Government launches new £50m fund to promote integration and 'British values'
The Government is launching a new £50m fund to support integration and bring together what one minister calls Britain’s “divided” communities.
The money will go towards English language classes, special programmes to help women into the workforce and plans to promote 'British values’ in schools.
Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said the new strategy was a response to the failure of “successive governments” to tackle the UK’s “integration challenges”.
The proposals follow a review led by Dame Louise Casey that concluded that many communities in Britain remain divided on religious, racial and socio-economic lines.
Under the plans, recent arrivals to the UK will get an information pack to “help them navigate British life, values and culture”.
There is also a suggestion the Government could act on forced marriage, with a commitment in the strategy to “exploring reform of the law on marriage and religious weddings”.
"Britain can rightly claim to be one of the most successful diverse societies in the world,” Mr Javid said.
“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. Integration challenges are not uniform throughout the country, with different areas and communities having varying needs.”
The Government plans to trial the plans in five so-called ‘Integration Pilot Areas’ – Blackburn, Bradford, Peterborough, Walsall and the London borough of Waltham Forest.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds stressed that encouraging British values should be at the heart of the education system.
“We want to make sure that all children learn the values that underpin our society - including fairness, tolerance and respect,” he said.
“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 underway to achieve this.”
'NO REAL PROGRESS'
But Labour's shadow communities minister, Yvonne Fovargue, said cuts to council funding were undermining attempts at improving community cohesion.
"Almost three years on from when this report was commissioned, the Government is failing to show real progress has been made on its approach to tackling some of the divisions in our society," she said.
"Since 2010, Tory cuts to council budgets have forced the closure of shared community spaces such as Sure Start Centres, youth centres, parks and libraries, and funding for ESOL has been slashed by over £130 million.
"Until this Government wakes up to the scale of suffering that austerity is inflicting on our communities - and begins to support the work of local authorities - it will not begin to improve community integration."