Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Gypsy? Traveller? Cornish? It's the same thing according to Cornwall Council

You would think that Cornwall Council would understand the proud nature of Cornish identity. You'd think they would also understand the, shall we say, sensitivities that Cornish people sometimes feel about their identity.

Just this week a councillor stormed out of prayers at a council meeting because the priest leading them referred too often to the 'county' of Cornwall.

Whatever your view (and I am proud to be in the Cornish camp), you'd think that the council would have more nous than to design a form with an 'ethnic origin' box that lists: "Gypsy/Traveller/Cornish". But Cornwall Council has done so in the shape of a form to apply for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. (see photos)

Some people will suggest it is offensive. And they are right. Not because being likened to a gypsy or traveller is an insult. It isn't. But because the two backgrounds are so entirely different. What Cornwall Council has done in designing this form is to create a 'bucket' category for anyone who doesn't appear to fit into 'normal' definitions. It's offensive to Cornish people and offensive to gypsies and travellers.

The whole point of these ethnic origin sections (if they have a point at all) is to find out whether the balance of people filling in the form is markedly different from the balance of the community as a whole. And if it is different, the council should be trying to find out why and doing something about it. The categorisation on the Cornwall Council form achieves none of this.

Tonight I've written to the Chief Executive of the Council. I've asked him:

- who designed this form and who signed it off;
- will he withdraw the use of this form immediately;
- will he issue an apology;
- will he institute an inquiry to find out how and why the design of the form came to be like this.


5 comments:

David said...

Well spotted Alex, although there should be no surprise the lengths Tory contempt toward the Cornish may go.

Foss said...

Also, shouldn't Cornish be a nationality rather than an ethnicity?

StAustellAdam said...

Fair points, and quite ironic considering that tens, if not hundreds of thousands of these forms will have been printed.

In your letter you could also ask what contingency funds will be used to rectify this error, or will this just result in more cuts to services ...

Alex Folkes said...

I am told that the online forms have been corrected (easy enough) and that the paper forms will be manually altered...
Housing benefit and council tax benefit are both changing on April 1st so it makes sense not to print new forms.

JonFlower said...

Probably the worst E&D form I have seen from Cornwall Council - and I have seen some appalling ones in the past.
What is the difference between: "British:Any other Black/Black" (middle column) and "British:Black/Any other" (right column)?
"British: Any other Asian" is missing, presumably this should have been the penultimate option in the middle column.
"British:African Black/Black" is listed twice in the right column!
"British:Any other Chinese, any other claimant declined Cornish British" - what the hell does that mean? You would think that there would have been an "any other" box at the very end of the list of options.
As has already been said, amalgamating Cornish with Gypsy/Traveller is ridiculous, in terms of the differences in way-of-life and the inevitable different service needs.
If I wanted to be pedantic then there are also a couple of rogue spaces after the colons for some of them.