UK Hindu population to be studied
For the first time, the British government is sponsoring a research project aimed at exploring and understanding the issues and aspirations of the country's Hindu population.
The research, part of the Connecting British Hindus Research Programme, is to be jointly conducted by the Hindu Forum of Britain and the respected social research organisation, the Runnymede Trust. The question of British Hindu identity will also be explored.
The areas to be focused on during the research are: access to public services, education, health, employment, funding, regeneration, integration, cohesion and equal opportunities.
The research will include countrywide consultation to seek the views of Hindus through focus group meetings, online questionnaires and phone surveys.
The findings of the research will be released by the Home Office later this year and distributed to public service agencies, government departments, local councils and other stakeholder groups to help them in planning community provision, the Hindu Forum of Britain said.
The forum said: "Hindu-led voluntary and community organisations have struggled to deliver tailored services to the community and, moreover, a legacy of inequality and stereotyping has left the Hindu community isolated and with a limited capacity to engage with other communities or to address their own problems.
"As a result of this and the constant demand from Hindu organisations and community leaders from across the UK, the Home Office commissioned this project".
According to the forum, the areas of concern in the Hindu community are:
* Issues of generational gaps which discourage young Hindus from playing an active role in voluntary organisations. There are also issues surrounding their identity, 'Britishness' and links to their countries of origin or those of their forebears.
* Issues surrounding women's health, careers, education, equal opportunities, domestic violence, divorce and single parent families need to be understood. Often community infrastructures do not exist to deal with many of these pressing concerns.
* Caregivers from the Hindu community face a number of myths and stereotypes about their roles within the family, and patients and the caregivers (carers) are not accommodated in the formal system of care because it is often felt that for Hindus these services are either inaccessible or inappropriate to their culture specific needs.
* Voluntary organisations within the Hindu community are often the only source of support and provide extremely useful services to the community but they suffer from a lack of resources. As a result, Hindu groups often remain unable to participate in or influence decisions directly affecting them.
Paul Goggins, Home Office minister for communities, said: "The Home Office is delighted to support the Connecting British Hindus Research Programme. It is important to empower communities to undertake such research projects because they are most likely to understand issues within their communities.
"We look forward to the findings to be released by the Hindu Forum of Britain and Runnymede Trust later this year. Projects like these add to the Home Office goal of building safe, just and cohesive communities where people from all faiths can live together as active citizens."
Forum secretary general Ramesh Kallidai said: "Although community organisations have an understanding of the range of issues and problems faced by Hindus, there has been no credible in-depth research conducted with a view to identifying priority areas for government engagement.
"Unless the government has credible data and information collected and analysed about the community, giving due importance to regional variations and cultural diversity within the community itself, it will be difficult to allocate resources in the future in a manner that will be effective, productive and beneficial to the grassroots community."
Robert Berkeley, deputy director of the Runnymede Trust, added: "There is very little evidence about the experiences and needs of Hindu community groups and organisations and so alongside the e-survey the project is engaging with members of Hindu communities across the country through Focus groups in London, Leicester, Birmingham and Preston, telephone interviews as well as reviews of existing research."
The Hindu Forum of Britain claims a membership of over 270 Hindu organisations from different regions and cultural backgrounds in Britain.