Mandelbrot set image very small
Serious writing for
serious readers
Follow @Mohammed_Amin
Join my
email list

Search this site

Custom Search
Mohammed Amin's website
Serious writing
for serious readers
Tap here for MENU

Integration in the UK and the Casey report

The Casey report on integration followed 18 months of detailed work. In my view, the report properly identifies some serious integration failings, and I broadly support its recommendations.


25 December 2016

As someone who has lived in the UK from the age of 1 ¾ as a member of a double minority (an ethnic minority and a religious minority), I regard integration as important. Some of my earlier writings about integration are linked lower down.

Integration is important for the overall health of the UK as a country. Even more fundamentally, integration is important for individual members of minorities, since a lack of integration impairs their prospects.

For some time, and especially since the riots in some northern towns in 2001, successive governments have been thinking about the meaning of integration, and how to advance it. The most recent major contribution is the report "The Casey Review: A review into opportunity and integration" by Dame Louise Casey DBE CB. This was published on 5 December, but it took me about a week to read the whole 199 page report.

My views on the report are set out in two pieces I wrote recently:

  1. On 17 December A short piece aimed at Indian readers for the Sunday Guardian, a newspaper published in India.
  2. On 19 December A slightly longer piece aimed at UK readers for Conservative Home.

I have reproduced both of them lower down on this page.

What is integration?

The Casey report discusses the meaning of integration in paragraphs 2.5 and 2.6 reproduced below:

2.5. Integration is a nebulous concept which resists a single definition or description. These vary with political and research focus; and often appear to refer to very separate processes and goals. Of some of the many definitions and descriptions in submissions to this review:

2.6. These are all useful perspectives. Drawing on what we have seen and heard during the review, we suggest integration is the extent to which people from all backgrounds can get on – with each other, and in enjoying and respecting the benefits that the United Kingdom has to offer, such as:

One key point which is often missed in public debate is that integration is not a binary issue. The question is not whether Britain as a whole, or particular communities, or particular individuals, are or are not integrated.

The question is to what extent are they integrated? More integration is generally considered as preferable to less integration as far as the cohesion of our society is concerned.

Casey's 12 recommendations

I strongly recommend reading the full report. However to help readers understand my two pieces below, I have reproduced the report's recommendations.

Build local communities’ resilience in the towns and cities where the greatest challenges exist, by:

  1. Providing additional funding for area-based plans and projects that will address the key priorities identified in this review, including the promotion of English language skills, empowering marginalised women, promoting more social mixing, particularly among young people, and tackling barriers to employment for the most socially isolated groups.
  2. Developing a set of local indicators of integration and requiring regular collection of the data supporting these indicators.
  3. Identifying and promoting successful approaches to integration.

Improve the integration of communities in Britain and establish a set of values around which people from all different backgrounds can unite, by:

  1. Attaching more weight to British values, laws and history in our schools.
  2. Considering what additional support or advice should be provided to immigrants to help them get off to the best start in understanding their rights and obligations and our expectations for integration.
  3. Reviewing the route to British citizenship and considering the introduction of an integration oath on arrival for immigrants intending to settle in Britain.

Reduce economic exclusion, inequality and segregation in our most isolated and deprived communities and schools, by:

  1. Working with schools providers and local communities to promote more integrated schools and opportunities for pupils to mix with others from different backgrounds.
  2. Developing approaches to help overcome cultural barriers to employment.
  3. Improving English language provision through funding for community-based classes and appropriate prioritisation of adult skills budgets.
  4. Improving our understanding of how housing and regeneration policies could improve integration or reduce segregation.
  5. Introducing stronger safeguards for children who are not in mainstream education, including those being home schooled.

Increase standards of leadership and integrity in public office, by:

  1. Ensuring that British values such as respect for the rule of law, equality and tolerance are enshrined in the principles of public life and developing a new oath for holders of public office.

Sunday Guardian: UK faces challenges of integration

Report shows heavy geographical concentration of British Muslims in small parts of the UK.

In July 2015, then Prime Minister David Cameron and then Home Secretary Theresa May (now Prime Minister) commissioned a senior civil servant, Dame Louise Casey DBE CB, to lead an enquiry into “opportunity and integration in some of our most isolated communities.” Her report, “The Casey Review: A review into opportunity and integration” was published by the UK’s Department of Communities and Local Government on 5 December 2016. 

The full 199-page document can be downloaded free from the UK government’s website. It contains a wealth of data and makes a number of policy recommendations. In appendices, it summarises some important past enquiries into integration in the UK, as well as looking at the approach of some other countries in Western Europe. It merits careful reading.

Since publication, many Muslim commentators have complained of an excessive focus on Britain’s Muslims. As a simple illustration, in the report there are 249 instances of the word Muslim(s), compared with only 22 instances of Hindu(s), 10 of Sikh(s) and 22 of Jew(s) or Jewish.

However, having read the full report, I consider that the extensive coverage of Muslims is warranted. The report contains large amounts of data showing the heavy geographical concentration of British Muslims in small parts of the country, which is much greater than the concentration of other faith communities. For example, of the 10 most religiously concentrated wards in the UK, nine are predominantly Muslim, while only one is predominantly Hindu.

The report states: “In total, by 2011 there were 42 wards across 16 local authorities where a minority faith or ethnic community had become a local majority of more than 50%...There were no wards in which any other single minority ethnic or faith group other than Pakistani, Indian or Bangladeshi ethnic groups or Muslim or Hindu faith groups exceeded 50% of the ward population, and only 1 where such concentration exceeded 40% (Kersal in Salford, with 41% of the population of Jewish faith).”

Accordingly, in ethnic terms the concentration issue primarily concerns Pakistanis, Indians, and Bangladeshis, and in ethnic terms primarily concerns Muslims and Hindus.

Like Dame Louise Casey, I consider such high concentrations to be a serious impediment to integration. If most of your interactions socially and at school are with others of the same faith and ethnic background, that severely narrows your perspectives and impedes your ability learning how to interact successfully with people who have a different background to your own. For example, I have met young people born in Britain who speak English with South Asian accents, because they have spent most of their lives within an “ethnic bubble”.

While the report contains voluminous data on the aggregate performance of groups such as British Muslims, and to a lesser extent Hindus and Sikhs, I could not see much, if any, disaggregation. The reality is that some groups of British Muslims (for example Ismaili Muslims) are, on average, very well educated and very successful in career terms, while other groups living in concentrated Northern communities are much less successful.

Similarly, there are major differences in outcomes between those who came to the UK from East Africa compared to those who came to the UK directly from the Indian subcontinent, and between those who came with existing education from large cities and those who came from the countryside with little prior education.

The report makes 12 recommendations. I welcome these, especially the emphasis on learning English, empowering marginalised groups of women, ensuring school pupils learn alongside those from other communities, and much tighter controls on home schooling which is often suspected of being used to circumvent the rules against unlicensed informal schools. 

It is disadvantaged communities, such as British Muslims, who have the most to gain from policies that successfully promote integration and advancement. Accordingly, I am disappointed by the negative reactions of some British Muslims, although it is always the critics who shout the loudest.

Mohammed Amin is Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, a voluntary grouping within the British Conservative Party. He is writing in a personal capacity.

Conservative Home: Complainers about the Casey report do Muslims no favours

Mohammed Amin MBE is Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum and Co-Chair of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester. He is writing in a personal capacity.

If you don’t speak our national language, it is you who suffers from being unable to communicate with your fellow citizens. If you don’t know our country’s history, it is you who is unable to understand how our country works today. If you cannot bond with your fellow citizens, it is you who cannot work effectively in teams, thereby impairing your employment prospects. Those prospects shrink further if your horizons are limited to a narrow geographical area close to where you live.

The biggest loser from your lack of integration is you, because you have chosen to limit your educational, employment, social, cultural, and even culinary possibilities. However, the rest of us also suffer from your lack of integration because the less you earn the less you contribute to our shared society.

Since integration is so important to our country, I was very pleased that in July 2015 the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary commissioned Louise Casey, to lead an enquiry into “opportunity and integration in some of our most isolated communities.”

The Casey Report

The 199-page report contains a wealth of data about Britain’s minority communities, looks at past reports on integration and also looks at comparative Western European experience.

Muslims feature heavily in the report, being mentioned 249 times, compared with only 22 for Hindus, 10 for Sikhs and 22 for Jews. That does not bother me. Most fundamentally, I care about the non-integration of Muslims because I am one myself, and it grieves me when other Muslims engage in behaviours that limit their life opportunities. (For the avoidance of doubt, I also care deeply about non-Muslims.)

As the report points out, residential concentration and reduced women’s labour force participation, inter alia, both affect Muslims far more than other minority communities.

There is however one key omission from the report. Perhaps because it relies heavily on surveys from other sources, none of the minority communities are disaggregated. Just as some Jews are well integrated and some are not, many Muslims are well integrated and very successful in society, while many others are not. Unless the reader is already aware of this bifurcation, he would be unlikely to pick it up from reading the report.

The final chapter contains 12 recommendations. While integration is a shared individual and governmental responsibility, I regard the recommendations as unobjectionable.

Responses from some Muslims

The Muslim Council of Britain issued what I regard as a holding response on the day of publication, but I cannot trace any later comments. Its original submission to the Casey Review makes some good points.

Conversely Sadia Habib’s piece looks as if it could have been written to confirm my existing prejudices about sociologists! The Guardian on the day of publication featured a number of quotes from Muslim organisations, most of them critical.

Numbers matter

Non-integration is of course found in other groups, not just among Muslims. There are Christian sects whose adherents want nothing to do with the rest of society, and similarly some Jewish groups are intensely segregated.

However, because Muslims are now 4.8 per cent of the country, and 9.1 per cent of everyone under the age of nine (statistics from the 2011 census for England and Wales), the number of non-integrated Muslims is far more significant than for other faith communities. Casey points out that of the ten most religiously concentrated wards in the UK, nine are predominantly Muslim, while just one is predominantly Hindu.

Government policy

Casey’s twelve recommendations are a good start. However, in my view there is much more that government can do.

Most state school educational segregation occurs as a result of people’s self-segregating residential patterns when combined with school place allocation policies that give overwhelming weight to residential proximity to the school. I would prohibit schools taking proximity into account when allocating places in the case of all pupils living within some specified distance from a school; say three miles (or if necessary a larger number) as the crow flies. Instead schools should, within that compass distance, be required to prioritise the duty to have a diverse pupil body.

When I was young, all TV in England was broadcast in English of course. That forced many people to absorb English just to watch TV. Today, the easy availability of foreign language satellite TV channels actively damages the English language skills of some members of ethnic minorities. Subject to any constraints from EU law, I would like to see all TV channels broadcasting to England in languages other than English pay an extra tax, to drive up subscription prices (or advertising rates); the tax revenues would help to pay for increased English language teaching.

The primary responsibility for integration of course rests with individuals themselves, since you are responsible for your own life. I will tackle that in a future piece.

Some of my earlier pieces on integration

I have often written about integration and community cohesion. Below is just a selection of some of my writings elsewhere on this website. They are not in any particular order.

Why is France doing so badly at integrating Muslims?
France, the USA and the UK are all liberal democracies which have seen significant Muslim immigration. While the UK and the USA face some challenges, overall Muslim integration in both countries has progressed well. However France lags behind. Secularism cannot be the explanation, since the US constitution is as secular as France's. In my view France's relative under-performance arises from refusal to accept that any change, no matter how minimal, is required of the French state.
My interview with Madrid newspaper "ABC" about integration and radicalisation
ABC is a leading Spanish newspaper to which I gave a written interview about Muslim integration and radicalisation. While the interview has been published in Spanish, I have set out the original English questions and answers on this website page. I explain why I think some young people are attracted by ISIS and how it can be prevented.
Review of "Mapping Integration" edited by David Goodhart
Integration poses challenges for many countries including the UK. The word "integration" itself has many contested meanings. The Demos think tank has been focusing on the issue and one output is this collection of short essays which is well worth reading. It is free to download.
Review of "How to talk about immigration" by Sunder Katwala, Steve Ballinger and Matthew Rhodes
Immigration is a key issue for most British voters, and much of the debate around it is highly polarised. This book is from British Future which is a think tank that believes in building a modern British identity and promoting integration. It is based upon detailed polling and focus group discussion and I regard it as a valuable contribution to the immigration debate.
Review of "Wandering Lonely in a Crowd" by SM Atif Imtiaz
This is a collection of the author's essays and speeches ranging over the nine years since 11 September 2001. In them the author gives a personal view what he calls "the Muslim condition in the West."
Review of "The Battle for British Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Identity from Extremism" by Sara Khan with Tony McMahon
The main author of this book, Sara Khan, has practical experience of preventing young people being radicalised. The book covers the main groups in the UK which promote an extreme and intolerant version of Islam and shows how the Government's Prevent programme has been systematically maligned by its opponents. It also profiles the many unsung heroes who are promoting an inclusive vision of Islam in Britain.
Why I wear a Union Jack lapel pin
It changes the way strangers see me, by silently asserting my patriotism.
"British values" and the Home Secretary's March 2015 speech on extremism
On 23 March 2015 Home Secretary Theresa May made a major speech on extremism proposing a number of measures to counter non-violent "Islamist extremism." I broadly support the proposed measures, and wrote a Conservative Home article saying so. However the text of the speech on the Home Office website has since been abridged and virtually all of the concrete proposals have disappeared. It appears that the proposals are contested within the present Government.
The Conservative Party, racial equality and national identity
My essay in the Demos publication "Are we there yet? A collection on race and Conservatism" edited by Max Wind-Cowie. I discuss the nature of race and the meaning of national identity, and how the Conservative Party has changed under David Cameron.
Building a cohesive society depends on you
A society is cohesive if its members belong to groups with many overlaps and linkages. Unfortunately the wrong Government actions can increase separateness. Instead government policy needs to focus on increasing cohesion. However the individual choices each of us makes every day are, if anything, even more important. Choosing to engage with people who differ from you will be more developing for you personally, and will also make society more cohesive.
Why it is vital to learn history
An individual's memories give him his identity. Similarly a nation is held together by its collective memories of the past. That makes history a vital subject to study at school, and afterwards. If a people forget their history, or never learn it, they stop being one nation and become just a random collection of individuals who happen to live in the same country.
What makes us a nation?
Having a "Prayer for the Nation" presupposes that we know what a nation is. There are some simple requirements for becoming one nation. I used this as my "Thought for the Week" on BBC Radio Manchester. Very briefly, we become a nation from our sense of shared history, from thinking of all citizens as part of our extended family, and from only using the word "Us" to refer to all Britons.


The Disqus comments facility below allows you to comment on this page. Please respect others when commenting.
You can login using any of your Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or Disqus identities.
Even if you are not registered on any of these, you can still post a comment.

comments powered by Disqus


Follow @Mohammed_Amin

Tap for top of page