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:
I have reproduced both of them lower down on this page.
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:
- Professor Ted Cantle puts forward the idea of “‘living together’ – in which we share a sense of belonging; build acceptance of (most) common values and behaviours; use a common language to communicate: develop our personal intercultural confidence/competence and religious literacy; and become comfortable with difference and plurality”.
- Professor Eric Kaufmann (Birkbeck College, University of London) promotes a concept of “multivocalism, something qualitatively distinct from both multiculturalism and the current policy of civic nationalism. This recognises that in allowing diverse people to attach to Britain in their own way, we strengthen, rather than weaken, British identity”.
- The Runnymede Trust focuses on economic development, suggesting that government policies on integration should give “priority to tackling the concentration of poverty in both people and places”.
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:
- our values of democracy, fairness, the rule of law, freedom of speech, inclusiveness, tolerance and equality between citizens regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or sexuality;
- the opportunities and security that come from a good education, access to a strong labour market with a guaranteed minimum wage, and a welfare state that includes the National Health Service and support for people when they fall on hard times or are vulnerable; and
- our institutions, norms and idiosyncrasies – from the Monarchy and the BBC to queuing and talking about the weather, loving and hating all these things at once - which, while identifiable as quintessentially British, we refuse to have written down, fixed or imposed on us but in which we take great pride.
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.
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:
Improve the integration of communities in Britain and establish a set of values around which people from all different backgrounds can unite, by:
Reduce economic exclusion, inequality and segregation in our most isolated and deprived communities and schools, by:
Increase standards of leadership and integrity in public office, by:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.