William Eichler 10 May 2016

Councils urged to take a more ‘active’ approach to integration

Local authorities should publish annual measures of residential segregation as part of a ‘more muscular’ approach to managing ethnic and religious diversity, a new Civitas report argues.

The pamphlet, entitled Race and Faith: The Deafening Silence, warns a ‘laissez-faire’ approach to differences in and between communities is ‘dangerously misguided’ and risks allowing the country to ‘sleepwalk to a catastrophe’.

Authored by ex-equalities chief Trevor Phillips, the report says a reluctance to accept that certain values and practices exhibited by some groups can present a serious challenge to integration has led to a complacent approach to integration.

‘The typical response of Britain’s political and media elite confronted with awkward facts has been evasion, because – we say – talking about these issues won’t solve the problem; instead, it will stigmatise vulnerable minority groups,’ he wrote.

‘Any attempt to ask whether aspects of minority disadvantage may be self-inflicted is denounced as “blaming the victim”. Instead, we prefer to answer any difficult questions by focusing on the historic prejudices of the dominant majority. In short, it’s all about white racism.’

This, Phillips argues, is ‘dangerously misguided’, and he calls on social liberals to make a decision: ‘Do we stand by our fundamental values at the risk of offending others; or should our desire to preserve social unity be allowed to compromise much of the social progress of the past half century?’

We are living in an era of ‘superdiversity’, i.e. there are more different groups of people in Britain than ever before, and so, Phillips contends, there needs to be a shift away from ‘organic integration’ towards a policy of ‘active integration’.

He wrote: ‘It is my view that the British tradition of “organic” integration no longer meets the needs of our society. To continue to pursue it will lead to division and conflict, and undermine both equality and solidarity.

‘In place of our laissez-faire attitude to integration, I believe we need something more directive and more muscular.’

He suggests a number of ways to do this. There should be a duty placed on institutions to promote integration and a convergence of behaviour among staff (by, for example, ensuring English is the standard working language).

Schools should also be required to demonstrate they are giving their pupils experience of the diversity of society. Phillips says this would bring an end to the ‘ethnic takeover’ of state schools, such as that seen in Birmingham.

He also recommends local authorities should be required to publish annual measures of residential segregation, which might become a formal consideration in decisions about new developments.

Read our feature on how local authorities can best respond to demographic changes and rising levels of migration.

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