The plan to spend £50m to encourage social integration will not be enough to produce the “seismic change” the country needs, the government’s former integration tsar has warned.
Dame Louise Casey, who wrote a report for the government on integration in 2016, said a the UK needed “healing”.
Her intervention came as Communities Secretary Sajid Javid launched the government’s Integrated Communities Strategy which calls on schools to teach “British values”, sets out plans to boost English language skills and encourage women from minority communities to find jobs.
Five pilot areas – Blackburn, Bradford, Peterborough, Walsall and the London borough of Waltham Forest – will develop local integration plans allowing new strategies to be tested as the programme develops.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Dame Louise said Javid’s plan was a “really good strategy so far”, but the “proof will be in the pudding”.
“The differences in the country at the moment are too great. We need something that heals the nation,” she said.
“Overall it will take more than £50m over two years and it is something the whole country has to embrace.”
She added: “But of you course you are talking to somebody who likes big, bold strategies that make seismic change.”
Labour MP Chuka Umunna, the chair of the APPG on social integration, said Britain was “facing a national crisis” when it comes to integration.
“While we may be a more diverse society than ever before where people from different backgrounds live side-by-side, they aren’t actually mixing as much with one another,” he said.
Javid said this morning: “Britain can rightly claim to be one of the most successful diverse societies in the world. But we cannot ignore the fact that in too many parts of our country, communities are divided, preventing people from taking full advantage of the opportunities that living in modern Britain offers.
“Successive governments have refused to deal with the integration challenges we face head on, preferring to let people muddle along and live isolated and separated lives.
“We will put an end to this through our new strategy which will create a country that works for everyone, whatever their background and wherever they come from.”
Among the proposals are:
:: A new community-based English language programme, with a network of conversation clubs and support for councils to improve provision of tuition Personalised skills training to help women from “isolated” communities into work
:: Measures to ensure young people have the opportunity to mix and form lasting relationships with those from different backgrounds
:: Promotion of British values across the school curriculum
:: Increased take-up of the National Citizen Service.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “We want to make sure that all children learn the values that underpin our society – including fairness, tolerance and respect. These are values that help knit our communities together, which is why education is at the heart of this strategy.
“It’s also important that children are taught in a safe environment and that we can act quickly if children are at risk or being encouraged to undermine these values. Together with Ofsted and communities across the country, we will build on the work already under way to achieve this.”
Think tank British Future released polling data suggesting a majority of voters would back schools teaching pluralistic British values (76%), more support to learn English (67%) and a zero-tolerance approach to hate crime and prejudice (79%). Some 63% said the Government should use national events like St George’s Day, St David’s Day and St Andrew’s Day to bring people together.
British Future director Sunder Katwala said: “Integration isn’t just about British Muslims – it’s an issue for all of us. “So it’s welcome that this green paper moves on from the Casey Review and broadens the integration debate. It could be an important step towards the national integration strtegy that we’ve been missing – provided it’s followed up by action.”