A vital community group working with excluded BME children faces closure because of funding shortfalls.
The Communities Empowerment Network (CEN) was established in 1999 in response to the growing demand from BME parents and children for help, support and advice concerning school exclusions and reintegration. Since then it has established a small but effective caseworking team, which provides free advice, counselling, support, representation and training for people experiencing mistreatment and discrimination in education, especially exclusion from school.
According to Gerry German, CEN’s director, recent years have seen the ‘number of cases going up by leaps and bounds, as well as their complexity increasing’. He continues: ‘Nobody is turned away but with upwards of seventy cases a month at the moment, the demands on our services are considerable.’
Yet, despite the escalating demands on its services, CEN is finding it harder to access the financial support needed to support its advocacy work. The CEN team has funds pledged by three separate trusts but needs a further £12,000 in order to secure the release of these funds. The small staff is becoming smaller as existing funds dry up and projects close.
In an attempt to plug the funding gap, CEN organised a fundraising benefit in Brixton, London in March this year. It was to include performances by Ms Dynamite, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Bashy. However, two days before the concert, the police pulled the plug on it citing concerns over ‘firearms, stabbing and public disorder’, according to Deuan German, the event organiser and CEN’s chief fundraiser.
The event, ‘Jammin for Inclusion’, went ahead weeks later but by then, says Deuan German, ‘much of the momentum had been lost’. This, coupled with the non-attendance of Ms Dynamite due to conflicting commitments, meant that takings from the event were ‘lower than hoped for’.
CEN argues that, once excluded, only 15 per cent of pupils are ever returned to mainstream education. It also refers to figures released in 2001 by Martin Narey, the former director-general of the Prison Service and chief executive of Barnardo’s, which showed that 80 per cent of some 30,000 children excluded from mainstream education ended up in prison.
CEN has an almost 100 per cent record in reintegrating excluded pupils back into full-time, mainstream education. Almost 95 per cent of CEN’s clients are from BME communities.
See the IRR report: ‘Outcast England: How schools exclude black children’
Read a news story: ‘Jammin for Inclusion’ cancelled