Immigration policy needs to focus on building cohesive communities

Instead of dog-whistling, David Cameron should be helping local government manage the impacts of migration.

Instead of dog-whistling, David Cameron should be helping local government manage the impacts of migration

David Cameron’s Telegraph article yesterday on curbing benefit payments has already been criticised as bad policy. It is a re-announcement of an existing policy commitment to restrict out-of-work benefit payments to three months for EU nationals who have are not permanently settled in the UK.

Very few EU nationals will be affected – perhaps less than 10,000 people – as most come to the UK to work or to study.

Aware that UKIP still poses a threat to the Tories, the Cameron article appears to be pure dog-whistling. In the long-term such an approach gets us nowhere. It does nothing to address public concerns about immigration, nor build public trust in the ability of politicians to manage immigration.

In the run up to a general election, mainstream parties need to give greater consideration to building cohesive communities that

All analysis suggests that over the next 50 years immigration into the UK and to western Europe is unlikely to decrease substantially. There will be ups and downs, but it is likely that immigration will be maintained at about its current levels. The drivers of migration such as income inequalities, unemployment and, conversely, skill shortages will remain in place.

Moreover, both the OECD and the UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility have concluded that there will be skills shortages and pressures on public finances if net migration into the UK falls significantly.

The Office for Budget Responsibility latest fiscal sustainability report suggest that a ‘low immigration’ futures scenario where net migration is around 105,000 per year will result in “more old people, fewer working age people and the same number of young people, which means that the working age population is smaller relative to the non-working age population. This means that the projected population structure is now somewhat less favourable to the public finances.”

In summary, migration is unlikely to decrease substantially. The policy challenge, therefore, is to help communities manage this aspect of population change.

Regrettably there are few policy proposals from any mainstream political party that address community cohesion. Previous Labour governments did give consideration to this issue. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 obliged public bodies to promote good community relations, as well as ensuring equality of opportunity. In 2006 the Labour government set up the Independent Commission on Integration and Social Cohesion, whose report, Our Shared Future, came up with a number of proposals that aimed to help communities manage migration

The government’s own Community Life Survey shows that in some parts of Britain, relations between new migrants and longer settled residents are reasonably good. Policy makers need to learn from these successful examples of integration.

Research shows that two factors are important in helping neighbourhoods manage tensions associated with migration. First, there needs to be enough spaces and places where migrants and longer-settled residents can meet and interact: meaningful social contact does much to dispel concerns about migration and to humanise a group that is portrayed in the media as a faceless, marginalised and demarcated ‘other’.

Even very fleeting contact – a smile or a brief conversation – can promote good relations if it contributes to a culture of hospitality and living together. Spaces where people meet and mix include neighbourhood streets, workplaces, educational institutions, parks, markets, community centres, pubs and cafes, civil society organisations and informal associative circles.

But many factors can act to limit this meaningful social contact, particularly residential mobility and social segregation caused by housing, employment and education policy. We are unlikely to feel comfortable about migration if we do not meet migrants at work, in our neighbourhoods or at school and college. Public policy needs to address factors such as population churn in areas with large proportions of private rental accommodation, as well as ensuring that institutions such as schools and children’s centres are representative of their local communities.

The qualities of local political leadership is another attribute that helps build good community relations. Local leadership is important in relation to the messages that it sends out about migration, as well as policy and planning to deal with sources of tension. Problems such as school place shortages or poor quality rental accommodation can easily be blamed on migrants, and failing to address these issues can worsen community relations.

Instead of dog-whistling, David Cameron should be helping local government manage the impacts of migration.

Jill Rutter is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward. Her book on integration and social cohesion will be published by Policy Press in 2015

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17 Responses to “Immigration policy needs to focus on building cohesive communities”

  1. itdoesntaddup

    It’s at least as important to break up the immigrant ghettoes and their ghetto mentality as to ensure that the existing population get to meet immigrants – most of them do already, and mostly they are accepting of those they know – but not of those who remain ghettoised and unintegrated by their own choice.

    Not sure that large scale immigration is necessarily inevitable. It would be perfectly possible for significant emigration by retirees to reduce the local demand for services to support them. In any event, historic assumptions about needs are almost certain to be proven wrong.

  2. Guest

    So…make it illegal for “types” of people to live in some areas. Make it illegal to talk to people like you. Send in your “police” to break heads if they dare, etc.

    People are clustering more than ever *because* of the threat of your far right.

  3. Leon Wolfeson

    I can’t see how this is legal in the current form – sooner or later, it’ll be applied to all UK nationals.

  4. itdoesntaddup

    Precisely the opposite of what is needed. Trust a bigot like you to think of it.

  5. Dave Roberts

    Another article that makes we want to reach for my pistol, Anything on immigration, ” social cohesion” and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets must, it seems, contain the phrase ” Dog Whistle” somewhere. That phrase is now almost a guarantee, and certainly was in this case, that the article is bogus and will not stand up to scrutiny, let us begin.

    Ms Rutter starts off with a Telegraph article which she objects to and then claims that it as been criticised as ” bad policy”. It has, on this blog, by James Bloodworth and, as far as I know, nowhere else except the really loony left. So no criticisms really then.

    We then progress to reports by the OECD and The Office for Budget Responsibility. An actual reading of these reports, which clearly hasn’t been done, shows that there are concerns about a lack of skills in certain areas. There is no support for an open door policy on immigration which Ms Rutter is clearly arguing for. No other interpretation can be be put on her diatribe. To say that she is being disingenuous is to be kind, there is another four letter word that I could use but, being a gentleman, will not.

    Support for her open doors policy is further claimed from ” independent” organisations. These turn out to be the Commission on Integration and Social Cohesion and the Joseph Rowntree Trust. The first I have never heard of until today and I assume that it is another well financed scam like the gone but unlamented Commission for Racial Equality.

    The JRT has given millions over the years to spurious race equality groups and even funded a series of ” visionaries” including the lady that ” General” Lee Jasper wanted to ” honey glaze”.

    I will buy Ms Rutter’s book when it is remaindered, which shouldn’t be long. In the meanwhile could I recommend ” The British Dream” by David Goodart and ” The Diversity Illusion” by Ed West. Enjoy.

  6. Dave Roberts

    What will?

  7. Leon Wolfeson

    I see you’re spewing more nonsense because you can’t read English. Go back to Monarco!

  8. Guest

    I’m talking about what YOU called for. So, you just admitted you’re a bigot AND are trying to have exactly the opposite of what’s needed.

    No surprise there.

  9. Guest

    Yada yada every view other than yours is propaganda, as you link propaganda anti-99% tracts, designed to justify cutting off trade and preventing the 99% from travelling.

    The reality is you can’t come up with any good economic reason (the studies match reality, funny that!) so we should retain trade and free movement.

    That you are against social cohesion, that you want a civil war…

  10. Dave Roberts

    You may not agree with what I say Guest, and clearly you don’t, but I can’t respond unless you have an, at least, semi coherent argument. I would argue that claiming I want a civil war doesn’t really fall into tat category.

  11. Dave Roberts

    It’s spelled Monaco and I actually live most of the time in Spain although at the moment I am back in the Tower Hamlets I was born in, although it was the Metropolitan Borough of Stepney then. You really are thick Leon

  12. Leon Wolfeson

    Oh, so you’re leeching off the UK now, foreigner. This magically makes me “thick”. Look, I wasn’t the one here who gave up his UK passport to evade tax.

  13. itdoesntaddup

    I can’t help it if our comprehension skills are lacking. Ghettos effectively ban non-members from living among them, so if you support their continuation you are the one supporting making it de facto impossible for people to live in those areas. Those who live in ghettos tend to fear your left hook, I think. The far right is (fortunately) an insignificant and weak force, easily outflanked. But perhaps real integration of immigrant communities is something you’d fight against, as a small minority of them do already.

  14. Guest

    You’re blaming me for your issues, right. And there are none of those by your definitions, so good. I don’t support your plans for them, and no, I don;’t go around punching people (again, unlike you) so nobody “fears” that.

    Keep talking down your far right’s rising violence, as you call for real breakups and violence directed at immigrants – I’ll fight to *defend Humans*, a concept literally foreign to you. The violence is FROM your far right TO normal people.

  15. Guest

    You can’t respond with anything but “I don’t understand English” anyway. And your attempts to cause a civil war are transparent, foreigner.

    Keep slinging out the tat though.

  16. Dave Roberts

    I pay tax in the UK and Spain because I have companies and employees in both countries.

  17. Leon Wolfeson

    No, see, employees paying tax is not the same as *you* paying tax. Also, minimum wage employees pay little tax and are heavily subsidised by the state.

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