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    cases grants could be withdrawn from organisations that fail to put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
    inwards.

    Martin Green, chief executive,Counsel and
    Care

    “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
    Fostering

    “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,
    Barnardo’s

    “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
    Agency

    “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
    needs.”

    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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