The much anticipated Chinese Welfare Trust community research report was presented and launched at a forum on 20 February 2019 at the House of Lords.
Entitled "Chinese Community Centres in the UK: Changing Landscape, Challenges and Strategies for the Future", the report was the product of a community research project commissioned by CWT in January 2018.
For the first time, the changes experienced - and coping mechanisms employed - by Chinese community organisations in the last ten years were properly documented in the form of a published report, based on information gathered from key informants from 14 Chinese community organisations in four selected major UK cities: London, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool.
Kindly hosted by the Rt Hon Lord McNally, the forum offered an opportunity for community leaders, stakeholders and policy makers to discuss various issues examined in the report. It was very well attended, with representatives of various community organisations from around England, supporters from the business sector and individuals with a distinguished track record on community affairs. Lord McNally remarked the timely publication of the report on assessing the impact that dwindling public resources has had on Chinese community organisations, which is a vital part of British civil society. He also commended the effort of those who actively seek ways to navigate a more positive future.
The forum discussion was led by a panel of distinguished speakers. Circle Steele, CEO of Wai Yin Society in Manchester, shared the success story of her organisation despite the many challenges in securing funding, and how they managed to find a way to cater for the needs of young and old of the local community and continue to grow with good governance. Dr Yeow Poon, who is the co-author of the report and Chair of Chinese Community Centre - Birmingham, espoused the virtue of broadening the user base of mainly-Chinese centres by including residents from other ethnic groups in the local area as a way to increase appeal and establish links with the local community they serve. We also had representatives from Dementia UK - Claire Ferris who is in charge of Business Development and Julie Ann Knight who is a Consultant Admiral Nurse (dementia support specialist) - taking the view that as more and more people live longer into their old age, social support to help people with dementia and their families and carers live with dignity will be relevant across all ethnic groups. Such support should be built on each community's capacity for cohesion and resilience, and this is particularly the case for ethnic minority groups where there is a demand for culturally appropriate services.
A lively floor discussion ensued and this was evidently the result of the insights provided by the panel speakers and the level of interest generated around the publication of the report. Support rallied around the following opinions:
- Statutory funders and private trusts and foundations should put sustainability at the centre of their funding strategy by showing willingness to provide core funding for a period of 3-5 years to ensure a longer-lasting and positive impact is made to the lives of service users of Chinese community organisation.
- A community trust fund should be set up within the UK Chinese community for centres and organisations to apply for core and project funding to improve sustainable service planning and delivery.
- More effort is needed by community leaders to bridge the communication gap between the traditional Cantonese-speaking cohort and the newer and growing Mandarin-speaking population to enhance community cohesion and harmony.
- Chinese community centres across the UK need to adopt a more outward-looking stance and become more inclusive. This means revamping the image and substance of many mainly-Chinese local centres to become a welcoming place to people from a range of different ethnic backgrounds and providing services relevant to their needs.
- Chinese migrants who came to the UK in the 1960s and 1970s are now ageing. They are generally less able to communicate in English and less integrated into British society as compared to later generations. The current provision of social and support services that cater to their cultural needs is woefully inadequate and the demand of which is expected to rise, as more people live longer with conditions such as dementia.
Chinese Welfare Trust feels privileged to be able to bring people from different sectors together and examine a range of pressing issues facing our community. We thank everyone who took part in the forum and their support for this event. Special thanks are due to QED Education Group who kindly sponsored the publication of the report. The conversation has now begun on creating future pathways for the strengthening of Chinese community centres in the UK with a view to providing relevant services and building capacity for sustainability planning.
A newspaper article in Chinese about the forum has been published in Nouvelles d'Europe and can be accessed here.
A copy of the community research report can be found here.