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NEW ACTION ON EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR ETHNIC MINORITIES

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Harriet Harman, secretary of state for social security and minister for women, has announced that the government is...
Harriet Harman, secretary of state for social security and minister for women, has announced that the government is placing equal opportunities for ethnic minorities at the heart of welfare reform.

She said:

'For too long, ethnic minority communities have had to face more than their share of social exclusion, poverty and unemployment.

'Unemployment amongst black men of working age is unacceptably

high - a recent survey suggested that 19 percent were unemployed, compared with around 7 percent of white men. And I know that the numbers in London are far higher - in some parts as high as 60 percent.

'Many women face a double discrimination because of both their

gender and their ethnic origin. I see their problems every day

at first hand in my constituency.

'The government will tackle these problems.

'Work is the best form of welfare for all people of working

age. We are determined to take action to ensure equal opportunities for people from ethnic minorities in helping them to find work.

'One of the options the young unemployed will be offered under

our 'New Deal' will be full-time education and training. Those

whose first language is not English will be able to study for

up to a year to improve their language skills. They will also

be able to join the 'New Deal' immediately, rather than having

to wait the usual six months. Their progress and experience

through the programme will be closely monitored.

'Our New Deal for Lone Parents, the leading edge of our

welfare to work programme, is already helping to give many

young black women the opportunity to work. Many more will

benefit from access to affordable, high-quality childcare

provided by the national childcare strategy.

'The many business leaders in the ethnic minority community

have a crucial role to play in the effective delivery of

'Welfare to Work'. They have the ideas, the contacts, the energy

and - above all - the necessary identification with the local

community to help make the New Deal programme a success.'

Turning to welfare reform, she said:

'We are committed to developing our welfare reform proposals

in close consultation and discussion with those who are most

interested. And I want to make sure representatives of ethnic

minority groups are included in a meaningful dialogue with the

government.

'We are currently working closely with the Commission for

Racial Equality and many other ethnic minority organisations.'

Moving on to announce a new initiative in her own department,

Ms Harman said:

'My department is a large employer with many staff from ethnic

minority backgrounds, but too few in senior management positions. I propose to launch a special bursary scheme to help the most promising staff from ethnic minority backgrounds to fulfil their higher management potential. The bursary holders will receive financial support for training, mentoring from a senior staff member and developmental postings to help them gain new skills and fulfil their potential. I will announce further details shortly and hope to launch the scheme before Christmas.'

Emphasising the important role the ethnic media can play as a

conduit for constructive debate, Ms Harman concluded:

'We have a great opportunity to eradicate the failures of the

past, and bring a new sense of ambition, hope and dignity to

those who were previously marginalised.'

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