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News: Housing chief makes BME community plea

Specialist and BME housing provider Innisfree is calling on all housing associations to encourage their tenants to celebrate their ethnicity in the run-up to the census in March.

Innisfree, an Irish-focused association, is involved in the Federation of Irish Societies’ “How Irish Are You” campaign, designed to combat under-representation of the Irish in official figures and make the case for fair allocation and effective distribution of limited resources.

But Innisfree’s chief executive, Clare Winstanley, whose association also provides services for other BME and non-BME tenants, believes the census offers a chance for tenants of all ethnicities to make their presence felt in England and Wales, potentially directing much-needed funds to other culturally specific schemes.

The census is the only official count of the entire population and has been held every ten years since 1841, making it a unique source for historians. Census questionnaires provide information about the changing make up of the population, recording details of family life, occupation, religious belief, nationality and ethnicity that enable local authorities and service providers to plan for the future.

The next National Census will be held on 27

March 2011 and will capture an accurate snapshot of information about every household in England and Wales.

Winstanley hopes that housing associations will spur their diverse tenants into filling out the census form correctly and says the census is a vital source of information for all service providers.

She said: “Knowing the ethnicity of our potential clients in a particular borough enables us to target services where they are most needed. It is therefore crucial that people complete the census form.

“I understand that in the past many people, for a variety of reasons, wanted to ‘keep their heads down’ and didn’t respond to any surveys as a matter of principle. I think the positive reasons for recording ethnicity will almost always outweigh any disadvantages.

“I hope all social landlords will do all they can to encourage tenants to complete the census form.”

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