Last week in a fanfare of publicity Louise Casey published her review into opportunity and integration. It has taken her over a year to produce the report and I have yet to fully read the 199 pages. Based on my initial look at it, I am not sure how well I could in any case summarise it, and many others have already begun to do so, emphasising its focus on Islam and certain ethnic issues. However there are some items which I have spotted as i have begun to read through it. Here is my first blog on the subject.
At the end of the Foreword Louise Casey writes:
“We have always been at our strongest when most united. We are better for being open and inclusive as a society. Every person, in every community, in every part of Britain, should feel part of our nation and have every opportunity to succeed in it. There can be no exceptions to that by gender, colour or creed. Those are our rights. Those are our values. That is our history. It must be our future too.”
I would like her to get the Government to endorse this short paragraph and then challenge its own members and Ministers whenever they speak or act in a way that diminishes this as a principled statement. It has the same ring to it as Theresa Mays speech when she first made her pitch to become Tory leader. Tragically her actions and those of her Government have deviated from this position far too far, far too quickly.
Then the report continues:
1.39 Youth programmes that engage young people in altruistic activities seem to be having some success in enabling teenagers from different backgrounds to mix, leading to greater understanding and tolerance, and reduced prejudice and anxiety. Evaluation from the National Citizen Service found that 84% of young people on the 2013 programme felt more positive towards people from different backgrounds following participation. But these are not yet on a scale that is sufficient to reach as many young people in our most isolated communities as we need to.
In the light of recent decisions by many Councils to cut funding for ongoing youth services and the large sums needed to enact the NCS which is an extremely short term programme this paragraph seems to require a bit more consideration. The funding for NCS appears as if by magic from ‘cash strapped’ central Government and it has yet to be assessed in terms of value for money as far as I know. In any case as the text suggests, it is mostly working with the easy to reach communities. I was Chair of a charity that participated in the early trials of NCS and we were one of the few pilots that really did bring together people from different communities. As a way forward NCS is far from sustainable and what is needed is meaningful funding for services that are currently being dismantled because local government is under no obligation to continue funding them.
1.47 There are 13.2 million people across the UK living on relatively low income….
If 25% of our population is under such great pressure, we really do have an enormous problem – what is going to be done about this?
1.68 …..The department responsible for integration policy spending more in 2011/12 and 2012/13 in promoting the Cornish language than the English language
I was part of some work in East Sussex to promote English lessons to people who did not speak it as their first language at around this time. The tragedy was that as we worked hard to focus on the communities concerned, the funding cuts from the Government made it impossible to continue. One hopes that the Government is willing to do something tangible to address this failure now! My concern is that they may simply put the review on an already dusty shelf!
The final element at least as far as this post is concerned is as follows. It seems to be a good place to end this first look at the Casey Review.
1.70 For the last 15 years Governments have commissioned many reviews of community cohesion and developed strategies to improve it. But these cohesion or integration plans have not been implemented with enough force or consistency, they have been allowed to be diluted and muddled, they have not been sufficiently linked to socio-economic inclusion, and communities have not been engaged adequately.