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Number of black people on Queen’s Honours list falls

HATS OFF: Veteran newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald was knighted in 1999

THE GOVERNMENT is urging black and ethnic minorities (BME) to nominate more of their peers for a Queen’s honour.

Over the last two years, the number of titles awarded by Her Majesty to people from BME backgrounds has fallen, despite high-profile names, such as Olympic athlete Jessica Ennis being celebrated.

Only six per cent of the total honours awarded in the 2013 New Year’s list were given to people from a BME background.

This is down 6.8 per cent from the previous year.

Civil service chief, Sir Bob Kerslake, met with representatives of 30 national voluntary bodies at Number 10 last week to spread the message that more diversity is needed.

He said: “Despite some progress being made, there is still work to do to address the underrepresentation of certain groups and we need to receive more quality nominations for women, people from an ethnic minority background and people in regions outside of London and the south east.”

Chief executive of the Race Equality Foundation, Ratna Butt, argued that lack of awareness was part of the problem.

PROCESS

“Often honours go to people in the civil services, sport, etc – who understand the process,” she said. “A lot of people are doing good work in the community but are either unaware of the process of being nominated for a Queen’s honour or feel they have no chance of getting one.”

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah was nominated by then Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2003 to become an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), but the Birmingham-native controversially turned it down.

He later wrote: “I get angry when I hear that word ‘empire’; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised.”


ROYAL PRAISE: Beverley De Gale collecting her OBE in 2011

However, Butt remains positive that the recognition could be beneficial to the work many in the voluntary sector are doing.

She added: “From a personal point of view, you can disagree with the Queen’s honours, but from an organisational point of view it could open up new opportunities and help gain better support for your work.

“Many of these operations are small and involve volunteers, and if the accolade brought greater awareness and helped organisations in their work it would be welcomed.”

DEDICATED

Beverley De-Gale and partner Orin Cadogan-Lewis, co-founders of the African-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT), were each awarded OBEs in 2011 and 2012, respectively, for their work dedicated to healthcare in the black British community.

De-Gale said: “It was wonderful. The OBE had come after many, many years of hard work trying, primarily, to save my son’s life and then helping other Leukaemia sufferers.”

The ACLT encourages potential donors from under-represented groups to consider registering, following the couple’s own difficulties in the past to find a matching donor for their son Daniel.

“The recognition was great and it certainly has helped us be heard and taken seriously by the public, however, it hasn’t helped us financially,” she added.

“Grants are few and far between and like all charity we have to work hard to gain funding and support.”
n To learn about how to nominate someone for a Queen’s honour, visit www.gov.uk/honours for further details.

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