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What Does Social Integration Mean?

Ami Saji, Refugee Policy Intern

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Social Integration is currently developing a national strategy to promote improved integration of immigrants to the UK. An interim report was released earlier in the year, which outlined the guiding principles for the post-Brexit integration strategy.

As an on-going effort to collect evidence for their finalised strategy, the APPG recently announced a call for evidence on 2 of the 6 guiding principles. These 2 principles focus on how the current immigration system can be reassessed to promote better integration outcomes and how integration can be fostered, particularly through English language provisions.

Through the research we conducted for our report, Women Breaking the English Barrier, we learned about the social integration and English learning barriers faced by vulnerable migrants in London. To ensure the voice of these female immigrants is heard, we submitted a Call for Evidence Report. Our recommendations to the APPG are as follows:

  • Partner with immigrant communities to improve integration: Immigrant communities ought to be viewed as an asset for social integration, as opposed to a barrier. The new integration programme should aim to leverage these communities to improve social integration outcomes.
  • Integration isnot a one-way street: Any new integration strategy should be cautious about adopting the perspective that the burden to integrate falls heavily on the shoulders of the immigrant.  A more sustainable and effective model for inclusion is one where social integration is viewed as a shared experience and responsibility.
  • Empower local or regional governments to better welcome and support immigrants: The national government should adopt a national strategy for social integration that includes empowering local governments to promote and encourage integration between immigrants and citizens in their respective communities. With local and national governments working together best practices for integration will be reinforced at the national and local levels.
  • The quality of English language courses matter for successful integration: As part of the new integration programme, a national strategy on English learning should be adopted. This is important because guidelines established at the national level can better standardise the quality of education provided, improve access to ESOL classes, and improve coordination amongst the various service providers involved in the English learning experience.
  • Adopt a whole person approach to social integration: Immigrants, particularly those who are female and vulnerable, experience complex and multi-faceted barriers that often preclude them from participating and benefiting from English learning opportunities. More importantly, these barriers are not just limited to English language acquisition but can impact their overall ability to integrate. Therefore, the national government ought to consider how these barriers can be broken down to foster English learning.

We hope that such a programme can be adopted as it will have meaningful impact on current and new immigrants to the UK. More importantly, we believe that this approach will allow the national government to identify appropriate means to measure social integration outcomes.