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Ethnic Minority Families

Volume 405: debated on Tuesday 20 May 2003

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What assistance the Department is giving to support family and personal relationships in ethnic minority communities. [114235]

This year, the Department made available £5 million to the marriage and relationship support grant programme. Out of the total grant programme, £800,000 is being spent on work that directly supports family and personal relationships in ethnic minority communities.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer and for the close attention that she pays to the issue. She knows that conferences have been held throughout the country, including at the Kirklees domestic violence forum in my area in Huddersfield and in the House last week, when the all-party groups on domestic violence and on children met. At that meeting, the point was again made that ethnic minority women are much less likely to come forward for help, despite their being at least as likely to experience problems. What can my hon. Friend do to help local groups that want to support women in their communities, create new groups and help people through the grant system, which they currently find difficult?

My hon. Friend is right to ask how we can improve access to the grant fund process. Every year, the Department, through application forms and feedback forms, looks for ways in which to ease the process. I would be more than happy to hear about any difficulties that specific groups, especially from ethnic minorities, have experienced, and about examples of how we can improve the system. My hon. Friend is also right to draw attention to the fact that many people from ethnic minorities will not gain access to all the necessary information on, for example, remedies for domestic violence. We are considering a series of issues and methods of improving matters. Not least, we have translated into many different languages a guide that we recently produced about legal remedies for victims of domestic violence.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary agree that support for family support groups, in focus and funding, does not sit comfortably with the Department's overall functions, and that it is not well done? Is it not time the Government modernised the entire procedure for support for ethnic minority families, and more widely, moved it to a Department that is primarily focused on supporting families in this country and ensuring that the support is properly given?

I disagree profoundly with the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that the delivery of service is poor. I think that, in terms of the number of people who are given adult relationship support, our record is impressive. The hon. Gentleman had a point, however, in saying that our support should be tailored to support for other things such as parenting. I assure him that I work closely with other Departments, particularly the Home Office, to ensure that happens.