Immigrants should take an “oath of integration” on arrival into the UK a new report suggests, amid claims society is becoming diverse and divided.
Dame Louise Casey – who was brought in by former Prime Minister David Cameron to report on social integration amid concerns at the numbers of young Britons being radicalised and joining Islamic State – is calling for more to be done to bridge divides between people and bind communities together, including more emphasis on teaching British values in school.
Her review finds that, with the country experiencing rapid population change, there are still large social and economic gaps between ethnic groups; ethnic segregation is increasing in some areas and women in some communities are suffering from huge inequalities.
Following a year-long review into integration and opportunity in isolated communities, she has called for a major new Government programme to help:
* empower all communities to take advantage of modern Britain’s economic opportunities;
* provide more English language classes for isolated groups;
* encourage young people to mix in schools and across communities;
* secure women’s emancipation in communities where they are being held back by regressive cultural practices.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said he would study the findings “closely”.
Dame Louise, a former deputy director of homelessness charity Shelter, argues for a “spirit of compassion and kindness” in the face of escalating division and tensions in society.
Commissioned by the government in 2015, the review has seen Dame Louise and her team travel across the country to meet more than 800 people in their communities, including public servants, religious representatives, teachers, pupils and local leaders. The review has also taken into consideration more than 200 submissions from think tanks, community groups, academics and others.
She concludes that, while Britain has benefited hugely from immigration and the increased ethnic and religious diversity it has brought, nowhere near enough emphasis has been put on integration in communities to match the pace and scale of the population change.
Dame Louise says she has spoken to some communities who have told her the pace of change has been “too much” for them to deal with.
And she has found some communities are becoming more divided, at the same time as Britain becomes a more diverse nation overall.
She says this division between communities has led to poorer social and economic opportunities for some groups.
She highlights persistent gender inequalities causing women to suffer in some communities – ranging from poor English language skills and economic inactivity to coercive control, violence and criminal acts of abuse, often in the name of cultural or religious values.
Dame Louise says: “Social integration is about closing the gaps that exist between people and communities. This report has found those gaps exist in terms of where people live, but also in terms of the lives they lead and the opportunities they have to succeed. So it is about how we get on in life, as well as how we get along with each other.
“To help bind Britain together and tackle some of the division in our society we need more opportunities for those from disadvantaged communities, particularly women, and more mixing between people from different backgrounds.
“We need more effort to be put into integration policies to help communities cope with the pace and scale of immigration and population change in recent years. But we also need more of a spirit of unity, compassion and kindness that brings people together under our common British values of tolerance, democracy, equality and respect.”
Dame Louise’s recommendations include:
* Central government should support a new programme to help improve community cohesion;
* Improve the integration of communities in Britain and establish a set of values around which people from different backgrounds can unite
* The promotion of British laws, history and values within the core curriculum in all schools would help build integration, tolerance, citizenship and resilience in our children. More weight should be attached to a British Values focus and syllabus in developing teaching skills and assessing schools performance.
* The Government should review the route to full British Citizenship, which is of huge national, cultural and symbolic value. The Government should look at what is required for British citizenship, as opposed to leave to remain, and separately consider an Oath of Integration with British Values and Society on arrival, rather than awaiting a final citizenship test.
* The Government should build on classes to tackle English language deficiencies with the development of classes to tackle cultural barriers born out of segregation which are identified as a barrier to work, supporting both employment and integration goals.
* The Government should support further targeted English Language provision by making sufficient funding available for community-based English language classes
* The Government should work with local government to understand how housing and regeneration policies could improve or inhibit integration locally, and promote best practice approaches.
* The Government should step up the safeguarding arrangements for children who are removed from mainstream education, and in particular those who do not commence mainstream schooling at all.
Mr Javid said Britain “has long been home to lots of different cultures and communities”, but “all of us have to be part of one society”.
Mr Javid said: “While it’s right we celebrate the positive contribution diverse groups make to British life, we also need to continue making sure nobody is excluded from it or left behind.
“To do that, we need to take a serious look at the facts and must not shy away from the challenges we face.
“Dame Louise’s report is a valuable contribution, and I will be studying her findings closely.”