Behind the headlines

A report on social cohesion in response to the riots in Oldham,
Bradford and Burnley has recommended that more should be done to
make community and voluntary groups work across cultural divides.
The House of Commons select committee report suggests that in some
cases grants could be withdrawn from organisations that fail to put
cohesion at the top of their agenda. However, the National
Association of Councils for Voluntary Service says that the threat
to remove grants could perpetuate segregation by making groups turn

Martin Green, chief executive,Counsel and

“The issue of how groups work across cultural boundaries is very
complex. However, the idea of forcing groups to work together by
withholding grants is not going to improve social integration and
will probably do great harm to community relations. We need to see
all organisations being encouraged to develop their work in ways
that are appropriate to diverse communities, but there are some
groups with particular social and cultural needs that may require
specialist support. One size fits all is not a sensible way to
proceed and is in contradiction to other areas of government policy
that champion diversity.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“This is a challenging report but, providing there are sufficient
safeguards for existing projects, we should welcome the principles
of greater inclusion. None of us can afford to bury our heads in
the sand and protest at sensible change. Where additional cost
arises as a result of providing interpreter and translation
services, for example, the grant giver has a responsibility to fund
it. What is not acceptable is the assumption that the commitment
has only to come from the voluntary sector.”

Karen Squillino, children’s services manager,

“To make this plan workable there needs to be consideration on a
case-by-case basis. Services should be encouraged to put together
business cases where there are concerns about segregation. We need
to be promoting inclusive, accessible services, but there are
service user groups which can only have their needs met through
separate provision.”

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“The Cantle report following the race riots said: ‘We were inspired
by the many young people we spoke to, but they seemed to be
participating in regeneration and other programmes against the odds
and with very limited and fragile resources.’ The report is welcome
for highlighting the problems these nationally driven initiatives
can cause, cutting across local accountabilities and community

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

“Remember the debate prompted by Margaret Thatcher over whether or
not there was such a thing as society? The social cohesion debate
reminds me of this. Some daft things can be done or not done in the
name of social cohesion, which is, like society, an important but
sometimes nebulous concept. It means different things to different
folks, so I wouldn’t favour including it in the comprehensive
performance assessment. I also think we need to support some
specific cultural groups while we move towards mainstreaming in the
medium term.”

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