top of page

State of the BME Sector

The Black and Minority Ethnic voluntary and community sector (BME VCS) support’s society’s most vulnerable groups. But as the economic climate pushes more people to the margins, the BME VCS is under serious threat from the scale and size of funding cuts.

Recent riots points to the disaffection felt by different communities, both BME and non BME. More than ever, the BME VCS needs funding and support to provide life lines for people marginalised from mainstream society.

Back in 2010, a report by CEMVO found that 45 per cent of 173 BME organisations surveyed have suffered cuts by local authority and other funders. Since then, many more organisations have been affected.

And cuts are not the only threat facing the BME VCS. Equality appears to be lower on  the new Government agenda. BME VCOs once again find themselves having to justify the legitimacy of their role.

Our Big Unfair Society campaign stood against an agenda which marginalised the BME VCS further. But as state funding and support has dried up, many BME VCOs have struggled through with innovative strategies for survival.

Do you know of any BME VCOs that have closing or suffering due to spending cuts? Please let us know.

The demand for BME services is greater than ever and is set to increase. Key policies that have impacted BME communities.

  • Closures and reduction in services

  • Proposed cuts to legal aid

  • Scrapping of the EMA

  • Cuts to ESOL English for Speakers of Other Languages funding

  • Benefit reforms

  • NHS reforms

Why public spending cuts are impacting the BME VCS disproportionately:

  • Dependence on Government funding: 17,000 BME VCOs, 53% receive their funding from statutory sources.

  • Key Concern: 81% of the respondents to our ‘Shared vision for the future of the BME VCS’ survey identified income generation as a massive challenge for the future.

  • Reserves: Few BME VCOs are able to secure longer term funding and the low level of funding makes it harder to build up reserves.

  • Increased Demand: BME VCOs were experiencing high increases in the need for their services and that organisations had to introduce new areas of work such as unemployment counselling and jobs skills training.

  • Commissioning: Smaller BME VCOs who reach groups that the mainstream can’t cannot compete in the commissioning market place against larger, better resources charities.

  • Payment by results: Proposed measures such as an increase in payment by results will effectively squeeze out the small service providers that typify the BME VCS.


Stories from the sector

Refugee Action

Due to a devastating 60% reduction in government funding to our refugee and asylum advice services, Refugee Action will have to close several offices, leaving people who need help with nowhere to turn. They have told the Immigration Minister that the cuts will have a devastating effect on the vulnerable people who use our services, people like Paul:

It was so hard for me as I couldn’t work and had been refused asylum. We had no support. Refugee Action applied to section four for us for support. They also referred us to the Refugee Legal Centre to make a fresh claim.

Despite the cuts, Refugee Action will continue to advise those seeking sanctuary, as best they can during this very difficult time.

Turkish Cypriot Women’s Project

After experiencing a 45% funding cut from the Supporting People Grant, this small project that relieves hardship and distress from Turkish and Cypriot women is facing a very uncertain future. Core staff have been made redundant and they are struggling to sustain stay open.

Cheshire Halton & Warrington Race & Equality Centre (CHAWREC)

Their funding was withdrawn when the Capacity Builder’s programme ended in March 2011. If they can’t secure funds, they will lose core staff and their capacity will be reduced by 40%. This has had a massive impact on the services they can deliver to BME VCOs. Their core funding is also being cut by local government.

The impact of the cuts in funding has for us just started. Withdrawal of Capacity Builders and the failure to replace this, for infrastructure work has resulted in the significant reduction in our services to BME front line organisations.

Capacity Builders enabled us to put in dedicated resources to help front line BME groups to try and bring them up to an equal level with mainstream voluntary sector – but we can’t perform miracles in three years. It takes time and energy to build a sector, when its needs have been neglected for so long. So losing the opportunity to build on the work we had carried out with groups was devastating.

Although we have made a tangible difference, and the project was a success by anyone’s standards, the legacy is fragile. Continued investment in the sector is needed to build upon those initial successes. At the moment, we’re having to turn people away because we just haven’t got the resources to help them and that’s very de-motivating. If we can’t help them – who can? Next year we anticipate things getting far, far worse. Everyone’s struggling, but those of us working with thorny issues like equality seem to be getting the worst deal.

Shanele Janes, Director, CHAWREC

Norwich and Norfolk Race Equality Council (NNREC)
In August, the NNREC was forced to close after 18 years.

It’s become unsustainable. It is sad because it’s been going for about 18 years. In that time it has made an incredible contribution to the equality project around the county and collectively we have made giant strides.

But with no local authorities prepared to commit any funding in the next financial year, it’s difficult to make plans for the future.

Olu Ogunnowo, Chairman, NNREC


Voice4Change England (V4CE) Member Success Story

Naz Project London (NPL) 

In 2010, debts were mounting and core funding was coming to an end for NPL. Because they work with undocumented groups who often slip under the radar, the implications for their beneficiaries were bleak. NPL believe that they plug a gap which other organisations would not be able to fill in their place.

Facing imminent closure in 2010, NPL launched a high profile appeal with the help of service users, volunteers and supporters. With the community firmly on board, they lobbied, fundraised and secured grant funding which allowed them to turn their finances around and avoided crisis.

NPL wrestled with the decision of whether to go public with the dire state of their finances. We decided to take a gamble and announced to the community and stakeholders they reality NPL now faced. This gamble paid off. The passion of the community to keep NPL alive was the key to our survival. One man raised 16,000 for cutting off all his hair. As the recession compounds the disadvantage already felt by BME groups, they become more reliant on small specialist services.

Bryan Teixeira, CEO, NPL


Examples of Resilience

  • BANG Edutainment –  has entered into partnerships with other providers to keep their service alive

  • Cooperative Community Action – have changed their fundraising strategy. They no longer apply for big pots of money but look for smaller ones. They are also able to remain an award-winning BME social enterprise by being very needs led and displaying a keen sense of what the market demands and finding a niche offer.


Strategies for resilience

  • Community Fundraising

  • Partnership and collaborative working

  • Accreditation through quality standards

  • Improving performance

  • Staffing reviews and staff development

  • Review of organisation and management

  • Effective volunteer engagement

V4CE Big Unfair Society campaign

Dismantling the BME regional policy voice

Because of spending cuts, the regional networks who robustly spoke up for BME people across the country are operating on greatly reduced capacity. Some organisations like MENTER (based in  Cambridge for the Eastern Region ) and BSWN (based in in Bristol for the South West region ) have lost most of their campaign and voice functions while some others in the North West (One North West) and South East (the UNI Network) have had to severely reduce their support to VCOs.. For small and excluded BME VCOs who relied on regional networks to speak out for them, this has been a massive blow.

What might a Big Inclusive Society look like?

  • Accountable: Government should put checks and balances in place to ensure a minimum standard for equality and human rights objectives. There needs to be a national steer whilst allowing local authorities to be responsive to local needs.

  • Voice and involvement: Government should ensure BME VCOs and disadvantaged BME communities have the information, skills and support needed to benefit from the shift of power to communities, and that opportunities are not only for those who shout loudest. Strategic oversight: Government should ensure local decision making includes strategic mechanisms and clear processes for unpopular but essential land uses and other decisions.

  • Fair funding: Government should support a diverse of base of funding for BME VCOs including light touch grants for community organisations. Appropriate social investment products should be investigated and developed for small organisations. Those administering the Big Society Bank should have a knowledge of the BME VCS and its needs.

  • Fair commissioning: Government should ensure equality and Compact duties are an integral part of commissioning and procurement processes. Public sector contracts should include criteria for social return on investment as well as value for money and allow for flexibility in how contracts are delivered so that community needs can best be met.

  • Role of specialist support: Government needs to recognise specialist infrastructure as a key agent to ensure that organisations are supported, connected and developed to achieve Big Society objectives.

bottom of page