Casey review raises alarm over social integration in the UK

Study attacks attempts by governments to boost ethnic integration as ‘saris, samosas and steel drums for the well-intentioned’

Governments have failed for more than a decade to ensure that social integration in the UK has kept up with the “unprecedented pace and scale of immigration” and have allowed some local communities to become increasingly divided, a major review has found.

At the end of a year-long study of community cohesion in Britain, Dame Louise Casey has branded ministerial attempts to boost integration of ethnic minorities as amounting to little more than “saris, samosas and steel drums for the already well-intentioned”.

Accusing the government of serious failings in its approach to social cohesion, the government’s integration tsar said efforts had been squeezed since 2010, with leaders “falling well below the stated ambition to ‘do more than any other government before us to promote integration’”.

“The problem has not been a lack of knowledge but a failure of collective, consistent and persistent will to do something about it or give it the priority it deserves at both a national and local level,” Casey concluded, who said there had been failures in each administration.

“The work that has been done has often been piecemeal and lacked a clear evidence base or programme of evaluation.”

Her report recommends a major new strategy to help bridge divides in UK towns and villages, with an “integration oath” to encourage immigrants to embrace British values, more focus on promoting the English language, encouraging social mixing among young people, and securing “women’s emancipation in communities where they are being held back by regressive cultural practices”.

It also says children should be taught British values in schools.

The study, which was commissioned by then prime minister David Cameron and Theresa May when she was home secretary, is likely to trigger controversy. Among the findings, Casey claims:

  • That the scale of immigration has felt too much for some local communities as the economy hit a downturn, and concerns about public services increased.
  • That while segregation has reduced over the population as a whole, in a number of local areas ethnic or migrant groups have become increasingly divided.
  • That fears of being labelled racist have prevented society from challenging sexist, misogynistic and patriarchal behaviour in some minority communities.
Net migration graphic

Casey pointed to census data that showed there were 682 electoral wards with over 40% non-white British residents in 2011 – with 17 where the figure was 90% – up from just one a decade earlier.

In one borough of Sheffield, she was told of more than 6,000 people of Roma or eastern European heritage, of which more than half were under 16, living predominantly in one ward.

She also claimed that integration rates were being undermined by high numbers of second-generation immigrants marrying spouses from their country of origin. Calling it “first generation in every generation”, she cited one northern town in which all except one of the Asian councillors had married a wife from Pakistan.

And she pointed to research by Demos that found 50% of non-white students were in schools where ethnic minorities were a majority. Casey gave the example of one non-faith, secondary school where a survey had found the pupils believed the population of Britain was between 50% and 90% Asian.

She also revealed that in one recent year more government money was spent on promoting the Cornish language than English.

Writing in the Guardian, Casey said she had found evidence of discrimination against young black men in the criminal justice system and Bangladeshi women in the workplace.

She also admitted that there was a “vicious circle” in which Muslims felt they were being blamed for terrorism and extremism, leading to suspicion, mistrust and hostility.

But she also warned that there had been a failure of calling out “deeply regressive religious and cultural practices, especially when it comes to women” in some ethnic minority communities in the UK.

In reference to what she found in some predominantly Muslim areas, Casey wrote: “I’ve met far too many women who are suffering from the effects of misogyny and domestic abuse, women being subjugated by their husbands and extended families. Often, the victims are foreign-born brides brought to Britain via arranged marriages. They have poor English, little education, low confidence, and are reliant on their husbands for their income and immigration status. They don’t know about their rights, or how to access support, and struggle to prepare their children effectively for school.”

She said the divide in Britain was not between those who voted for or against Brexit but between 99% of the population and 1% of extremists.

religion chart

“A failure to talk about all this only leaves the ground open for the far right on one side and Islamist extremists on the other. These groups are ideologically opposed to each other but share the same goal: to show that Islam and modern Britain are somehow incompatible,” she added, “but of course they are wrong.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Casey said people should be able to discuss such issues without being “worried about being called racist or Islamophobic”.

She said: “We have to be able to talk about the fact that if you’re from a Pakistani heritage community in some areas of the north, you’re less less likely to speak English than your male counterparts, you’re less likely to be out getting a job, you’re more likely to be in the home, and not necessarily, in my view, by choice.”

But Casey noted that this was also a two-way process, saying: “In some ways we’re pushing some people in the Muslim community away, because they do experience this sense of taking responsibility.”

She said: “Every time there’s a terrorist attack people automatically blame a person that’s called a Muslim. That’s wrong. Muslims are no more responsible for terrorist attacks than I am for the IRA.”

The report cited claims that some sharia councils had supported the values of extremists, condoned wife-beating, ignored marital rape and allowed forced marriages.

It also warned that Muslim and Hindu women were more than twice as likely as Muslim or Hindu men to not speak English at all, while Pakistani and Bangladeshi women were significantly more likely to be economically inactive.

But it pointed to other faith groups including disruptions of mixed faith couples’ weddings by extremists in the Sikh community and the treatment of women in some Jewish Orthodox communities, with children reportedly being taught “that a woman’s role is to look after children, clean the house and cook”.

Language graphic

Casey even cited newer Christian churches “with activists seeking to ‘cure’ people of homosexuality”, warning “all such instances undermine integration and should be challenged”.

She argued that the problem with a lack of integration was that it could cost the economy approximately £6bn a year, according to one study.

The report concluded: “We know that where communities live separately, with fewer interactions between people from different backgrounds, mistrust, anxiety and prejudice grow.

“Conversely, social mixing and interactions between people from a wider range of backgrounds can have positive impacts; not just in reducing anxiety and prejudice, but also in enabling people to get on better in employment and social mobility.”

It also included a figure for hate crime in 2015-16 of 62,518 incidents, up 19% on the previous year, and warned of a further spike since the EU referendum.

hate crimes chart

Casey admitted that was repeating calls made previously, claiming that for 15 years governments had commissioned studies only to fall short in their implementation as they were allowed to be “diluted and muddled”.

Although Casey has been carrying out the role as an independent figure, she has been based within a government department and Downing Street has appeared to delay the report’s publication for months.

The report drew immediate criticism from former communities minister Sayeeda Warsi, who particularly balked at one recommendation to emancipate marginalised groups of women.

“Yes those words are in the report,” Lady Warsi wrote on Twitter. “The empire strikes back!”

Warsi argued that many of the statistics were out of date, and failed to talk about raising aspiration among poor white Roma communities. She accused Casey of confusing “race, ethnicity, origin and faith”, and said that white women were most likely to be victims of domestic abuse.

In conclusion, she said the report had “some good bits, a few bad bits and lots of confused bits”.

statutory graphic

Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP who chairs an all-party parliamentary group on social integration, welcomed the report.

“The fact people live parallel lives in modern Britain has been swept under the carpet for far too long and deemed too difficult to deal with, which has left a vacuum for extremists and peddlers of hate on all sides to exploit,” he said.

Umunna insisted it was not about attributing blame, and warned against seeing the recommendations as an attack on multicultural Britain.

“Breaking down the barriers between communities is the best defence of the diverse country we have become,” he added, arguing that requiring English proficiency from immigrants or requiring them to enrol on courses was a positive thing.

Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, said: “This government is building a democracy for everyone and our country has long been home to lots of different cultures and communities, but all of us have to be part of one society – British society.

“So while it’s right that we celebrate the positive contribution that diverse groups make to British life, we also need to continue making sure that nobody is excluded from it or left behind.”

Javid called the report a “valuable contribution” and said he would be studying its findings closely.

• This article was amended on 6 December 2016. A chart labelled “Net migration” but showing only emigration from the UK was updated to show net migration; and a chart labelled “Language proficiency” was updated to clarify that it shows the language proficiency of people living in the UK by country of birth.


Anushka Asthana and Peter Walker

The GuardianTramp

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