Discriminatory retirement home loses funding; Daily Mail blames the lesbians.

// 28 December 2008

Were you not familiar with the Daily Mail’s particular brand of fact-contorting bigotry, you’d be forgiven for coming away from this article with the impression that elderly women at Brighton’s Pilgrim Home for retired Christian missionaries were being forced to admit to a penchant for filthsome girl-on-girl action in order that their home continue to receive funding from the local council:

Home for retired missionaries loses grant – because it won’t ask residents if they are lesbians.

A care home where elderly Christian residents refused to answer ‘intrusive’ questions about their sexuality is at the centre of a bitter legal battle after its council grant was axed…

According to the Mail, the home’s owners were forced to ask residents if they were gay, lesbian, bisexual or unsure in order to comply with the Equality Act. When staff and residents objected, Brighton and Hove Council cruelly cut £13,000 worth of funding for warden services. The fascists.

However, read to the end of the article, and you find that the Council ‘never expected any residents to answer questions about their sexuality if they preferred not to do so’. Funding was withdrawn not because the Home’s owners and residents took a stand against state interference, red tape, PC-nonsense yadda yadda, but because, in keeping with the organisation’s particular brand of Christianity, the management failed to ensure that the Home’s services could be used by gay and lesbian individuals:

‘The Government specifically states the home must be open to the gay and lesbian community and that it must demonstrate this to qualify for funding. In the absence of any willingness to do this, funding has been withdrawn.’

And quite rightly so: no one has challenged the Home’s right to exist, homophobic as its management may well be, the Council simply ensured that public money was not spent on it. Seeing as the public includes individuals who aren’t heterosexual, it would be unfair to use this money to fund an establishment which appears to unfairly exclude sections of the public who could potentially benefit from its services.

Of course, the Mail and the Home’s management package this up as anti-Christian discrimination, the latter accusing the Council of “religious intolerance”. As far as I can see, the only intolerance is coming from those who view homosexuality as some kind of hideous insult they should never be forced to confront:

‘There was a strong feeling among people in the home that the questions were inappropriate and intrusive. They felt they had come to Pilgrim Homes because of its Christian ethos and were upset they were not protected from such intrusions.’

Comments From You

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 28 December 2008 at 10:36 pm

Since this home is operated for the sole purpose of providing safe and secure housing for retired church missionaries why then are not the organisations which employed these missionaries funding this home? I assume since this home is for retired church missionaries, then they must have been employed by religious denominations.

As always the Daily Male and media in general rarely report the full facts. Instead they select an aspect and then use this to promote their own political agendas. In this instance, the Daily Male was once again using this case to promote homophobic hatred against non-heterosexual women and men.

Rumbold // Posted 29 December 2008 at 11:45 am

Laura:

You seemed to have missed the key point. The government’s own guidelines state that:

“The Government specifically states the home must be open to the gay and lesbian community and that it must demonstrate this to qualify for funding.”

Since the home refused to answer questions on sexuality, they could not demonstrate that it was open to LBGTs. Surely the burden of proof should be the other way round? In other words, the state should have to prove discrimination before being allowed to cancel a grant.

Anna // Posted 29 December 2008 at 1:01 pm

slightly off topic but the nursing home I used to work in had ‘homosexual relationships among patients will not be tolerated and will result in eviction’ on it’s guidelines.. I always thought that must be illegal..

Saranga // Posted 29 December 2008 at 2:45 pm

Rumbold: Asking re sexuality is not the only (or even surefire) way to prove that the home is open to non heterosexuals. They could for instance put something in their advertising along the lines of ‘this home does not discriminate on the basis of sexuality’. They could provide diversity training for their staff members. They could have an anti bullying policy. Proof of ‘Being open to the gay and lesbian community’ can take many forms.

Shea // Posted 29 December 2008 at 5:03 pm

@ Rumbold- the funding is a discretionary grant. The clue is in the word “grant”. The home have no right to this funding and if they fail to comply with the conditions imposed upon it, i.e that they be open to LGBTs then they deserve to lose it.

I think the argument is sound. This is public money and they are supposed to be supplying a service to the public, which includes lesbians and gays. If they fail to do this then rightly, public money should be withdrawn. I wish the same thinking would be applied to faith schools. I don’t see why my taxes should be used to inculcate erroneous and offensive prejudices into the minds of young people.

Ruth // Posted 30 December 2008 at 1:41 pm

Jennifer – in common with many charities/social landlords, it would run on a mixture of charitable donations/fundraising, personal contributions from residents ( such as from the pensions given by the organisations you cite – which are not generous, as most mission organisations run on a shoestring [beware buying into ‘the Church is filthy rich’ mythos – it has a lot of fixed assets but phenomenal running costs, many of which are involuntary – e.g. upkeep/repair of listed buildings]) and state funding, as housing benefit and partial care costs.

This is the situation for all voluntary care homes, whoever runs them: I work in local authority non-elderly adult care: the situation applies throughout, but cost presures are worse in elderly care as the volume is so great. *Good* care with enough properly trained staff is extraordinarily pricey as you can imagine : local authority care funding does not cover the full cost, it only contributes – LA-funded people (whose fees are capped at below economic rates) are in fact subsidised by the homes’ other residents’ fees – paid for, for example, from any assets they may have, perhaps inherited, or met out of charitable funds. Not all ex-missionaries will have enough funds for various reasons.

No doubt the Mail does have its own agenda, as usual. But in its partial use of public funding, Pilgrim Homes would be entirely typical of charitable housing and care providers.

Laura // Posted 30 December 2008 at 4:03 pm

Rumbold: discrimination is not always as simple as actively preventing individuals from, in this case, accessing a service. It can also involve failure to take steps to ensure that this service is accessible to all (see Saranga’s comment). The Council concluded that Pilgrim Homes were guilty of the latter, so they chose not to give them the grant. In any case, it is perfectly normal for grants to be given only under certain conditions – if the applicant doesn’t meet these conditions then they will be unsuccessful.

Cruella // Posted 30 December 2008 at 8:48 pm

Seems to me that when they say that residents felt they “had” to come to Pilgrim Homes because of it’s Christian ethos – that sounds to me like older people might well be being conned into choosing the home on the pretext that others would be disrespectful to their religion. When undoubtedly this is not the case.

Rumbold // Posted 31 December 2008 at 12:23 pm

Saranga:

“They could for instance put something in their advertising along the lines of ‘this home does not discriminate on the basis of sexuality’. They could provide diversity training for their staff members. They could have an anti bullying policy.”

Those just sounds like words to me though. They don’t prove anything.

Shea and Laura:

“The home have no right to this funding and if they fail to comply with the conditions imposed upon it.”

Sorry, you are missing my point. I don’t know whether the home has discriminated against LBGTs or not. Neither do you. Nor does the council. All we know is that they have refused to answer an intrusive questionnaire, and had the grant revoked as a result.

To take another example, if the F-Word received taxpayers’ money, should you be required to disclose all of the writers’ sexualities? If not, why not? What about their religion?

The burden of proof, once a grant is oringally awarded, should lay with the council.

Ruth // Posted 1 January 2009 at 6:25 pm

Cruella

So, you suspect people go to a denominational home because they have been lied to (evidence?), but you are happy to assume that non-denominational homes are ipso facto (“undoubtedly”) havens of tolerance (again: evidence?)?

I think your bias is showing. FYI, discrimination on grounds of belief, and indeed, sadly, on a number of other issues, is not,in my experience in the field, in any way limited to religious establishments.

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