Poverty Policy 'Will Fail If It Doesn't Address Ethnic Groups' - Warning; JOSEPH ROWNTREE FOUNDATION SAYS WORK BARRIERS MUST BE TACKLED

Article excerpt

Byline: GRAHAM HENRY Senedd Correspondent graham.henry@walesonline.co.uk

A FLAGSHIP Government programme to tackle poverty could fail if it doesn't address common problems of ethnic groups living on the breadline, a report warns today.

Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) concluded the Welsh Government's Tackling Poverty Action Plan was "unlikely to succeed" if it overlooked the needs of ethnic groups, with some saying many faced barriers to climbing out of poverty and finding work. The JRF report found in a series of interviews with people across five ethnic groups - Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Somali, Polish and white British/Welsh - living in a large town on either the North Wales coast, the South Wales Valleys or in the countryside - were restricted to "poorquality, low-paid and insecure jobs", while some were working below their qualification level.

It said families in the different groups faced similar barriers that prevented them from climbing out of poverty, such as the difficulty of securing a good job, and that where they lived had a large impact on their standard of living.

The report found a strong association between poverty and ethnicity, but "little evidence that ethnicity caused poverty".

It added: "People's choices regarding employment - the main pathway out of poverty - and, to a lesser degree, education and where they lived, were likely to have a major influence on levels of poverty.

"However, their choices were often limited and influenced by other factors, including: key aspects of their human capital, such as health and skills; their access to support and advice, which could link them to knowledge and resources that could help them escape from poverty; and social norms, including gender roles".

The research was conducted through interviews with 47 people, and the report cites examples of barriers to black and minority ethnic (BME) people in Wales.

It quotes one man of Somali descent from Cardiff as saying: "We've [Somalis] been in Butetown since the 18th century came as seamen [we're] major contributors [to the city]... despite this... we're not allowed to have any employment in the city - look at the [city] council, the National Assembly, you won't see any of us [Somalis] working there equality of opportunity is not open to us [but if you] cross the Severn Bridge... [and go to] London, Birmingham, we're working in shops, the council, banks lots of my friends left the city as they knew [they] couldn't get jobs here."

Describing Cardiff Bay, where there is a sizeable Somali community, he added: "That's where everything happens, where the government runs the country - [yet] 95% of the people working there come into the area [ie they live outside]. …