Service providers in Western welfare states have to engage with an increasingly differentiated citizenry. The arrival of new migrant communities triggers debates, negotiations and struggles over the needs of these communities and how service providers can engage with them. In this paper, we look at these processes of developing local social inclusion policies that target migrant communities through the perspective of Nancy Fraser's ‘politics of need interpretation’. More specifically, we analyse Roma engagement strategies in Manchester. We do so by reconstructing how the presence of Romanian Roma emerged as a public issue leading to various engagement strategies and how different actors competed over the interpretation of the needs of the Roma community and the best ways to respond to them. We use Fraser's notion of ‘parity of participation’ to draw attention to the position of the Roma community itself in the process of interpreting needs.