19 June 1998

Scotland on Sunday

July 19, 1998, Sunday

Byline: By Jason Allardyce

A RACIAL harassment crisis centre serving Scotland is facing closure at a time when racist abuse and attacks are rising.

The black and ethnic minority housing pressure group Positive Action in Housing, which dealt with over 500 inquiries about racism in housing last year, warns that its information and advice service is likely to collapse after its funding was pulled.

Housing agency Scottish Homes, which gave the group GBP 40,000 over the last three years, has refused a GBP 20,000 funding request for this year which means PAIH no longer has sufficient resources to employ a bilingual case worker to give people advice.

Victims of racial harassment describe the service as a lifeline, but advice is now only being provided on a limited basis by volunteers and by diverting three remaining staff who are also responsible for developing policy and running campaigns.

Director Robina Qureshi predicted the crisis could mean more families subjected to abuse would have to suffer in silence with little chance of receiving help.

“The case worker’s role is to carry out case work and outreach with vulnerable families exposed to the worst excesses of racial terrorism or families suffering overcrowding and bad housing conditions or those simply unable to communicate their problem because their first language is not English,” she said.

“The danger now is that we are not getting to people in the housing estates who need that support at a time when racial harassment has more than doubled since 1987 and one in 16 cases are not reported.”

Some 332 racial incidents were reported to Strathclyde Police, the largest force in Scotland, between last April and December, compared with 206 the year before.

Scotland’s largest council, Glasgow, has failed to evict any antisocial tenants accused of racially harassing neighbours because people have not come forward with enough information to build a case against the perpetrators.

Glasgow-based PAIH believes its own information and advice service is best placed to make amends for this shortfall, as it receives information which could be crucial to securing evictions.

But Scottish Homes claims the information and advice helpline service, for which PAIH sought GBP 20,000, would duplicate work already carried out by the housing pressure group Shelter Scotland.

A spokeswoman for the housing agency said Shelter Scotland could connect black and ethnic callers to ‘Language Line’, a UK interpreters service, if they did not speak English, which is why PAIH’s application for funding was rejected.

Qureshi said this was “nonsense” because people calling Shelter could not get immediate access to someone speaking their language and, in any case, ethnic minorities were more likely to call a dedicated ethnic minority group with a track record.

Qureshi claims the funding crisis has forced staff to spend “a phenomenal amount of time scrambling around for cash to save the organisation”.

She added: “This service is at the heart of what we do, informing our policy and campaigning work. Without it we are unable to keep a finger on the pulse and if we lose that we will become irrelevant.”

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