LibLink: Baroness Floella Benjamin: Positive role models can break cycle of despair

Baroness Floella Benjamin has written for the Voice website about what the government is doing to help young black people find jobs.

More than 30 million people are now in work and since the 2010 General Election, the number of people claiming the main out-of-work benefits has fallen by 566,000. This is great news and my party, the Liberal Democrats, have worked hard in government to achieve success stories like these, listening to people’s concerns and ensuring the right support is being put in place.

But disappointingly there’s no denying that unemployment is still disproportionately high amongst young black people, especially men and there are concerns that people from ethnic minorities still face discrimination when applying for jobs. However, the Liberal Democrats are working to redress these imbalances.

She highlighted the policy we passed in Glasgow last year:

At their Autumn Conference, the party voted for a motion on race equality in education and employment, supporting task force recommendations that the private sector should monitor and publish equalities information just as public authorities do, and that national and local government should make better use of their purchasing power to force companies to improve diversity before getting public contracts.

She went on to talk about the importance of  inspiring role model, to help young people tackle problems of low self esteem and lack of confidence:

When you’re a young person, the world can be a daunting place so the best advice I can offer them is to work hard, stay strong and keep positive. I believe confidence, self-awareness, ambition and a sense of purpose are crucial to success.

I have done a lot of work with young people and in the end, started ‘Touching Success’; an initiative set up to help young people reach their potential in their chosen field through programmes of inspirational talks and visits from successful people in all walks of life. Through hard work and dedication you can achieve whatever you want and there is plenty of help along the way.

She talked about help for people starting their own business:

The government is working hard to assist those with drive and ambition to become their own boss; it has been listening to the concerns of would-be entrepreneurs and ethnic minority business groups and working with banks to address these concerns.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • “Through hard work and dedication you can achieve whatever you want and there is plenty of help along the way.”

    This is a noble thought and Floella Benjamin is herself an example. Through hard work and dedication she has achieved what she wanted.

    Some of us may not have achieved everything we wanted . Hard work and dedication have however had considerable benefits. For those of us who did not start off with the talent and drive of Floella we needed a bit of help from the state and also quite a lot of luck. It would be nice to think that you can make your own luck.

    Good luck to Floella Benjamin, if her positive example helps someone else shine then the world will be a better place.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 24th Feb '14 - 11:47am

    I was immensely pleased to finally meet and talk with Ibrahim Taguri our Brent Central PPC last week and it is clear that we do have some incredible role models within the Liberal Democrat Party who possess the knowledge, understanding, skills and ability to positively influence our image externally, as well as our culture internally. If Ibrahim who hailed from the 3rd sector and refreshingly understands the benefits of engagement, and others like him that have not had the ‘customary’ political start in life are encouraged to be who they are, and allowed to engage with not only our traditional support base, but some of the most vulnerable communities in society who have been abandoned by other parties, then we will gain a greater and positive foothold in the consciousness of all communities.

    Ibrahim, thankfully is not alone, as Issan Ghazni, our East Midlands European parliamentary candidate is demonstrating in his campaign whilst tackling the difficult questions head-on, such as the benefits of our membership of the EU and explicitly immigration. Both these people and others, and I have to mention the charismatic Sarah Yong, our candidate for Frome and Somerton are all examples of the growing number of inspirational role models from BAME communities that are climbing the ladder within our Party as it realises and acknowledges (still far to slowly) that BAME candidates bring additional benefits including new ways of thinking and campaigning.

    I could have mentioned numerous other BAME members of the Party who are currently standing for PPC roles, but it would not be appropriate for me to try to influence the electorate, but obviously these too possess equitable characteristics that could well enhance the opportunities for success of the Party.

    Although this is all good news, we as a Party need still to do much, much more to turn our laudable rhetoric for equality and diversity into action that clearly seeks to and does removes the inappropriate barriers that many face within society on a day to day basis and thwart them from achieving their greatness, and positive role models whether elected or otherwise are essential to this. The current limited successes that we are witnessing is not due to the internal policies, procedures and practices of are Party that are still not codified regarding equality and diversity. The successes that we are seeing are in my opinion actually as a result of some pretty impressive forward thinking members in local and regional groups, as well as candidates who through force of character and possessing extra skills are emerging as the future leaders.

    The Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats are committed to assisting the Party to gain even more influence and thereby seats and is always willing to offer options and guidance on how to engage with BAME communities and to develop a truly inclusive recruitment, retention and progression strategy that benefits us all.

    If you would like EMLD to assist at a local, regional or national level please feel free to contact Lester Holloway, General Secretary via or [email protected]. I can assure you that no question is too insignificant for EMLD to take seriously. We are here to help!

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat (EMLD) – Vice Chair

    (Tapped out on the iPad whilst walking the dogs so please forgive any errors. Jack Russells are no respecters of grammar)

  • Paul Reynolds 24th Feb '14 - 3:39pm

    John’s proposition that if you don’t have drive (Tories would say lazy) or if you don’t have talent (Boris J might say ‘born unintelligent’) that the magical state is the answer … is a central tenet of socialism and national socialism. A more liberal position would include the possibility that the state (and its rich cronies) are partly to blame for the lack of drive and talent. Have we forgotten Komsomol and Hitler Youth already ?

  • Paul Reynolds rather extreme outburst is something he might want to apologise for.
    Does he think such lurid language advances his case? Throwing around words like Nazi and Hitler Youth is not rational debate.

    In an attempt to provide a reasonable response to his outburst I will point him to Steve Webb and Jo Holland’s contribution to the book ‘Reinventing the State’. Page 364 in the paragraph “Step 2″. —
    ” Positive state intervention to tackle market failures is not only perfectly compatible with Liberalism, it may be actively necessary for a full understanding of individual freedom. There is nothing illiberal in tempering the power of a monopolist. There is nothing illiberal in ensuring that market places are adjusted to reflect the social costs of an activity. And it is surely essential to the concept of an individual’s freedom to achieve their full potential that their prospects are not stunted from the start by material disadvantage.
    To that end, there is nothing illiberal about the state taking an active role in promoting equal life chances through, for example, high quality health and education services.
    In short, in a well-defined set of circumstances, Liberals have a duty to intervene where markets fail to deliver.”

    Floella Benjamin’s original piece and the work she has been doing is to be admired. She talks about role models and setting an example. I happened to be reading ‘Reinventing the State’ today which is why I refer to it. I shudder to think what Mr Reynolds has been reading.

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