Integration studies rarely analyse how and why people migrate
Dame Louise Casey has today published a report into integration between ethnic groups and community cohesion on behalf of the government, following a year-long review taking in many parts of the UK.
The report calls on government 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.
The report is critical of the Home Office for a lack of strategy in attempting to integrate new immigrants into communities across Britain.
Dame Louise, who is also director general of the government’s discredited Troubled Families scheme, identifies areas which are struggling to cope with the level of change immigration brings. She also identifies large social and economic gaps between different ethnic groups that hold many BME people back from achieving their full potential.
Some commentators have questioned the Casey approach and the interpretation of community cohesion issues as meaningful in any practical sense.
Parveen Akhtar, a social worker in my home city of Birmingham, summarised what she thinks is wrong with such studies, as reported in the Guardian:
“These studies are not a true representation of what is actually happening in society…They come here [to Birmingham], go to the worst areas and then tell their bosses they have seen a trend and write a report which gets into the papers and creates even more hostility for us”.
How, when and why people migrated to the UK is often left out of the analysis of the nature of community cohesion. The same is true of how ethnic disadvantage and racism in housing contributed to the geographical distribution of migrant communities and the subsequent neighbourhood form.
For example, BME people are much more likely to live in the inner areas of cities in the Midlands and the North, as well as in London. Such migratory patterns were determined by access to housing, or where work could be found, and later by a need for new migrants to be near established BME communities; especially in terms of access to cultural and faith institutions.
Of the 32,844 neighbourhoods in England, using Office of National Statistics boundaries, almost one in five have at least a 25 per cent BME community, and approaching one in 20 are majority BME neighbourhoods. However, the limited concentration of BME communities is striking.
In London, the boroughs with majority BME populations are Brent (with 115 BME majority neighbourhoods), Newham (with 115), Tower Hamlets (61), Ealing (53), Redbridge (52), Croydon (43), Hounslow (42), Harrow (38), Lambeth (31), Southwark (33), Waltham Forest (30), Hackney (29), Haringey (28), Lewisham (23), and Barnet (9). Other local authorities in the south-east with significant numbers of majority BME neighbourhoods are Slough (24) and Luton (19).
Outside London, the main local authorities with large numbers of BME majority neighbourhoods include Birmingham (153), Leicester (52), Bradford (52), Sandwell (20), Manchester (19), Wolverhampton (19), Kirklees (17), Blackburn (16), Oldham (13), Bolton (9), Sheffield (9), Walsall (9), Coventry (7), Leeds (7) Rochdale (7), Calderdale (6), and Burnley (4).
Casey is right that these communities need help to enhance their quality of life and to boost their life chances. However, the focus should be more on tackling economic disadvantage, social isolation and the role of women than on any questionable geographical or cultural segregation.
Kevin Gulliver is Director of Birmingham-based research charity the Human City Institute, writing in a personal capacity. Follow him on Twitter @kevingulliverSign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.
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