaurants based in HMP establishments across the country training prisoners in the various culinary trades to work in the best restaurants in the country - through to Bobby Cummins OBE, founder of Unlock the national association of reformed offenders and a former government advisor on the inquiry into the death of Zahid Mubarak.

All the speakers spoke with a great conviction and intelligence, sharing sharp analysis and a passion for the need to reform the system to give those held in custody dignity and a chance to rehabilitate. The potential benefits for society are not only saving on the huge resources squandered across the justice system but also the opportunity of a better society where the belief in rehabilitation not retribution is a core value.

Bilal spoke candidly about his own life and journey and what had led him to change. His talk wove a story of personal transformation within academic theory and critical analysis of a failing system.

He contrasted the approach in the UK, which has the worst prison system outcomes amongst Western European countries, with a number of international examples. His most notable example was Norway, where the introduction of the government’s reintegration guarantee in 2005 set a context for agencies to place the rehabilitation and effective reintegration of the offender back into society at the heart of the Government’s approach to the Norwegian justice system

Bilal spoke critically of the penal/justice system in relation to his own road to desistance. He made clear that the system does nothing to create an environment for the kind of personal change that would instigate a desistance process. In the UK there is a sense that whenever desistance occurs within an individual it’s despite the penal/justice system rather than because of it.

 There are many great books and theses on desistance theory but this event probably gave me a greater understanding of desistance and how it can be a force for good than from reading a dozen books.

Opening Doors Network was just what I needed

Aug 12, 2014 - Comments: 0

Guest Blog by Jillian Green

Hi, my name is Jillian. I am 30 years old and live in Tottenham. I have some part-time work but the hours are sporadic and the job is no more than a means-to-an-end.

In the last 12 months I started to develop an idea to create a new healthy drink made from natural ingredients.

I was born in Jamaica and moved to London when I was five years old. Being from a Jamaican family we always liked to make our own traditional Jamaican food and drinks and have several recipes. One of my favourites that has been in the family for generations is for a soft drink made primarily from sorrel plant and ginger – Xaymaca (Jamaica in Spanish).

Although Tottenham has a large Caribbean demographic, and more and more Jamaican goods are sold in the area, I recognised that there was a gap in the market for Xaymaca!  My dream was to begin trading and see Xaymaca on the shelves of Sainsbury’s and Tesco one day! 

However, whilst my family and I are very confident in producing the drink, I was unsure about how this could progress to a genuine business idea:
  •  I didn’t study business at school and have no direct experiences of seeing a business in action.
  •  I didn’t have a business plan and I’d heard words and phrases like ‘balance sheet’. ‘marketing mix”, and ‘Unique Selling Point’ but didn’t know what they meant or how they applied to me and Xaymaca.

I regularly attend the Jobcentre in Tottenham where I met Paul who told me about the Opening Doors programme.

Opening Doors Network was just what I needed.

 The Opening Doors workshops we have had at Tottenham Hotspur have been so informative and I have learnt so much:

  • A company came in to talk to us about how to use social media, e.g. Twitter and Facebook
  • Learning about website design. I didn’t know a great deal about this and wasn’t even sure why I would need a website. After a few hours I had an understanding of how a website will help promote and advertise my brand (check me out using the word ‘brand’!) and I had an idea of how to create my own website.

However, I have to say that the networking opportunities have been the most invaluable aspect of the programme. Not only have I met with other people, like me, with a business idea from Tottenham but I have also been able to speak with the local Barclays Bank Business Manager who gave me some advice about my business plan which is really beginning to take shape.

I’ve been told this week that I may be able to do some test trading - as part of the Opening Doors Test Zone - at the big Sainsbury’s in Tottenham next month and may also be able to pitch my idea to some other entrepreneurs.

I feel so much closer to realising my dream now.

All of this is quite scary, but in a really exciting way.

Supporting business startups – a new initiative

Aug 12, 2014 - Comments: 0





Eliemental is an applied research project funded by the European Union.  It will work with people who have barriers preventing them from taking the first steps towards developing their own enterprise

The project looks at the socio-cultural barriers faced by hard to reach and disadvantaged communities and explores how individuals can overcome these barriers. It aims to develop a “Ticket to Enterprise” qualification to help people gain enterprise and employability skills that are relevant to their real needs.

The project was developed by Carolyn Downs of Lancaster University Management School and has partners based in four countries – Romania, Greece, Poland and the UK.

BTEG is one of the delivery partners in the UK.

BTEG has a long standing commitment to support communities and to motivate and inspire individuals to act on their ideas and to realise their enterprise potential. It leads on developing the Eliemental model for identifying and assessing Community Access Points in all four countries.

Reports and presentations at a recent partners meeting in Romania confirmed that the project is on track in developing materials, recruiting co-researchers, developing accredited courses and recruiting business mentors to support business start-ups.

Eliemental aims to be a practical tool for some of you out there.


One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential…

Aug 11, 2014 - Comments: 0

It’s hard to know where to start with this blog without becoming too emotional!

“One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest”

This is a famous quote from someone who I consider a role model and who has inspired me, the late Maya Angelou.

When I heard that Maya Angelou had passed away, a sudden gush of sadness took over; I couldn’t believe it. I felt as though I had lost a family member despite not knowing Ms Angelou personally.

My love for black literature has always played a big part in my love of reading. In saying that, I am a real critic when it comes to writing, so any black literature will not do!

I admire Maya Angelou’s style of writing, the content and the passion that comes through in everything that she writes. The first book I read by Maya Angelou (aged 17, for my A-level Literature studies) was part of her autobiography ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’.  

This novel truly led to my admiration of her and I felt inspired by this young woman who seemed to have overcome so many obstacles in her life. If she could overcome such traumas then why couldn’t others? The novel made me content with what I had; determined to do the best that I could; and to achieve the very best in life.

The realism and personal voice that resonates through her autobiography can only make you feel a sense of empathy and compassion for her journey in 1930s Southern America. The imagery she creates through her words brings her story alive and you can almost picture being with her on her journey. She says in the quote above that ‘one isn’t necessarily born with courage’ but she was one of the most courageous women I have read about in Black American History.

Whilst her death is sad news, I hope at the same time that young people, especially black children, will continue to read the great literature that Maya Angelou created in the many years with which she blessed us with, that young black women in particular can learn lessons from her books and her poetry – ‘Still I rise’.

On a personal note I learnt a lot from reading her books and poems, lessons that will live with me forever.

Inspiring quotes from the late Maya Angelou:

  • “If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude”.

  • “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style”

  • “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it"  “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated”

  • “All great achievements require time”

I am grateful that I have had the privilege of being exposed to the literature of Ms Angelou, and that, although never meeting her, she has had a great impact on my life.

Sometimes the people, who inspire us, are the people that we never get to meet but they share their journey with us through literature and that alone is a powerful tool.

So who is your inspiration?

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou

photo credit: pennstatenews via photopin cc

Encouraging young people to become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs

Jul 28, 2014 - Comments: 0

Opening Doors Network (ODN) was launched earlier this year, aimed at supporting disadvantaged young people, aged 18-30 into self-employment. 

Participants undertake a programme of practical workshops covering areas such as financial planning, benefits of social media and the legalities of setting up a business together with the opportunity to test trade their products and services. 

Recently we held two events to promote the programme.

The first was a networking and pitching event, where several participants on the programme pitched their ideas to a panel of entrepreneurs and start-up loan funders.  

Our guest speaker Tim Campbell provided inspiring advice for the Opening Doors participants, including:

  1. Make your customers feel special so they choose you over the competition
  2. Don’t be arrogant and think you know everything there is to know
  3. Respect the advice of experienced people
  4. Know your customers REALLY well
  5. Understand profit: Lord Sugar told Tim “anyone can sell a 10 bob note for 9 bob”
  6. Essential elements of your business , the triangle: CUSTOMER + PROFIT + USP (Unique Selling Point)

(Thanks to Bright Ideas Trust for sharing these tips via twitter @Bright_Ideas)

Winner of the top prize of £250 vouchers was Jilly-Ann of Xaymaca with her sorrel based natural health drink.


Jilly-Ann (centre) with the panel members: Robin Landman, Olga Astaniotis, Amie Samba and Analyn Haswell



Our second event saw Minister for Communities Stephen Williams visit the Opening Doors Programme in North London. The visit started with trip to the local Sainsbury’s, where the Minister together with former Spurs skipper Gary Mabbutt, met ODN participants’ trialling their products and services. Read more about this visit on the Tottenham Hotpspur Foundation website.

This was followed by a drop-in to a workshop session at the Spurs stadium where start-up company Freshious spoke about the benefits of the ODN programme, which included the hands-on practical nature of the workshops; the one-to-one mentoring and support; the networking opportunities and the chance to meet and discuss ideas and issues with  like-minded people, all with the goal of starting their own business.

Minister for Communities Stephen Williams said: “Getting more young people into training and employment is by far the best way of increasing prosperity, tackling poverty and worklessness and creating a fairer society.  The Opening Doors initiative is doing tremendous work towards these goals by encouraging and coaching local young people into being tomorrow’s entrepreneurs”.

For further information about the Opening Doors programme, have a look at our website and follow us at @Openingdoorsnet. 

If you would like to speak with someone about the programme contact Programme Director Indra Pooran at or 020 7832 5839.

Work experience

Jul 15, 2014 - Comments: 0

Before I started work experience, I was a bit sceptical about leaving school temporarily and moving to an office for seven days. The thought of it didn’t grab my attention at first. I am confident that I am not the only one whom felt that way to.

I would be heading towards Kings Cross from Chigwell to work for a charity called ‘Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG)’. Commuting to work was a struggle because it was 45 minutes away from my house on the tube and I had no idea how to get there.

However, now that I am experiencing work; I find it very enjoyable. It was completely different from what I imagined. I get to meet new people by going to meetings and events. This helped me because I thought meetings would have a different layout but now I know the different situations that go on in a meeting or an event I have an advantage in preparing for them.

There are many skills I have learnt here at BTEG. I think one of the most important skills I have learnt was communicating and meeting new people. I have had to do this many times whilst I was here. In the past I would have been nervous and shy; BTEG have helped me overcome this by taking me places where there are lots of new people that are willing to work with me.

Even meeting and working with my colleagues (Jeremy, Mark, Tebussum, Janine and Phil) has given me so much confidence for the future when I have to work with other people I have never met before.

Another skill I have acquired is independent working. I would struggle completing tasks on my own without the people of BTEG showing me what to do and how to do it. This has given me a real advantage for work and also for school when I go back, in September.

I think BTEG is a vital charity and its role could be a massive in today’s young society. Their mission is to end racial inequality. They work with Black and Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) young people.

One of their projects is called Routes2Success, which aims to help young black men (11-25) to have a good education and get a job. Charities like this one are vital, because they can help prevent crime, poverty, unemployment rates (economically active and inactive) and help boost our economy.

I have witnessed the hard work and effort they put in to get these people help and to improve their charity to help the wider audience. These are the people that could potential help your family member out of a struggling time, they could be in a situation where they cannot find employment because of perhaps racial remarks, and turns their life unlawfully, its these charity that personally help people who are going through the hardest stages of their life cycle.

No agreement on the causes of young black male unemployment in London

Jul 14, 2014 - Comments: 0

A new study has found that young black men believe racism and negative stereotyping are the main reasons for their high unemployment rates. This is in stark contrast to reasons put forward by mainstream employment support providers that help unemployed people into work.

In the study - published by the Black Training and Enterprise Group - providers identified about 20 reasons why young black male unemployment is so high but the importance the providers’ accorded to these factors varied considerably.

In general, mainstream providers (those supporting all groups of job seekers) cited as the main reasons: 

  • poorly presented CVs
  • negative attitudes
  • lack of confidence or motivation

On the other hand, specialist providers (working particularly with black and minority ethnic communities) suggested:

  • lack of support
  • racism or discrimination from employers

The four local councils that participated in the research offered a wide range of explanations including:

  • the links between poverty and ethnicity
  • family breakdown and absent fathers
  • educational attainment
  • possible postcode discrimination from employers
  • lack of flexibility within DWP programmes to provide tailored individualised support
  • gangs and criminal records 

The gap between unemployment rates for young black men and young white men has grown in recent years. This is despite improved educational outcomes, with even black university graduates twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts.

Nearly 200 young black male Londoners aged 16-24 years participated in the study and they were clear that racism, discrimination and negative stereotyping are the main reasons for their high unemployment rate (ILO unemployment rate for young black men is 48%).

‘Because black males are not shown in the best way in the publiceye. People stereotype them in gangs and this affects black males chances of getting a job.’ (Young black male, survey respondent)

The young black men that attended focus groups in their local jobcentres said it was the first time anyone had asked them about their views on this issue and about their experiences trying to find work. What they want is a personalised individual service from advisers who understand the barriers that they face.

The researchers found that employers, colleges, employment providers were reluctant to talk about young black male unemployment. The messages from this study to employment and education bodies is talk and listen to young black men about their experiences and aspirations and remind employers there is a talent pool that they are missing out on.

I hope some of these issues will be addressed by the half a million pounds of new funding Trust for London is making available to tackle the high unemployment rates of young black men in the capital.

‘Action Plan To Increase Employment Rates For Young Black Men In London 2014’, Published by BTEG.


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