Following the publication of the long-awaited review of integration by Louise Casey, I want to spend a little time considering its findings and implications.
As Managing Director of Mosaic, an initiative of The Prince’s Trust, I’ve gained a perspective on social cohesion informed by nine years of running Mosaic’s successful mentoring programmes in areas of deprivation, as well as the 40-year history of The Prince’s Trust which has, since its inception, been dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged young people.
Globalisation is, whether we like it or not, here to stay. For many, the pace of change is bewildering and frightening. One of the most obvious impacts is its very dramatic impact on immigration. In the UK, the percentage of British residents from minority ethnic communities is set to rise from 16% in 2012 to 38% in 2050. Living in highly diverse communities is increasingly becoming the norm in many areas. Sadly, the evidence seems to show that living in a diverse area does not necessarily lead to integrated communities. Young people under 17 years old have 53% fewer interactions with other ethnicities than would be expected if there was no social segregation.
Social cohesion is being sorely tested. This matters, economically and socially. Poor social integration has been estimated to cost the UK economy £6 billion a year. Other research suggests that individuals in cohesive communities are happier. But building integration is not about imposing a uniform value set into which all are expected to buy; we must ensure that the norms which promote cohesion can be embraced by all diverse backgrounds.
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The increase in immigration has come hand-in-hand with the global economic downturn. Despite most economists arguing that increased immigration and diversity has a positive economic impact, for those left behind economically, immigration provides a very easy scapegoat to explain their misfortunes. And too often this means that minority groups experience prejudice and discrimination from wider society and unsurprisingly prompting negative feelings about wider society from minority communities.
Poor social mobility adds an explosive element to this mix. Providing the chance to get on in life is critical to fostering a society in which people feel welcome and valued and able to make a contribution. If social mobility is linked to an individual’s abilities – rather than extraneous factors such as class, ethnicity, geography or religion – then all can buy in to a society that is, and is seen to be, fair to all.
In line with HRH The Prince of Wales’s vision for Mosaic, its founding members believed that the important concerns of integration could be usefully addressed by those whose multi-faceted identities were embraced with pride, in a Britain that they believed had been good for them and for their families. In His Royal Highness, a group of successful individuals of Muslim backgrounds saw a leader who could support the platform for them to give back to UK society as a whole and, at the same time, to demonstrate by their actions that many stereotypes of Muslims were wrong.
What resulted from The Prince’s inspiration was a charitable initiative providing mentoring support to young people in deprived communities, enabling some fantastic adults to come into the lives of these youngsters. Through our mentoring programmes in schools and prisons, Mosaic creates opportunities for young people growing up in some of our most deprived communities. Linking young people with inspirational role models, Mosaic’s mentoring programmes boost confidence, self-efficacy and long-term employability for young people .
What Mosaic has managed to do is bring young people into contact with role models who are very real and very accessible. Sports people, actors, pop stars, TV celebrities, for example, can all be great role models but for many their accomplishments are of course very far from the reality of their own experiences.
Most of Mosaic’s many hundreds of volunteers are not quite so glamorous or high-profile, but they are readily available to the young people with whom they work. These individuals live near them, they work near them, and yes they often look like them. But they have managed to make a success of their lives despite often facing very similar hurdles to those experienced by the young people they are supporting.