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Kim Roberts

Policy Manager

Charities Aid Foundation

INTEGRATION IS A JOB FOR ALL OF US, INCLUDING CHARITIES

6 June 2017

INTEGRATION IS A JOB FOR ALL OF US

In the wake of last week’s London Bridge attack, many political commentators have been talking about the importance of uniting as a nation against such evil acts.

Indeed, the outpourings of grief and love that have been on display at Manchester’s One Love concert or at the vigil for the victims of the London attack which took place yesterday, show cities coming together as one. Regardless of race or religion, of nationality or political persuasion, people from across our towns and cities have been standing shoulder to shoulder with one another and showing that we will not be defeated our cowed by terrorists. 

But now the question inevitably turns to what can be done to prevent such atrocities in the future. If unification and community cohesion can play such a big part in our healing process, perhaps it also holds the key to reducing division and hatred in the future?

A NATIONAL INTEGRATION STRATEGY

In this morning’s I Newspaper Chuka Umunna, Labour’s candidate for election in Streatham and a former member of  the Home Affairs Select Committee talks about the need for a Social Integration Strategy to try and reduce segregation within our communities. CAF believes that charities have a vital role to play in helping to bring Britain’s communities back together.

Mr Umunna himself, the former chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration, points to the National Citizen Service (NCS) as a positive example of a programme which brings people together through a common experience. NCS is open to all 16 and 17 year olds in England and helps young people build skills for work and life, through the development of a social action programme. More than a quarter of a million young people have taken part in the programme and it’s already having an impact on social cohesion. An independent evaluation found that 8 in 10 said they were more positive towards people from different backgrounds, with the same number of people keeping in touch with someone they'd met on the programme. If such results could be replicated across our society it could be truly transformational.

The idea of charities playing a role in improving social cohesion is something that CAF has been championing for a while. Following last year’s EU referendum result we took a long look at the impact the campaign had on our communities and found that nearly 14 million people said they felt their community was more divided post-Brexit.[1]  That division seems to have been sustained following a tumultuous political year and now a very heated general election campaign.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO BRING OUR COMMUNITIES BACK TOGETHER?

Almost half (46%) of people in Britain believe that charities can help to improve community cohesion, and we agree. Charities are embedded within communities right across the country and they make up an integral part of our social fabric. They work within communities, but they also work across them - and as such they are uniquely placed to offer people the opportunity to share in experiences. But charities can do so much more than just offer a path to integration; they can also help government to fix our fractured society.

We believe that government – local and central – should commission charities to monitor levels of community cohesion and threat levels. Resources should be allocated to provide charities with mechanisms to report concerns that they have, with an obligation on government to act on recommendations from charities.

Now of course, we’re not suggesting that charities and charities alone should be responsible for rooting out extremism. Many of us will recognise that charities are already under huge pressure to deliver on their mission with an ever shrinking pot of cash, and asking them to police our neighbourhoods would be a step too far. But charities are already doing wonderful work in our communities. They are uniquely placed, on the ground, in a way that politicians are not and they have a lot to offer in terms of shaping this debate, and working towards a more socially integrated society. They are also best placed to reach out to people on the margins of society, who may be most at risk of falling into the clutches of extremist ideology.

Charities are already identified as a key sector in the Government’s Prevent Programme, and the Charity Commission is obligated to report any charity suspected of criminal (including terrorist) activity to law enforcement agencies. But our role in society is about more than tackling terrorism and preventing the heinous attacks that struck our cities in the past fortnight. The charity sector is well respected in the UK, and everyday we are out there, on the ground, working for a better society. Whether its through the introduction of a social integration strategy, or working with charities to monitor community cohesion, it is high time that government looked beyond Westminster for answers to these difficult questions.


[1] A Stronger Britain: How can charities build post-Brexit Britain: https://www.cafonline.org/docs/default-source/about-us-publications/caf-party-report-2016-web.pdf


[1] A Stronger Britain: How can charities build post-Brexit Britain: https://www.cafonline.org/docs/default-source/about-us-publications/caf-party-report-2016-web.pdf

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