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Government publishes green paper on its integrated communities strategy

Date of Publication: 
26 March 2018

New strategy welcomed by Refugee Council, but Refugee Action warns more funding is needed for English courses

Government publishes green paper on its integrated communities strategy

26 March 2018

The Government on 14 March published a green paper outlining its long-term strategy for achieving greater integration between communities in the UK. It can be downloaded here.

In the foreword to the green paper, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, said: "In too many parts of the country, communities are now divided. This reduces opportunities for people to mix with others from different backgrounds, allows mistrust and misunderstanding to grow, and prevents those living in isolated communities from taking advantage of the opportunities that living in Britain offers.

"This government has an ambitious goal: to build strong integrated communities where people - whatever their background - live, work, learn and socialise together, based on shared rights, responsibilities and opportunities. This strategy sets out how we plan to do so."

English language skills are at the heart of the new strategy, with the Government saying it wants to promote adoption of the English language across all communities in England, including a new community-based English language programme, a new network of conversation clubs, and support for local authorities to improve the provision of English language tuition for those who need it most.

BBC News noted that other proposals in the integration strategy included:

  • Targeted help to improve the economic opportunities for people - particularly women - in segregated communities
  • Schemes to encourage school pupils to form lasting relationships with those from different backgrounds
  • Increased take up of the National Citizen Service - a project launched by then-PM David Cameron which sees groups of 16 and 17-year olds carry out community projects
  • Promoting British values in the school curriculum

The Refugee Council said it welcomed the green paper, especially its acknowledgement that refugees who have come through the UK asylum system need better support to enable them to integrate in the UK and that important improvements need to be made in this area.

Maurice Wren, Chief Executive at the Refugee Council, said: "We are pleased that the Government is addressing the very serious problems faced by newly recognised refugees in the UK. For years the Government has been made aware of a wealth of research showing that these refugees are forced into homelessness and destitution through no fault of their own. It is really promising that the government is finally taking heed of this research in a number of important ways, including by supporting refugees with finding employment and learning English. The Refugee Council will continue to work with the government in this vitally important area. The test of the Government's commitment will be the appropriate resources being made available to make these vital improvements."

Refugee Action said, however, that the proposals threatened to be "all mouth and no trousers" without adequate funding for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses.

According to Refugee Action, government funding for ESOL has been slashed by over a half since 2010.

Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, said: "Warm words on the importance of English language classes don't go far enough. The Government's integration plans are all mouth and no trousers without new investment in accredited lessons. We're deeply disappointed that the Government has so far ignored all the evidence showing that access to formal English courses is essential for integration.

"Funding for English courses has fallen by 60% since 2010. Community-based, voluntary support is crucial, but cannot make-up for this huge shortfall. Our research shows refugees are waiting up to three years to start English lessons, leaving people isolated and unable to work, volunteer and socialise with their neighbours. We're calling on the Government to unlock the potential of refugees to boost our economy and bring communities together by investing in English."