Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg

Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg
Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg © Gernot Keller, 2007
Blinkered Justice articles also appear on CrimeTalk and Government In The Lab

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Here we are now, integrate us: England's integration strategy

Currently on a short break. I will return in full next week, but will try and tweet in the next few days. Found this little piece which I had prepared a few weeks ago hidden under the cyber carpet. Hope you all well.

Eric Pickles delivering keynote address at Flag Institute 2011
(c) Charles Ashburner [CC-BY-SA-3.0]
A few weeks ago, Eric Pickles, the Minister for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) unveiled the government's integration strategy, which plan to help create an harmonious England, free of discord and hatred.

The idea is that in an integrated society, everyone can play a full part in the every day workings of life nationally and locally. The UK government believes that there are 5 key themes on which an integrated society can be built: social mobility, participation, responsibility, common ground, and tackling extremism and intolerance.

Despite using several of these same themes, multiculturalism is seen to have failed, with the sense that we now live in a more divided society. The 2011 summer riots, and the perceived threat from Islamic extremists inform this strategy, with risk, fear and security pervading its discourse. As such, the government considers that something needs be done:
We should be robustly promoting British values such as democracy, rule of law, equality of opportunity and treatment, freedom of speech and the rights of all men and women to live free from persecution of any kind. It is these values which make it possible for people to live and work together, to bridge boundaries between communities and to play a full role in society. When this is underpinned both by opportunities to succeed, and a strong sense of personal and social responsibility to the society which has made success possible, the result is a strong society.
The use of “British values” in this context is used to represent a nation that is civilised, Christian and white. The same values that informed a colonial Empire, raiding Africa and Asia for her resources. Why is it that “British values” are different to, or better than, other nation's values?

The strategy is predominantly aimed at a young, male, disadvantaged Muslim/White audience. In a society that has “welcomed” migrants from all over the world, English identity, and values, may well have changed, through personal and professional partnerships, and through other cultural influences, such as music, film and food.

Disability protest poster (c) Byzantine_K
As evidence that their targeted audience is the right one, DCLG refer to their own, commissioned reports, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission's Triennual Review (2010). “How fair is Britain” notes that women and the disabled experience social exclusion, certainly in the guise of a lack of being able to participate and intolerance. Yet, there is nothing for them in this integration strategy.

Is this because the UK government considers that both groups have integrated? If so, why would the government consider that its key factors might work for its target audience, when women and the disabled still feel excluded?

It is in the shift from 'the national' to 'the local', that the government believes that cultural nirvana can be attained. DCLG notes that local communities have long come together to address civil problems, and it is drawing on this social capital to resolve our divided society. However, it accepts that it has to provide a national framework to make it work, utilising the production of civic leadership on integration, with locally-led partnerships driving it forward thanks to cross-Whitehall liaison and assistance.

Even in this basic approach, there are anomalies. For example, whilst the government talk of civic leadership and creating “the space for an open and honest debate”, it recently closed the door to a number of health-industry leaders' involvement in discussions on the localisation of health services. This undermines participation.

Although each of the 5 factors mentioned above appear distinct from each other, they overlap and intertwine, just as ideas of the local and national do.

DCLG propose encouraging young people to develop their sense of responsibility and self-management, through volunteering and a National Citizens Service. Deemed to be participating in their local communities, DCLG will ensure that “people can trust public bodies”, such as those who can enable them to find work locally. Yet when these public bodies face charges of fraud and corruption, it is difficult to see how this might work. More so, when the state fails to rescind its central contract.

In terms of localities leading the way in economic regeneration, and thereby creating social mobility and tackling extremism, DCLG have failed to explain how this might come about. Whilst speaking English is assumed to enable social mobility and a sense of common ground, it ignores those migrant businesses, such as Chinese restaurants, that use the same language and cultural references. Their chefs may not speak English, and depending on your understanding of local, few would argue they have not integrated into their local areas.

Chinatown, London - local integrated community? (c) Aurelien Guichard
The additional language requirement for people to be able to speak English before they settle here is surely a bid to appease a supposed silent majority who baulk at immigrants not speaking English. In any case, it is difficult to see how this might happen, given that the rules for entry into England also concern the rest of the UK.

So how does 'local' England integrate with their (inter)national partners overseas? Within the EU, and the UK, it has not adopted the Euro, and it has not come on board with Schengen. We veto EU moves to regulate the financial markets that helped cause the recent crises. Cynics might argue that the UK has sought to take without giving, seeing its own rights and responsibilities in an international arena quite differently to how it views its “problem people” acting out theirs.

To close, DCLG make the following point in their strategy:
People come together through day-to-day activities, not 'integration projects' which too often feel irrelevant and prove unsustainable.


  1. Yet when these public bodies face charges of fraud and corruption, it is difficult to see how this might work. More so, when the state fails to rescind its central contract. ---- This is one of the reasons why national registered interpreters are boycotting an outsourcing contract given by MoJ to a commercial agency called ALS, who just ignore the rights of migrants and miscarriage of justice, and disrespect the whole profession of qualified interpreters.

    1. Thanks very much for this information. I have since read up on ALS and the MoJ contracts - all rather shady again.


      As you point out, it is going to disproportionately affect migrants who need qualified interpreters, and in some cases, is already having an adverse effect on their lives.


      If you wish to write something on this topic, please feel free to get in touch.