A Leeds University study published in 2010 predicted that ethnic minorities would make up a fifth of the UK population in 40 years.

It says the proportion of black, Asian and other ethnic minorities will rise from 8% of the population, as recorded in the 2001 census, to 20% by 2051.

The 2011 census showed that 4% of people in Scotland are from non-white minority ethnic groups, double the proportion recorded in 2001. In Glasgow, where are head office is based, it is estimated that 12% of the population is from a minority ethnic background. 

Recent research suggests that numbers are continuing to rise with a steady growth in New Scots from refugee backgrounds, mainly non-European, as well as a stronger presence of economic migrants, mainly European. The vast majority of our minority ethnic children, young people and families are very keen to contribute to the economic, cultural and social diversity of our nation, given the opportunity to do so.

Recent events elsewhere in the UK and in other parts of the world have raised tensions and pressures on many of our minority ethnic families where there is clear evidence of a rise in racial and religious abuse and intolerance being experienced. The impact of the latest recession, falling living standards and financial pressures on all families has generated more heated and often ill-informed debate, including some focussed on immigration and immigrants. We note that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that many minority ethnic groups in appear to be additionally disadvantaged according to one or more indicators of poverty and that a more focused, proactive and strategic attention to addressing poverty among minority ethnic groups is needed, including anti-poverty policy and initiatives to increase access to education, training, employment and affordable childcare.

Evidence from UK-wide research suggests that the problem of youth unemployment is particularly acute for young people from an ethnic minority background. This can in turn have very serious social consequences and can breed resentment and isolation from mainstream communities. Problems concerning under achievement, gang culture, violence, extremism and long term unemployment can often be linked to a lack of opportunities for young people. This appears to be growing in scale and importance in recent years.

Against this backdrop, it comes as no surprise, that many young people from minority ethnic backgrounds feel threatened, isolated and fearful for the future. It is also unsurprising that some minority ethnic communities feel safer and more comfortable by closing ranks in an effort to protect themselves from these pressures. This increases isolation and lack of access or connection to mainstream services and supports.

Minority ethnic families can and do benefit from the high quality, universal services available to all families, such as education, healthcare and social work, but evidence suggests they are not benefitting in line with the mainstream cohort. There is scope to do much more to support the particular needs of minority ethnic families. 

We need to ensure that the needs of our minority ethnic families are met with an equality of priority as the public purse strings become ever tighter in the next few years.  This has not always been the case to date. Engage ME is committed to closing this gap rather than see it widen.

Within our minority ethnic communities, there is still so much to be done to tackle broad issues around culture, language, awareness and understanding of rights and expectations from those whom provide services. There are also highly sensitive and divisive issues around concepts of religion, honour and shame which create severe and potentially damaging tensions between elders, parents and young people.

We are also clear that there are serious issues around child protection, forced marriage, domestic abuse, alcohol and drug misuse and female genital mutilation which affect minority ethnic communities and the wider public perceptions of these communities. These issues can, at the extreme, result in tragedy, divide families, create chasms of understanding between young and old and contribute to alarmist and scaremongering reporting in the media with consequent tensions between minority ethnic communities and wider populations.

While there has been some welcome progress in improving understanding, awareness and willingness to act among service providers, these serious issues are still too often hidden behind closed doors. Engage ME offers invaluable access behind these closed doors, with a substantial reach and influence and ability to communicate with all age groups from minority ethnic backgrounds. Engage Me will serve as a crucial bridge between minority ethnic communities and service providers to ensure that frontline staff and mainstream services understand the cultural, religious, language and other factors which must be taken into account.  Our ambition is to do more directly but more importantly with others.