The Government will work with five local authorities to develop integration plans as it develops a national strategy for England, it has announced today.
Whitehall plans to learn from what does and does not work in Blackburn with Darwen Council, Bradford and Peterborough city councils, Walsall MBC and Waltham Forest LBC before sharing the lessons more widely as its integrated communities strategy develops.
However, communities secretary Sajid Javid has pointed out that integration challenges were ‘not uniform throughout the country, with different areas and communities having varying needs’.
The five councils were chosen because they have ‘already demonstrated a keen grasp of the challenges they face, and shown a desire to try new things and learn from what works’.
Some £50m will be committed to the new strategy over the next two years and a green paper seeking views on a series of proposals has been published today.
The Government said the ‘ambitious, long-term plan of action’ would ‘tackle the root causes of poor integration and create a stronger, more united Britain’ by boosting English language skills, increasing opportunities for women and promoting British values in education.
It comes more than a year after Dame Louise Casey’s Government-commissioned report on integration described a Britain ‘frayed at the edges,’ and called on pockets of isolated communities to speak English, swear an oath to the UK and get involved in the wider community.
The Government has proposed a new strategy to promote adoption of the English language across all communities, including a new community-based programme, a network of conversation clubs and support for local authorities to improve the provision of tuition for those who need it most.
Dame Louise had stressed the importance of English language lessons to help immigrants integrate within British society in her report.
But chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on integration, Chuka Umunna, claimed that between 2008 and 2015 funding for English speakers of other languages had fallen by 50%.
He said the country faced a 'national crisis when it comes to integration,' adding: 'More work and funding is needed if we are to see real benefits.
'Action must be locally-led, but it's disappointing that this strategy only focuses on five areas.
'We want to see a further rollout in the coming years.'
The strategy also called on leaders in local government to ensure all services have a ‘strong focus on integration’.
It also plans to support recent migrants integrate into the community, improve communities’ ability to adapt to migration and manage pressures on local services, and come up with new measures to empower marginalised women.
Mr Javid said: ‘Britain can rightly claim to be one of the most successful diverse societies in the world, but we cannot ignore the fact that in too many parts of our country communities are divided, preventing people from taking full advantage of the opportunities that living in modern Britain offers.
‘Successive governments have refused to deal with the integration challenges we face head on, preferring to let people muddle along and live isolated and separated lives.
‘We will put an end to this through our new strategy, which will create a country that works for everyone - whatever their background and wherever they come from.’