Local actions to promote social integration
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The British Academy commissioned academics and practitioners to suggest local interventions which tackle the challenges of a diverse society, from a community arts festival to boost community connectedness in Ramsgate, to a lunch club run in Birmingham which offers a safe space for asylum seekers and refugees.
These interventions are accompanied by a series of case studies of projects working with recently arrived migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, with a particular focus on young people. These include St Edmund’s Nursery School in Girlington, Bradford, which supports Roma and Central and Eastern European children and their parents, and the Baca project in the Midlands which provides alternative holistic care for unaccompanied asylum seeking children.
The interventions studied have the potential to be replicated in whole or in part in different places and with different communities across the UK.
Over a year on from Dame Louise Casey’s Review of social integration in the UK, the British Academy identifies some key lessons from the projects studied:
- Social integration is a two-way process. The most successful interventions offer something back to the existing community, whether that be the opportunity to make friends from different backgrounds or to take part in something creative.
- Involving members of migrant communities in the design and implementation of projects is important. Many of the initiatives train local ‘champions’ to help them deliver their services and act as ambassadors in their communities.
- Local authorities provide more than funding. Local authorities celebrated by many of the featured interventions often hosted forums to bring people together and had a good understanding of the role of partner organisations. They were seen as a positive body to galvanise people, and foster two-way communication with local stakeholders.
- Confronting and resolving tensions is vital. Dealing with local grievances not only helps to dissolve tensions, but also prevents these from undermining any effective social integration work already going on.
Chair of the British Academy project, Professor Anthony Heath CBE FBA said:
“It is often said that we live in a divided society, yet our research shows how small, local projects are already making difference to the lives of established and newly-arrived migrant communities across the UK.
“But it is clear that integration does not happen on its own. Social integration must be supported and planned, taking into account the diverse needs of specific communities and places.
“The Government’s forthcoming Integration Strategy must take account of the good work that is already going on. Only then can we build sustainable and cohesive communities, where people of all backgrounds are welcomed and supported.”
Professor Anthony Heath CBE FBA
Professor Anthony Health CBE FBA
Dr Madeleine Mosse