Two mothers who were kicked out of a council-funded playgroup spoke of their humiliation today after being told the group was for immigrant families only.
Emma Knightley, 25, and Kimberley Wildman, 27, turned up at the ‘Making Links’ playgroup with their children Imogen, 21 months, and Olivia, 18 months.
But they were stunned when organisers at the centre in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, ordered them to leave after demanding to know ‘what country are you from?’
The best friends were told that only foreign mothers and their children are welcome at the council-funded playgroup–which they have accused of discrimination.
Shop worker Emma, who lives in St Neots, booked a place at the playgroup six weeks ago after it was recommended by a mixed-race friend.
She said: ‘The first thing I was asked about was my nationality and when I said I was British I was told we had to leave.
‘She said are you not aware this is for foreign people only?
‘I said I knew it was trying to integrate people into the community but didn’t realise that meant British people and their children were banned.
‘I felt humiliated. It shouldn’t matter what nationality you are we shouldn’t be discriminated against.
‘You wouldn’t get away with a British-only mum and children’s group.
‘We want to welcome other nations to the community but turning British people away is not the way to do this.’
Trainee midwife Kimberley, also from St Neots, chose the group because it was free–whereas other groups in the area charged £2.
She said: ‘They asked me what race I was and I said British. They said I couldn’t come in. It’s ridiculous.
‘Surely if this group is about making links in the community they should let all people in, regardless of race or nationality.
‘It’s a real shame. I want my children to play with children from other races and integrate in the community because that stops discrimination.
‘I can’t believe we were discriminated against because we are British.’
Making Links, which is based at the Priory Centre in the town, is funded by a £1,000 annual grant from St Neots Town Council.
The community group is staffed by church volunteers and also receives money from the Co-operative community development fund and the Open Door Church in St Neots.
According to Making Links’ website the group ‘seeks to operate in the spirit of the Commission for Racial Equality’.
Its targets include: ‘bringing communities together and facilitating interaction between them’.
The website claims about 50 women attend the weekly sessions every Thursday.
It adds: ‘Making Links frees them from feelings of isolation, helps them build multicultural friendships and empowers them with knowledge about the local community.
‘Thus Making Links presents a friendly St Neots face to people who might otherwise be outsiders.’
Roger Owen, administrator for Making Links, said that the group is not a ‘typical’ playgroup and is funded entirely for women from other nationalities.
He said: ‘We believe there are plenty of other alternatives for British mothers in the town.
‘We have had an issue with men turning up before and back then we told them the group is strictly for mothers so it’s nothing to do with racial discrimination.’
According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission website, under the Equality Act 2010 it is not unlawful to set up a group especially for a particular ethnic or national group.
Under the act discrimination based on colour is unlawful.
No-one from St Neots Town Council was available for comment.