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Black agency dealt New Deal role

Ngaio Crequer reports on the progress of the Government's flagship scheme to help the young unemployed.

The Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG), one of the UK's leading black regeneration agencies, is to advise the Government's New Deal task force.

This week BTEG held a conference in London to tell black organisations about the New Deal. About 13 per cent of the unemployed 18 to 24-year-olds the Government targeted are black.

Jeremy Crook, director of BTEG and its representative on the task force, welcomed the Government's move. "This is a clear sign that the Government wants to ensure the expertise within black communities is given a place at the table and that sets a good example to local authorities, training and enterprise councils, and the employment service locally. My concern is to ensure young black unemployed people get a good deal and not just any deal.

"The employment service will have to make sure that young black people get offered quality jobs and opportunities. We want to ensure black voluntary organisations and business are fully involved in the programme but the service has a tight timetable and there is a danger that some groups could get left behind and find themselves further excluded."

BTEG is concerned that although the Government is committed to ensuring black organisations are involved, plans are being developed locally and black groups are not getting sufficient details.

Also this week, BTEG published a paper on the New Deal, "Ensuring Black Communities Benefit." It calls for strategic race-equality targets to be included in the pilots to ensure young black people benefit.

Under the proposals all participants will have their own caseworker or personal adviser to monitor their progress. BTEG says caseworkers and employers must ensure they are aware of the real barriers black youths face in the labour market and workplace.

The black voluntary sector had much to contribute to the New Deal but "many black organisations believe that existing local partnerships will continue to exclude relevant black organisations with specific knowledge and expertise. "

BTEG said the employment service does not have a track record of doing business with black organisations. Black suppliers were frequently excluded because of "preferred supplier lists".

"There are many existing black organisations who have experience of working with black youths, but do not have the required support to improve an existing quality service or operate on a larger scale."

It also has some advice for black groups. "Black organisations should not have to go and knock on the doors of the employment service to find out what is going on. However, in the short term this may have to be the case."

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