Catholic group awarded contract to counsel teenagers
Tory-controlled Richmond upon Thames Council has withdrawn funding from a local charity that has been providing counselling to teenagers for the last twenty years and instead awarded a contract for counselling of school-age children to a Westminster based Catholic organisation that requires its counsellors to "uphold and promote the Catholic ethos of the agency".
The Catholic Children's Society says that it draws its inspiration "from Christian values derived from the Gospels and the teaching of the Catholic Church" and recently withdrew from adoption services stating that they were "forced into this position as a result of the Government's Sexual Orientation Regulations" and that "In the unanimous view of the Trustees it would be totally unacceptable for our Catholic agency to act in a way that is at odds with the teaching of the Church."
Liberal Democrat councillor, Stephen Knight, Richmond's Leader of the Opposition, said: "This decision beggars belief. Counselling services for young people have to address issues such as contraception, unwanted pregnancy and homophobic bullying and the appointment of a religious group to provide these services on behalf of the Council is totally inappropriate. Most young people facing these issues simply won't want to seek help from counsellors required by their employer to "uphold the Catholic ethos".
"The fact that Off The Record, an established and well respected local counselling charity, has had its funding withdrawn is scandalous given Tory rhetoric about the 'big society'."
At its recent Spring Conference in Sheffield the Liberal Democrats policy on Volunteering and the Voluntary Sector included a demand for legislation to prevent unjust discrimination by religious and other bodies providing public services.