Bedford shows way to integration for British towns
Study by thinktank IPPR shows rest of Britain has much to learn from how Bedford has handled immigration
A new report by IPPR, the progressive policy thinktank, finds that Bedford is adapting to migration better than many other similar places in England.
The ethnic makeup of Bedford represents the demographics of England as a whole closely, so its experience goes to the heart of the national debate.
A recent review of integration with Dame Louise Casey raised alarm at the poor state of integration in Britain. Yet while it made some important observations, it offered few concrete suggestions for what can be done. For this, they would do well to look at Bedford.
IPPR looks at how Bedford’s residents have made integration work. Citizens in Bedford have avoided the polarized attitudes to integration which have been found on the national level.
Instead, people in Bedford have made concrete, practical adjustments that has made the process of integration easier for their harder to reach migrant communities. For example:
- Having a women-only swimming session has allowed Asian Muslim women to gain the confidence to go to the swimming pool. Increasing numbers have followed their friends and peers. Women from this community would not be able to participate in mixed swimming, due to cultural sensitivities and low levels of confidence. A small adjustment has enabled them to participate and get some exercise.
- Local schools have made adaptations to make it easier for parents to come to parents’ evenings if they do not speak good English, or do not understand the British school system, by allowing parents to accompany children during the school day.
- A faith community group brings together people from different communities in one of Bedford’s most diverse areas. Initially started as a basketball club, the group has built links with the local Muslim, Sikh and Christian communities, as well as liaising with the local schools.
However, there are still issues that needs to be addressed. That’s why IPPR’s has made a number of recommendations for the future, including:
- Target English language learning at the most isolated migrants;
- Setting up integration hubs in areas where migrant workers congregate;
- Establish a selective landlord licensing scheme to alleviate any downward pressure on housing conditions.
Chris Murray, IPPR research fellow on integrations, said:
“IPPRs work on Bedford shows that small practical and pragmatic measures can make a lot of difference to how integrated our communities are.
“There are lessons for towns and cities across the country in the approach that they take.
“The Casey review offered oaths for those seeking citizenship but it will take more substantive measures to help improve integration. This is particularly true for harder to reach groups who are particularly isolated.
“We argue that lots of these small practical measures, like we have found in Bedford, will be the real key to integration."
1. The report 'Come together: Lessons from Bedford on reaching out to Britain’s most isolated minorities' can be found here.
2. IPPR aims to influence policy in the present and reinvent progressive politics in the future, and is dedicated to the better country that Britain can be through progressive policy and politics. With nearly 60 staff across four offices throughout the UK, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence.
Our independent research is wide ranging, it covers the economy, work, skills, transport, democracy, the environment, education, energy, migration and healthcare among many other areas. ippr.org