“Diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice”
Senate of Canada
The UK has never had a joined-up national policy to support the integration and social inclusion of our increasingly diverse communities. To not have such a policy is to miss out on securing the huge opportunities and advantages that can come with immigration. As government begins to consider the role it can play in this area, we’ve learned from the experience of people who are building their lives in the UK. Download our policy proposals here.
Why integration is important
Today nearly 9 million of our neighbours were born in another country. As a majority of the UK public agree, migration has enriched Britain. Migration has contributed to the richness of our shared culture, arts and food and has opened us up to new ways of thinking, living and working. Migrants set up 1 in 7 UK companies currently trading in the UK. These companies are responsible for creating 14% of British jobs. Entrepreneurial activity among migrants nearly double that among native population (17.2% compared to 10.4%).
Despite the significance of migration throughout British history, initiatives to help communities integrate have been left largely to local authorities and community organisations with little interest from central government. There is an urgent need for a joined up national strategy for integration.
When integration doesn’t happen
Without professional networks to call on in searching for a job, or without the language skills needed, migrants are often underemployed and work in lower paid jobs. This leaves them at greater risk of abuse, modern day slavery and destitution.
Additionally, it is estimated that 760,000 people in the UK do not speak English well or at all. In spite of a willingness to learn, people cannot access opportunities to learn English because of a lack of social networks where people can practice their skills. At £700 on average per semester, there is a serious lack of affordable English lessons. Cuts to ESOL funding by central government mean that people are often stuck on waiting lists for two-three years for a place on a course. English language isn’t just vital for integration, it is also a requirement for citizenship and prevents people fulfilling their ambitions for their life in the UK.
A parliamentary report says speaking English is “the key to full participation in our society and economy” and a “prerequisite for meaningful engagement with most British people”. It’s clear that the responsibility for learning English goes beyond the individual student. Government and the community have an obligation to help people learn our language. An integration policy that supports that is needed.
Our proposals: a National Comprehensive Migration Strategy
Consonant has researched the experience of migrants and long-settled British people as they build their lives here. This gives us a unique insight into their ambitions, the challenges they face in achieving those ambitions, and how best to work together to overcome them. Over the coming months and years we’ll be continuing those conversations and working with government to introduce policies that address some of the biggest challenges facing communities today. Read our integration policy proposals here. These include:
- Address inequality as a barrier to integration
- Planning for integration to start upon arrival to ensure migrants are aware of their rights, obligations and the services available to them
- Implementing measures to overcoming discrimination and xenophobia, including in the media
- Making provision for ESOL tuition so that everyone can access quality English training
- Ensuring people can secure the legal right to stay in a process that’s open and fair
- Supporting migrants to access full-filling work through careers advice and actively involving employers
- Supporting initiatives to involve migrants in the decision-making processes that affect them.
If you would like to know more about our work on integration, please contact us.