“The Small Society” and London Councils cuts: vulnerable refugees will suffer - Refugee Council
February 11, 2011

“The Small Society” and London Councils cuts: vulnerable refugees will suffer

Posted by Philippa, a part of the Refugee Council’s Communications team.

You may have seen that last week, voluntary groups in London won a judicial review against London Councils’ decision to cut its London boroughs grant scheme by £16.875m (63.5%).

A judge ruled that London Councils’ consultation process was flawed and it failed to meet statutory equality duties. The decision to cut funding for over 200 projects has been overturned and London Councils must now carry out the consultation again.

While this is a good result for many of the refugee community organisations (RCOs) we support through our Basis project, this does not mean these RCOs are exempt from cuts following the re-run of the consultation.

Here, guest blogger Mohamed Maigag, Director of the Haringey Somali Community and Cultural Association, speaks out about it:

The Black and Minority Ethnic Advice Network (BAN) is a unique partnership established in 2005 that brings together over 18 voluntary sector organisations from different ethnic and migrant communities that is funded through a grant from the London Councils.

The network also consists of a further 25 organisations who are not funded by the London Councils. The partnership is lead by Advice UK and provides coordinated legal advice and support services to the elderly, vulnerable women who are victims of domestic violence, asylum seekers and refugees and people experiencing discrimination at work.

Haringey Somali Community & Cultural Association (HSCCA) got involved in this partnership project when the London Councils abandoned its grant programmes in about 6 years ago in favour of commissioning services that work in partnerships. The Network began delivering services as of November 2008.

For the year 2009–2010, BAN members provided advice to nearly 11,000 Londoners and supported 328 service users through home visits. The partnership also organised 44 workshops on different topics in order to raise awareness of rights and entitlements amongst MBER communities.

This is why BAN members are shocked by the London Council’s decision to classify the BAN network as a non London wide service and stop its grant from June 2011. It really defies logic giving this description to a network that is reaching all London boroughs and supporting the most vulnerable members of society.

A lot of effort went in to building this network and one wonders why the London Councils was encouraging groups to form viable partnerships in the first place if it can dismantle it just like that without a single regard to equality issues.

Thanks to the courage and the persistence of the Roma Support Group, a judicial review of the London Councils consultation process found it had not undertakes full Equality Impact Assessment and quashed its decision of terminating the Roma Support Group as well as the rest of the BAN member’s grant. The London Councils must now think carefully about its next steps before it proceeds again with its decision of prematurely ending a grant that BAN members thought was secure until October 2012.

What ever David Cameron’s Big Society agenda stands for, there is something I’m sure about: the coalition (or collision!) government is good enough for bullying the vulnerable and the weak, and lacks the guts to stand up to the banks who caused the huge debt that the poor are being taxed on.

The London Council grant is the only source of income for many voluntary organisations and its loss will lead to the closure of many of them subjecting the vulnerable and disadvantaged people they serve to marginalisation and isolation. Surely what we are witnessing is “The Small Society” where few people will thrive and the rest of the Big Society will suffer.

Mohamed Omer Maigag
Director, HSCCA