Funding cut at Brighton care home over gay questionnaire row

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A Brighton care home for the elderly has been accused of homophobic exclusion by the local authorities.

Pilgrim Homes, a Christian care home which runs 10 projects for elderly people in the UK, is suing the council for religious discrimination.

As part of its fair access and diversity policy, put in place to comply with the Equality Act 2006 and Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, Brighton and Hove Council required residents at Pilgrim Homes to fill in a questionnaire asking participants if they were gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or unsure of their sexuality.

The council also wished to give a Stonewall presentation on gay rights to the care home’s staff, and wanted Pilgrim Homes to include depictions of LGBT people in its promotional literature.

When respondents, all aged over 80, refused to answer the question about sexuality, it is alleged that the council accused the charity that runs Pilgrim Homes of “institutionalised homophobia”, and subsequentially cut a £13,000 grant.

The council said that as the care home was based on Christianity gay people were deterred from applying to live there, and that there had not been enough progress towards LGBT equality to warrant the grant.

A council spokesperson said: “We have never expected any residents to answer questions about their sexuality if they preferred not to do so.

“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“In the absence of any willingness to do this, funding has been withdrawn.”

The withdrawal of the funding has caused outrage amongst supporters of the care home and the Christian community, as he grant was to be used to support a warden at the home.

Phil Wainwright, director of human resources for Pilgrim Homes, said:

“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.”

His sentiments were echoes by chief executive of the charity Andrew Jessop.

He said: “The council has taken overzealousness to the extreme. People in their 90s are very vulnerable and shouldn’t be treated in this way.”

Following attempts to resolve the matter outside of the courts, Pilgrim Homes has now moved to take legal action for religious discrimination, supported financially by The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund.

Mike Judge of The Christian Institute said: “Brighton Council is displaying a very prejudiced and discriminatory attitude to the religious beliefs held by the elderly residents of the home run by Pilgrim Homes.

“After a lifetime of Christian service, these elderly men and women deserve to live in a restful environment which supports and nurtures their Christian faith.

“This case is the latest in a series of troubling incidents where the rights of Christians are seemingly being ignored in favour of ‘gay rights’.”