Britain’s population is facing some big changes. This means we’re at risk of social division - and with it, a lack of empathy and understanding for one another. In this article, we summarise The Social Integration Commission’s ‘Steps towards an integrated society’.
Why does social integration matter?
A lack of social integration reduces our abilities to solve society’s problems in key areas, such as long-term unemployment, recruitment and career progression, and community health and wellbeing. The impact of a lack of integration in these areas costs the UK economy approximately 6 billion a year. Specifically, the Commission has estimated that £1.5billion can be attributed to long-term unemployment, caused by a lack of integration.
Education and the workplace
Who young people associate with in their formative years dramatically impacts their future prospects, and schools are key to this. Action should be taken to ensure diversity in schools, and that children from different backgrounds have the opportunity to meet through the education system.
A lack of integration has also made it more difficult for employers to recruit the right talent, with around 40% of jobs being found through personal contacts. Those who are out of work are being precluded from meeting those who are employed, and are missing out on potential job opportunities as a result.
The commission has identified these key principles to tackle social segregation:
- Every school should provide opportunities for its pupils to interact with children of different ethnic and economic backgrounds.
- Schools’ intakes should reflect the diversity of their communities.
- School and college buildings should be places where the community comes together
- Business and public sector leaders should recognise the benefits of diverse communities, and look to recruit from a variety of talent pools.
- Employers should actively aim to enable workers to mingle with different groups
Public services and volunteering
Many public services have been designed for specific service users, which presents an opportunity to bring different groups together to integrate some of our society’s most isolated people. Volunteering could also be used as a key means for bringing local people together. There is also a sound business case for employers giving staff paid time off to volunteer, with higher morale and retention rates with staff. Further key principles for using public services and volunteering to promote social integration are below:
- Public services should be designed and managed to bring together different groups of people.
- We should draw on the experience of parenthood to build understanding between people from different backgrounds.
- Businesses should support their employees to connect with the communities in which they work.
- Retirees should be supported to invest their time and experience into their communities.
- It should be easy for charities to help bring together people from different age groups or ethnic or economic backgrounds.
Communities and religion
Communities are built on the ways we interact. There is currently a huge divide between social housing and private tenants, particularly evident in London, which is deepening social divisions. Planning authorities should look to encourage residents from different backgrounds to mix with each other.
Local authorities should also look to increase levels of social integration, through bringing together faith and community groups. As a result, the commission has recommended that:
- Celebrations should be open to people from all religions.
- Planning authorities should preserve and develop diverse neighbourhoods.
- People living in diverse areas should be encouraged to get to know their neighbours.
This post was written by our wonderful new Content Editor, Ishani Jasmin.