Behind the headlines

Tower Hamlets has faced criticism for its decision to set up a
faith-based extra-care housing scheme for older people who are
members of the Islamic community. It is thought to be the first
local authority-run facility of its kind in England and the council
argues the move is a response to local demographic trends. But
critics say that the move does nothing to promote integration and
that the money could have been better spent on improving culturally
aware domiciliary care services.

Bob Hudson, professor of partnership studies, Health
Services Management Centre, University of

“There is no inherent conflict between keeping a strong link with
one’s cultural origins, and living in an integrated society. Where
there is a virtual apartheid system as described in the Ritchie
report on the Oldham disturbances, then separate arrangements may
exacerbate an already difficult situation. Personal choice is fine,
but where choice is a reflection of public troubles, then the real
issue is to address that trouble.”

Karen Squillino, children’s services manager,

“The development of faith-based services appears to be a reaction
to the continued failure in attempts to provide services that are
culturally sensitive. It seems that Tower Hamlets has opted for an
easier option in respect of the development of the Muslim-only
community care home in that such a home will surely be able to meet
the needs of its residents. But councils should surely be promoting
a society that is integrated and be developing mutually inclusive
services. The message here is one of the acceptability of

Julia Ross, social services director, London Borough of
Barking and Dagenham

“It’s not an easy call. I can see no reason why there shouldn’t be
room for generic and culturally specific services; at least while
different generations work the complicated way through the process
of learning to live in multi-cultural communities and we do the
same. However, faith is important and so I accept the legitimacy of
faith-based services. But all my instincts cry out for integration
sooner rather than later.”

Martin Green, chief executive,Counsel and

“Tower Hamlets’ decision is merely a reflection of the ethnic and
social make-up of this very diverse London Borough. I am in favour
of the development of person-centred services that take account of
the religious cultural needs of individuals. The development of
this housing scheme must be accompanied by a commitment to meet all
users’ needs. If the council fails to deliver on this it will be
open to the charge it has singled out one group for preferential

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“Fear and ignorance of other faiths and cultures leads to community
segregation. ‘Justice, Equality, Our World’ from Monica Hingorani
at the National Youth Agency shows how young people often lead the
way in building cohesive communities through recognising and
celebrating faith and cultural differences, not pretending they
don’t exist. Specialist services, be they for fostering, home care
or education, need not divide but can add to the rich tapestry of
provision needed in a culturally diverse society.”

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