Funding u-turn will help women groups


by Sunny
30th January, 2009 at 12:10 pm    

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. Thankfully:

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.


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Filed in: Net Campaigns,Sex equality






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  1. MaidMarian — on 30th January, 2009 at 12:42 pm  

    I don’t know about this – I’m sure that SBS do good work and there is indeed a cast-iron case for public funding for this sort of work.

    But then they are exclusive. What they do does target one group, the explicitly say that one group is to be prioritied. There is the talk of a case by case basis, but what is the argument against, say, a white women only group? I am big enough to say I don’t know.

    Yes, SBS deserve every success – but there is something here that leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth.

  2. persephone — on 30th January, 2009 at 12:54 pm  

    ” attended by John McDonnell MP of Hayes and Harlington (Labour)”

    Relating this to the other post about V Sharma resigning – I don’t believe Virendra Sharma attended these even though SBS & the issues are squarely in his patch

  3. persephone — on 30th January, 2009 at 12:55 pm  

    Sunny

    A question further to MM @ 1: If a white woman from Southall approached the SBS as a victim would they cover her case? Basically are there race criteria they have to operate under?

  4. MaidMarian — on 30th January, 2009 at 1:05 pm  

    persephone – As I understand it, SBS argue that the ‘value-added’ from their operations are in the race-based advice they provide (happy to be corrected). On that basis they would direct white women to appropriate services, but, to my mind, that is the same thing as turning them away.

    Also, as I understand it (again, happy to be corrected) SBS wanted the money to buy premesis, not per se help people.

    For all the good will I wish SBS, there really is something not quite right about this. If cohesion is A Good Thing, which it is, I struggle to see why there should be exemptions for groups that manage to generate a media profile.

  5. Galloise Blonde — on 30th January, 2009 at 1:07 pm  

    Oops. MM made comment irrelvent.

  6. Galloise Blonde — on 30th January, 2009 at 1:24 pm  

    I don’t know anything at all about the internal workings of SBS, but I do know about IKWRO. IKWRO has taken linguistic identity as our definition rather than race or religion, so we deal with speakers of Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish and Turkish, and our caseworkers who are native speakers of those languages. If we were approached by someone who doesn’t speak those languages then we may refer them on (depending on time/resources), because there are many women who desperately need advocacy in their own language and with a sensitivity to their particular issues. It’s just not an efficient use of resources to have a bilingual caseworker dealing with native English speakers.

  7. Leon — on 30th January, 2009 at 1:41 pm  

    Basically are there race criteria they have to operate under?

    Here’s SBS’ phone number: 020 8571 9595

    Give them a ring, ask them your question, come back here and tell us their reply.

  8. Leon — on 30th January, 2009 at 1:43 pm  

    For all the good will I wish SBS, there really is something not quite right about this. If cohesion is A Good Thing, which it is, I struggle to see why there should be exemptions for groups that manage to generate a media profile.

    You’re talking about cohesion but missing out on equality hence you’re confusion. Inequality in society means that different types will require different responses.

  9. Leon — on 30th January, 2009 at 1:46 pm  

    Relating this to the other post about V Sharma resigning – I don’t believe Virendra Sharma attended these even though SBS & the issues are squarely in his patch

    As a concerned citizen have you written to him asking him why? Here is his email: sharmav@parliament.uk

    Write to him asking, then come back and tell us what he said.

  10. persephone — on 30th January, 2009 at 1:49 pm  

    @ 6 With the SBS, from their website, offer not just language skills but specialist help in that they help women with insecure immigration status (who thus have no rights to emergency accommo, refuges, benefits etc) to gain emergency shelter, subsistence funds, legal advice.

    DV is about power & control and yes that is common across all races but where it is combined with the woman having no immigration status I can seen how their abuser is in an even greater position to abuse & exert power so can see clearer rationale now for their specialist role. Without the SBS there would be few routes for them to explore apart from stay with their abuser or leave and become destitute.

    By that I am not saying that one victim is more worthy of help than another.

  11. persephone — on 30th January, 2009 at 1:51 pm  

    Leon @ 7 – I was on their website when you posted – see #10

  12. MaidMarian — on 30th January, 2009 at 1:54 pm  

    Leon – Ok, untwist your underwear. You sound like a tinpot dictator!

    Cohesion and equality are not mutually exclusive.

    I agree that there needs to be a different response. I do not agree that publicly funded services being empowered to turn people in crisis away on religious/racial grounds is cohesive.

    It’s a tough question I realise. Tell you what, the Archbishop of Canterbury is on 020 7898 1200, why not ring him up and tell us all what he thinks about it.

    You might want to sober up first though.

  13. Galloise Blonde — on 30th January, 2009 at 1:54 pm  

    Yeah, we do all that too, just to be clear.

  14. persephone — on 30th January, 2009 at 1:57 pm  

    Leon @ 9 – I’m not in his constituency but enough of his constituency have raised it. It should be up to him to fulfill his job description to earn his salary.

    I don’t need to ring – and I prefer to formally interview them – John McDonnell is easier to access as he does alot of campaigning on issues that interest me. Well he campaigns locally you understand not overseas like VS which must be where I’m going wrong, you see my boss would not sign off my expenses to new delhi for some reason…

  15. Galloise Blonde — on 30th January, 2009 at 2:05 pm  

    MM: BME women’s organisation frequently get referals from mainstream DV charities, because they think that the client would get a better service from an organistaion with specialist knowledge.

    Does this count as ‘turning people in crisis away on religious/racial grounds’ or is this just an attempt to get the best and most appropriate service for that client?

  16. MaidMarian — on 30th January, 2009 at 2:10 pm  

    Galloise Blonde (15) – Referral is not the same thing as turning people away, no.

    That’s not really the question though when it comes to SBS. The question is whether thongs that are exclusive be funded at a time when cohesion matter.

    There are good arguments in both directions and there are persuasive answers to the difficult issues.

    It’s just that however much I wish SBS well they do represent something exclusive. There are no easy answers and I do not pretend that I have one.

  17. persephone — on 30th January, 2009 at 2:16 pm  

    Leon @ 7, yes do calm down. As Sunny has interviewed SBS I naturally thought he would know. I know you are the moderator but surely he can speak for himself.

  18. persephone — on 30th January, 2009 at 2:35 pm  

    MM @ 16 I know where you are coming from because I too still feel uncomfortable about a woman who may be in a life death situation who requires urgent help being told to go elsewhere

    Galloise Blonde @ 13 – I had not heard about your orgn. Certainly SBS have a very dominant profile in this area of work.

  19. Sunny — on 30th January, 2009 at 3:35 pm  

    Sharma, to his credit, did support SBS on this and I believe he was the one who sponsored the Eearly Day Motion in parliament opposing their funding ban. So he was a good egg on this too.

    MM – Leon is right. Providing different services to different groups doesn’t necessarily mean discrimination – its specialisation. If I reject someone’s article because the issue isn’t relevant to PP, that isn’t discrimination.

    As far as I know, SBS don’t reject women on the basis of race, but they do specialise in trying to help women from minority backgrounds who need special support. If a white woman came to them, they would help her and put her in touch with the right agency.

  20. Galloise Blonde — on 30th January, 2009 at 3:57 pm  

    persephone: most BME organisations provide advocacy anyway, rather than refuge services, so would have to refer any woman that came in in a life or death situation. Caseworkers should get enough information from a person to determine any immediate risk before making a recommendation/referral to a more appropriate service for that client.

    IKWRO had over 900 clients in 2007-08: during this period we had only two paid staff.

  21. MaidMarian — on 30th January, 2009 at 5:19 pm  

    Sunny – I am not disputing that and I am sure that SBS do a grand job. As I said, I am having trouble reconciling in my head why I don’t like the look of this. The way SBS have used the media is part of it, part of it is the use of public funds. PP, I assume does not use public funds?

    I think it is this idea that specialisation is something that trumps the need for an integrated society. I just can’t help but feel that you would be rather less sanguine about a SWS and I certainly think that you would take umbrage at a publicly funded crisis centre insisting on referring someone on because they could not cater for racial/religious needs.

    I recognise that this is perhaps not the point you are getting at and, of course, the public funds specialist services in other contexts. It’s just that we do need more cohesion (goodness I hate that word!) and this just feels rather like falling at the first.

  22. Ms_Xtreme — on 30th January, 2009 at 5:43 pm  

    Specialisation is a form of prejudice that will turn into discrimination if pushed far enough.

    Regardless of the great work SBS does, they ARE discriminatory – to men who have been abused and emotionally destroyed by women, and to women who are white.

    If they want more public funding, they should expand their services to those under served groups, or they shouldn’t receive the funding. Pretty simple really.

  23. persephone — on 30th January, 2009 at 5:56 pm  

    Thanks for responding @19. I am feeling less frosty towards VS

    Galloise Blonde @20 Wow. Take it that at that caseload IKWRO must have some volunteers too. IKWRO deserve to have a higher profile

  24. persephone — on 30th January, 2009 at 6:01 pm  

    A quote from presiding judge, Lord Justice Moses, during the SBS Recourse campaign case:

    ‘There is no dichotomy between funding specialist services and cohesion; equality is necessary for cohesion to be achieved.’

  25. Leon — on 30th January, 2009 at 7:20 pm  

    Leon – Ok, untwist your underwear. You sound like a tinpot dictator!

    It’s a simple request, no need to start with the snide remarks. If someone really wants an answer why not go to the source, you know do your own research, think for yourself. A little intelligence would go a long way…

  26. Galloise Blonde — on 30th January, 2009 at 7:34 pm  

    Again I don’t know how SBS operate but I have to say from my experience that this idea that women’s groups have a category of women (and men) they help and another they refuse is just wrong. For example, on one day I’ve seen a caseworker advise a South Asian woman for over half an hour on the phone, whereas on another day that same client would have been referred on to Karma Nirvana or another sister organisation due to lack of time and a need to prioritise. Just yesterday, the director spent 20 minutes advising a white woman on DV and then ultimately passed her on to Woman’s Aid. Sometimes we will be even forced to pass on clients from our normal target group to sister organsiations because of lack of time and a need to prioritise other cases which present more immediate risk. In other cases we’ll accept referal from other DV agencies who think that the client needs our specific expertise. Caseworkers have to make these decisions all the time, but they are made on the grounds of available resources and priority, not identity, religion or race.

    I think most DV agencies are aware that reaching out for help is very courageous, but also very risky and it would be very irresponsible not to assess the risk and find the appropriate help: but that doesn’t mean there needs to be a ‘shengen accord’ setup whereby the first agency a woman contacts must be the one to provide that help.

    MM@21: ‘I certainly think that you would take umbrage at a publicly funded crisis centre insisting on referring someone on because they could not cater for racial/religious needs.’

    No umbrage from here: it’s really better for an organisation to make a referral where they feel they don’t have a good understanding of the situation. Take the case of Banaz Mahmod case: she was not referred by police to a specialist agency, despite the fact that this forms part of the guidelines for responding to allegations of HBV. There were many aspects to Banaz’s situation which would have raised red flags in IKWRO’s risk assessment procedure and to anyone who understood Iraqi Kurdish culture.

    @ Ms Xtreme: ‘Specialisation is a form of prejudice’

    Do dermatologists discriminate against people with athsma? Women’s organisations have specific skills and expertise: to ask every organisation to become DV generalists is impossible without silly amounts funding to hire new staff, increase office sizes and so on and so forth. Also when it comes to men, I do completely agree that there should be help available for male victims of violence in the family. Bear in mind, however, that some women are too fearful to speak in the prescence of men so, while we actually do offer services to men in particular circumstances, we strongly avoid having them on the premesis. Unless the state wants to finance dual sites for every DV agency it is impossible to help men and women at the same location.

    Obviously we appreciate cohesion, but it’s just a poor use of resources to have an Arabic speaker with a full deck of strategies for dealing with ‘no recourse’ dealing with issues that any mainstream organisation can do better, leaving her no time to deal with an asylum seeker from Iraq in dire need…

    Another point to make is that sadly, minority women may face racism in mainstream services (from other service users largely) and that this can be devestating to their confidence and self-esteem at a difficult time. I have some real horror stories of minority women escaping abuse at the hands of their families only to face racial abuse in a refuge thereafter.

    I don’t actually have a dog in this fight: IKWRO currently have no public fuding AFAIK. I just want to express this: BME DV caseworkers are extremely skilled and dedicated individuals with distinct expertise, and both their expertise, and the need for their expertise must be respected. To change tack: I believe that specialist or not, the net effect of BME DV organisations is towards cohesion in the long run. Women who have been helped out of their family problems will often end up in education or work, forming relationships with people from a wide range of backgrounds, etc.

    @persephone 20: Thanks for saying that! Yes, we have quite a few volunteers, too many for the office sometimes.

  27. Galloise Blonde — on 30th January, 2009 at 7:48 pm  

    Exhausted from the length (and questionable grammar) of that comment, I’m off out. Have a nice weekend!

  28. persephone — on 30th January, 2009 at 8:24 pm  

    @25 “If someone really wants an answer why not go to the source, you know do your own research, think for yourself. A little intelligence would go a long way…”

    But a little practical experience, real dialogue & insight from an impartial 3rd party also go along way -in fact more useful sometimes than just weblinks & the like. Thats what I call building intelligent thinking.

  29. ac256 — on 30th January, 2009 at 11:38 pm  

    SBS offer a great service. Shame about their outdated and divisive name.

    It’s just so silly to call all non white women black. Farcical.

  30. Leon — on 30th January, 2009 at 11:50 pm  

    It’s just so silly to call all non white women black. Farcical.

    Is that what they’re doing?

  31. persephone — on 31st January, 2009 at 12:22 am  

    @ 29 I can see your point (as in the name of the orgn)
    - assume it was so named because at the time they were formed black was used to also define asians. Perhaps they should be re-named Southall Sisters.

    They may have stuck with their original orgn name because they are so well known by it & it may confuse people should they update it

  32. comrade — on 31st January, 2009 at 1:06 am  

    SBS offer a great service. Shame about their outdated and divisive name.

    It’s just so silly to call all non white women black. Farcical.

    Black is a political term, not ethnical one, it was used to symbolize the unity of the colonized people.

  33. MaidMarian — on 31st January, 2009 at 9:45 am  

    Leon – ‘It’s a simple request, no need to start with the snide remarks.’

    A lecture from you on being snide? That’s like being told by Jordan to put my chest away.

    You are the person who told people who have a slightly different emphasis to you to go and phone SBS and MPs rather than debate aren’t you you snide little boy.

    Now go, untwist your underwear, sobre up, have a think about the need to be less nasty and try to get over your status as little-sir-echo to Sunny.

  34. Leon — on 31st January, 2009 at 11:16 am  

    Any more personal abuse and I’ll be deleting your comments. You’re constant snide remarks and attempts to characterise simple and obvious things as negative has gotten beyond funny.

  35. MaidMarian — on 31st January, 2009 at 1:17 pm  

    Leon – Good for you – do you feel better for having got that off your chest?

    As to deleting comments, I refer you back to my earlier allusion to you and tin-pot dictators.

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