More questions than answers in Chuka Umunna-led integration report

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Runnymede's new Policy Officer Kimberly McIntosh dissects the latest report on integration - this one released by cross party MPs - and outlines areas where more attention is needed

Click here to watch Runnymede's Consultant Researcher Dr. Zubaida Haque debate the report's findings with Chuka Umunna MP on Channel 4 News last week.

Runnymede found that there were more questions raised than answers found in last week's interim report from the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on Social Integration led by Chuka Umunna MP. The report iscentred on six principles (see page 5 of the report), and some recommendations are welcome, but moreclarity is needed on what they would look like in practice.

Welcome news
The inquiry suggested that the government creates a national integration strategy, which can be tailored to be responsive to local needs. This strategy should acknowledge that integration is a ‘two-way’ street - everyone is responsible for creating a cohesive society, the white majority included. This is a welcome break from the Casey Review, which faced widespread criticism for its undue focus on the South Asian and Muslim communities.

Equally, the strategy should outline how anti-discrimination and equalities legislation can be used to aid integration and assess migrants’ access to employment. This is vital - work by race equality organisations, including Runnymede, has shown that employment opportunities and robust anti-discrimination laws are the most effective integration measures.

Show me the money

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), was given a lot of attention in the report, as an important lever to aid integration. We wholeheartedly support increased funding for ESOL classes that are flexible and can fit around unsociable working hours. However, ESOL classes faced a real terms cut by the Skills Funding Agency last year.  It seems unlikely that the government would commit to funding compulsory ESOL for all new migrants via an Integration Impact Fund.

Similarly, it may not be viable for local authorities to have a duty to promote integration and draw up local integration plans. The repeated cuts and pressures on local authority budgets have been well documented, with many struggling to process the increase in hate crime. It is unclear how they would be able to deliver this strategy without increased funding.

Regional migration policy: a cause for concern
The proposed regionally-led migration approach is concerning. At face value it’s a good idea – giving local authorities control over migration could make them more responsive to local economic and social needs. In practice, the unintended consequences could be wide ranging. Without more detail, it leaves us with more questions than answers. Would a migrant’s visa be tied to one location only? Could they live in a neighbouring county and commute to work? Would they need permission to apply for a promotion in another part of the country? And aside from visa-related bureaucracy, how would government ensure the system was not open to discriminatory abuse? The inquiry notes that areas with a low number of migrants tend to be more hostile towards migration, while the opposite is true of areas like London. It is likely a regional policy would encourage prejudice to triumph over logic, with immigration virtually banned in the areas that need it the most economically.

What’s missing?

Settled communities, both established ethnic minorities and the white majority, are barely mentioned in the report. Established ethnic minority communities still face significant inequalities in employment and education. It is essential that these groups are included in the proposed national integration strategy going forward. And if integration is really a two-way street, then the white majority should be given more space in the report too.  

Click here to download the full report from the APPG on Social Integration (Jan 2017)

Click here to download the government-approved review on integration by Dame Louise Casey

Follow Kimberly on Twitter: @McIntosh_Kim

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