Additional discussion of the Casey Review

Posted on Fri 27 Jan 2017

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At the start of her review, Dame Casey says: “The integration I wanted to look at was not just about how well we get on with each other but how well we all do compared to each other.” She settles on a definition that:

“integration is the extent to which people from all backgrounds can get on – with each other, and in enjoying and respecting the benefits that the United Kingdom has to offer”

This definition implies a two-way and inclusive process. However, the recommendations of the review point towards a one-way assimilationist approach, and one that overwhelmingly directed towards a few particularly marginalised groups – notably Pakistani Muslims. The proposal on creating an ‘integration oath’ to apply to all migrants, but not to all citizens, is emblematic of this assimilationist approach.

In terms of why, the review’s analysis is lack of integration leads to economic and social costs, which facilitates prejudice and in turn makes society more vulnerable to extremism. This ‘security narrative’ is prevalent throughout the review.

In the section ‘Our population today’, Baroness Casey examines the growing diversity of the UK population. The focus is on immigration (with various different forms of immigration and their impacts on public services given attention), with faith, ethnicity, and sexuality given some attention; and age and gender a passing reference. Significant issues, such as the gender pay gap, are identified at various points in the review, but the recommendations do not address these issues head-on.

The section on media notes the role media outlets are playing in promoting overwhelmingly negative views of Muslims in the UK. However, there is no examination of the extent to which those communities have to the media. For example, Muslims are 3% of the UK population and only 0.2% of journalists. The Review does not set out how to address the issue of how Muslims are portrayed in the media, or broader issues of how the media can promote integration – although it notes that the Anti Muslim Hatred Working Group are working on new regulatory proposals.

Elsewhere, the review notes the persistent inequalities experienced by black and minority ethnic people in employment. It highlights the relatively low numbers of women and black and minority ethnic people to reach senior levels in public and private organisations. Again, no proposals are made to tackle these entrenched inequalities.

While the review criticises the previous 15 years of government policies around cohesion and integration, it does not criticise several important and relevant areas of policy. One of the key recommendations is around providing ESOL classes. However, the review does not examine why the free entitlement to ESOL was scrapped in 2007 – nor does it criticise cuts to ESOL in 2010.

Austerity is omitted from the review. This is crucial as many of the civil society organisations promoting equality and tackling issues such as gender-based violence, mental health, and providing after school opportunities, have been disproportionately impacted by austerity cuts. Research from the TUC and Fawcett society respectively has demonstrated the impact of cuts on LGBT and women’s organisations. Furthermore, research from the University of Coventry found that austerity cuts had a compounded impact on black and minority ethnic women and the organisations supporting them.

Fundamentally, the review is narrowly focused. While it identifies a wide range of known problems and issues, the recommendations fail to address them in more than a superficial sense. The review does little to challenge current government policy or thinking.