Remember the controversy over Southall Black Sisters being threatened with a huge cut in funding last year by Ealing Council? That was because Ealing Council said groups like SBS were not inclusive enough and thus not spreading community cohesion.
The Government has quietly shelved plans to encourage local councils to avoid funding “single-identity” groups after realising it could severely hamper charities working within some of Britain’s most vulnerable communities.
Single-identity groups are those charities that work exclusively within one cultural, religious or geographical community. That means charities combating honour violence, for instance, or working with the children of asylum seekers, or even rape crisis centres that only deal with female victims.
As pointed out in that article, this will be hugely welcomed mostly by small groups who help among the most vulnerable in our society, especially women.
Last year I went to a meeting organised by Asian women groups, attended by John McDonnell MP of Hayes and Harlington (Labour), where many groups voiced their worry that the government’s new “community cohesion agenda” could shut them out.
The point of the agenda was to say that funding targeting just one ethnic or religious group was harmful for communities because it fostered tension. There is some truth in that, though it’s futile to force through a blanket solution without judging this on a case-by-case basis. Fortunately, the big outcry in support of Southall Black Sisters killed off Ealing Council’s plans and now this blunt instrument.