Community divisions growing in Britain, review warns

Devolution must benefit all corners of England and the UK.

SEGREGATION, deprivation and social exclusion are getting worse in some areas of Britain, combining in a "downward spiral" with a growth in regressive religious and cultural ideologies, a major review has warned.

The study by Dame Louise Casey criticises public institutions, national and local, state and non-state, for ignoring or even condoning divisive and harmful cultural or religious practices "for fear of being branded racist or Islamophobic".

Dame Louise, who was commissioned to review social integration by former Prime Minister David Cameron, said women and children are the main targets of regressive practices, with women suffering both "in the name of cultural or religious values or as a reaction to those values". Women in several minority ethnic and faith groups are, for example, treated as second-class citizens where "abusive and controlling behaviour by men is often reinforced by their mothers, religious leaders and through religious councils or courts". Women are also disproportionately the victims of Islamophobic hate crime attacks.   

The report also found that the unprecedented scale and pace of population change and immigration over the past decade has "felt too much" for some communities, which is understandable at a time when the country has gone through an economic downturn and "concerns about terrorism, immigration, the economy and the future of public services have been running high".

Dame Louise urges greater efforts on integration policies, including attaching more weight to British values, laws and history in schools and potentially introducing an "integration oath" for new immigrants.

Furthermore, the report recommends that British values such as respect for the rule of law, equality and tolerance are "enshrined in the principles of public life" and developing a new oath for holders of public office.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid said he would look closely at the report's findings.

"To help bind Britain together and tackle some of the division in our society we need more opportunities for those from disadvantaged communities, particularly women, and more mixing between people from different backgrounds," Dame Louise said.

"We need more effort to be put into integration policies to help communities cope with the pace and scale of immigration and population change in recent years. But we also need more of a spirit of unity, compassion and kindness that brings people together under our common British values of tolerance, democracy, equality and respect."