The problem with memory


images (229)According to David Cameron writing today in the Times, one of the solutions to help reduce the risk of extremism within our society is to offer English lessons to Muslim women. It is tragic that such a simple and basic approach needs to be reinvented, but when our Governments have a tendency to throw out all the bathwater and babies that they can find when they are elected, perhaps we should simply accept that there will be a constant churn of important ideas, just because it helps make politicians feel better and gives them something to write about every 5 years. Apparently last Summer Cameron asked Louise Casey what he should do about extremism, and today he writes announcing that he will provide £20M to help with this solution. About 10 years ago I was part of a small committee that met regularly in East Sussex to determine the best ways of improving social integration in the County. This came as a result of higher levels of immigration from within and outside of the EU. We met along with the County Council, Sussex Police and the voluntary sector and one of the solutions we identified was to assist adult females, based at home to learn English. This is an approach that has all sorts of benefits, but it is not easy to create provide such lessons, when so many of the people concerned have few friends outside of their homes, and communicate with the rest of society, primarily through their children. One of the shocking elements was how many women had lived in the UK for decades and not had the opportunity to gain any basic English language skills. Its an obvious statement but if you can’t speak the language, you don’t know what is on offer! Our group worked with modest resources, but ultimately by accessing funds from the Government to put on the language sessions, we made slow progress. However sometimes slow progress is better than no progress at all, particularly when dealing with deep rooted and protracted issues. What is far worse than slow progress is when incoming Governments decide that funding streams and approaches that they don’t understand should be stopped, just because they don’t take the time to check them out. I wrote about that problem here. It has taken this Government 5 years to repeal their own decision to cancel previous funding, sadly there are probably no civil servants left in a position to remind David Cameron that he is refilling a bath tub he personally emptied in 2010. The need to provide these lessons for all women who cannot speak English, not just Muslim women is paramount. It has long been a failure of all Governments to understand that because we have a group of terrorists coming from one particular community, that it is this community that needs our attention in a way that isolates them still further. There are major issues with any resident of the UK not understanding English, access to healthcare and other services is dependent on some grasp of the language. That is not a matter confined to one community over any others.

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About ianchisnall

I have a passion to see public policy made accessible everyone who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as in policies on health services and strategic planning.
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