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Iraqi Association Comment

Iraqi Association Comment

Don’t Choke Communities, Power Them

July 2008

“I am a child of an immigrant, I have always been regarded as an immigrant despite being born here. But when I go to the country of my parents, I am regarded as a British, or a foreigner. Where exactly do people think people like me belong? ” Said Salam, one of our young recent service users.  

The reality is that when British people go overseas to work and live they call themselves "expats". When others come to the UK to do the same, they are immigrants. It’s becoming a stigma which often opposes the integration process. We need to tackle this double whammy approach. This myth has created a culture that immigrants live in ghettoised communities and not socialising with others, and they are unable to organise their communities.

The fundamental point here is that many exiled communities and Diaspora people have successfully settled and integrated here, and are proud to be British. Our experience of working with members of the community to settle and integrate confirms that there were no real problems, beside that forced integration did not seem necessary.

What many exiled community groups need is direct support and recognition, don’t choke community groups, give them adequate oxygen, to enable their members to settle and integrate successfully in this country. This is simply the sole way to nurture and build a healthy and positive community in this society.  We do not want segregation, nor do we want to live forever in ghettoised areas. Opportunities must be shared equally by all, and not only by a handful of private consortiums and charities with household names.

>As a small charity, we continue to serve vulnerable and needy people, on average every year we serve over 6000 people, on issues associates with poverty, employment, training, education, distressed women, excluded youth and families with children, elderly, disabled and volunteerism.

Many small community groups suffers from the lack of priorities from big funders, such as the Big Lottery Fund (BLF), which was created by merging the Community Fund, the New Opportunity Fund and the Millennium Commission. It distributes 50 per cent of good causes’ money. Many believe that it has concentrated more on funding government initiatives, medium and big charities and local authorities, to the detriment of small community organisations. As Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, said: “There are many thousands of applications from smaller organisations which go in every year but only a third get funded. The ones that fail are told that there are insufficient funds.“Changes in lottery funding have led to smaller organisations not getting support. The Big Lottery Fund, in particular, has been more interested in government priorities than in the voluntary sector.”

For example, a medium size charity has received more than £5m grants in 2007, under the Lottery’s BASIS programme. This will undoubtedly deprives smaller refugee community groups to receive funding and recognition. Meanwhile, the diversion of £675m Lottery good cause funds to meet the increased cost of the 2012 Olympics will have a detrimental impact on many small charities.

Furthermore, community groups which serve established community needs are being destroyed in the name of "community cohesion". At the same time "mainstreaming" - the new buzzword - means that specialist areas are being lost and agencies without skilled staff or expertise are being given the impossible task of meeting the very different needs of a large number of diverse groups.

Many refugee community groups are struggling to survive because of funding sustainability and a lack of interest  on the part of funders to support refugee groups. Beside this, like other voluntary sector organisations, community groups receives funds to pay for the provision of direct services, but not the core costs of their work. The reason is that until funders are prepared to approve full cost recovery, many small community organisations will not be able to continue their services.  Furthermore, many cosy clubs of partnerships and private consortiums has been set up to grab the largest slice of the funding bids on behalf of community organisations without prior consultations or input from the intended users or beneficiaries. This is happening against a background of increasing inequality and an acute shortage of services to refugees and those who seek safety at our shores.    



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