In the same week as a specialist women’s organisation working with victims of trafficking lost their public service contract to the Salvation Army, a missionary church, a London Council has awarded a tender to provide counselling services to teenagers on issues including contraception, unwanted pregnancy and homophobic bullying, to the Catholic Children’s Society. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has said that it should be a basic requirement for any group providing public services to be inclusive and uphold equalities.
The Catholic Children’s Society famously gave up working with new adopters after the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations came into force in 2007, which meant that they would no longer be able to discriminate against gay couples wanting to adopt.
According to local councillor Stephen Knight, leader of the Council’s Liberal Democrat group, Richmond Council has withdrawn funding from ‘Off The Record’ a local, inclusive secular charity that had been providing the counselling service for the past 20 years and have awarded the contract to the Catholic Children’s Society. Mr Knight has questioned the ability of the Catholic Children’s Society to provide services in an appropriate way, stating: ‘Counselling services for young people have to address issues such as contraception, unwanted pregnancy and homophobic bullying and the appointment of a religious group to provide these services on behalf of the Council is totally inappropriate. Most young people facing these issues simply won’t want to seek help from counsellors required by their employer to “uphold the Catholic ethos’.
Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs, commented: ‘It should be a basic requirement that any organisation working under contract to provide public services, whether from the private or voluntary sector, should be fully inclusive and be held to the same equalities and human rights standards we would expect if the service were provided by the state. Organisations which are motivated by a mission to evangelise or have anti-gay religious doctrine at their core, and which then provide services in a distinctly religious rather than inclusive way, should not be handed control of vital public services to which we all are entitled and which we pay for with our taxes.’
For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips.
Read more about the BHA’s work on equalities, public service reform, and government and ‘faith’ communities https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.