Whilst we have come a long way in our relatively short history, there are still great inequalities faced by the Pakistani and Kashmiri communities of North Kirklees in the key areas of health, education, employment and housing; and some days it feels as if things are worse now than they were in 1990 when the PKWA was first established. Indeed, in some areas things have taken a downturn. Over the last few years, for instance, there has been a massive increase in the numbers of Pakistani and Kashmiri men entering the prison system -the disengaged schoolchildren that we saw in the early 1990s, these are the children of the first generation settlers, who have turned to drugs and petty crime in the absence of other positive choices. And with a depressing inevitability, the resettlement and drug treatment services have not managed to culturally align themselves to the needs of these young men, and once in the prison system they are far less likely than their white counterparts to access the services that will support them on release and help prevent them re-offending.
And of course we cannot ignore the changed political context caused by the British invasion of Iraq and the terrible London bombings of July '05. These events have left many ordinary Pakistani and Kashmiri people feeling like terror suspects by default in the country which they regard as their home; and those same events have also raised some enormously serious questions about how the mainstream Muslim community can tackle extremist elements within our midst, whilst at the same time reserving the right to legitimate dissent about what many consider to be Britain's deeply misguided foreign policy.
Both these issues are informing our vision for the future. We are currently working to develop a post custody resettlement service for South Asian ex-offenders, which we hope will offer a viable alternative to an offending lifestyle. We are also continuing to engage in the debate following the London bombings, and have made repeated commitments to support any work that challenges violence and promotes only legitimate dissent.
However, our primary strategic aim for the future is the same now as it was in 1990: namely, to develop positive relationships with the local policy makers and service providers, in order to better inform the development of policy and the delivery of services. It must be said that we have not always felt that our aims and the aims of the policy-makers have been in concert, and we have become wary of being used simply to enable over-stretched officials to 'tick the race inclusion box', without actually affecting any real improvements in the lives of our community members. We have learned that as a cash-strapped community organisation, there is often an assumption that we will be persuaded to deliver health and welfare services at unsustainable prices, simply to bring in much needed resources; and to this end it has been in the interests of those over-stretched officials to keep us in a state of penury, ever-willing to accept any crumbs from the table. But it is not the PKWA's mission to assist bureaucrats to meet their bureaucratic obligations, and we will continue to put the wider interests of the local Pakistani and Kashmiri communities before the short term interests of the PKWA as an organisation - regardless of the cost to the PKWA. We do, however, continue to work towards persuading the policy makers that sustaining impoverished racial ghettos is not in the long term interests of either the Pakistani and Kashmiri communities, or of wider society; and that in the end everybody pays the price for poverty.
We also intend to present in the near future, projects that help encourage to have better inter-community relationships.
We will continue to work to the principle that the muscle that meets no resistance does not grow strong (with PKWA being the resistance). To that ends we will continue to perform the role of critical friend to the local policy makers, be they the local Primary Care Trusts, the Government Office, or the Local Authority. We will also continue to work to change the culture of policy-makers, so that our comments are sought before they are expressed as criticisms, and that when criticisms are made that they are listened to as constructive attempts to assist improvement, and not simply dismissed or excused out of fear of blame.