Wednesday, 10 June 2009

ethnic communities listening forum

i've just come back from hamilton city council's fifth ethnic communities listening forum (see here for reports on forums held in previous years). i've been going to these every year, and they're a good opportunity for members of ethnic minority communities to give direct feedback to councillors and staff regarding issues of importance to them.

discussions are usually held in five groups, centred around education, employment, health, social connectedness, and general issues. this year i sat in the education group, and there was a lot of discussion around the cutting of ACE funding (see my post of yesterday).

one of the issues brought up was that ACE classes are important for migrants, not only because they provide an opportunity to upskill, but also because it provides a social connection with the community. these classes enable them to develop friendships and contacts with locals, which in turn serves to develop a connectedness to the community and can smooth the settlement process.

there was also anger at the cut in funding to ESOL assessors. i just can't understand this cut. it's only 6-8 jobs around the country, it was hardly costing a fortune. however, the job that these assessors are doing is crucial, particularly to the refugee community. the assessors, on request, will provide a full assessment of the language skills of a person. that assessment can be used for job applications, and it's useful in terms of connecting the person to the right level of english education if further education is required.

but more than that, the assessors end up providing a social service role. they become aware of problems in the household, and are able to connect these people to any social services they might need.

i also sat in with the employment group for a while, and there continue to be concerns around discrimination in hiring practices. as well as the lack of recognition of overseas qualification and experience.

i left early, so didn't hear the report back from other groups. but i find this particular forum really positive, because there is real engagement, and there is accountability in terms of a report back each year on the issues raised from the year before. it's also the hard work of ethnic communities advisor, philip yeung, that makes the forum a success.

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