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Blackburn with Darwen
Baseline Community Cohesion review with a focus on integration




Summary and Recommendations


REVIEW TEAM: Ted Cantle, Daljit Kaur, Harris Joshua, John Tatam, Nadeem Baksh, Daniel Range, Sabira Ali

May 2009: Full report to be published in June.

Executive Summary

Blackburn with Darwen has a strong and long established record of promoting community cohesion and has received national recognition for the work it has done. Community cohesion has been a priority for the Council and the LSP over a number of years with a clear focus on engagement.

The Belonging campaign, 100 Voices and Neighbourhood Voices initiatives provide strong examples of this approach in practice. A well regarded toolkit to promote cohesion amongst young people has been produced and the 'meet your neighbours' project has successfully brought teenage girls from different backgrounds together.

A cohesion awareness session and tour is offered to all new employees.

The Council and LSP have also recognised that community cohesion is not just about cohesion between different ethnic groups but is about many things that bind communities together. This includes religious, geographical and inter-generational issues. However, the challenges facing the borough are considerable. We believe that a renewed and more ambitious programme with the widest possible involvement is needed if these challenges are to be met successfully and the authority is to remain at the forefront of practice in promoting cohesion.

Blackburn with Darwen has a large, long established and growing Asian community. At the 1991 Census almost 14% of the population were Asian and this had grown to 20.6% by 2001. The Asian community is fairly evenly divided between those of Indian and Pakistani heritage but almost all are Muslim making this, proportionately, the third largest Muslim population in the country.

The borough has one of the youngest populations in England: 31 per cent of its citizens are under the age of 19. The Asian community has a particularly youthful profile – 46% of Asians are under 19. This means that the both the number and proportion of people of Asian heritage within the overall population is likely to continue to grow.

The borough experiences high levels of deprivation. It ranked 17th of all local authorities in England and Wales on the 2007 Index of Multiple Deprivation.

The most deprived wards are concentrated in the centre and north east corner of the Authority. These include the areas with the highest concentrations of BME residents.

Seven of the 23 wards in the borough contain more than 50% of the lower layer super output areas ranked within the 10% most deprived in the country.

72.1% of Blackburn with Darwen’s BME residents live in these seven wards as compared with 26.2% of its White residents.

However, deprivation is by no means confined to the BME communities, more White than BME residents live in the seven most deprived wards and two of the wards are over 90% White.

As is frequently the case with new migrants, and certainly the British who move abroad, the original pattern of settlement of migrants from South Asia led to families clustering together in Blackburn with Darwen. In many cases families originally from the same village would be living in close proximity.

However, this separate living has persisted: Blackburn with Darwen has some of the highest levels of residential and educational segregation in the country and there are signs that this is growing particularly in schools. There is also extensive segregation in the workplace. The State of the English Cities report found that Blackburn with Darwen was one of only two cities in England that has ‘very high segregation’.

Another measure of segregation showed that a BME resident in the borough is 6.2 times more likely to have a BME neighbour than a White person is likely to have a BME neighbour. This was the highest ‘isolation ratio’ among the 42 authorities with the largest BME populations in 2001 and is in sharp contrast to areas outside the North West. For example, Hammersmith and Fulham in London, where mobility is much greater, had exactly the same sized BME population but an isolation ratio of 1.4.

If anything, areas of traditional BME residential concentration appear to be expanding. The Borough’s BME population have been underrepresented in the social housing sector, though this is beginning to change, and are significantly more likely to experience disadvantage in the housing market: - Where 12.5% of all households in the Borough live in unsuitable houses, the impact on Pakistani heritage households is 40.1%, Indian heritage households 30.7% and White households 8.5%.

- The main factor in households living in unsuitable housing is overcrowding: the average size of Asian households is 4.3, compared with 2.2 for White British families. - 30.8% of the White British population live in Housing Market Renewal areas, compared with 84.8% of the Pakistani heritage population, 83.1% Indian and 73.4% for all other ethnic minority groups.

- The ability of BME households to move between housing tenures and move up the housing ladder may also be disproportionately affected by affordability. The average annual household income for Indian and Pakistani heritage households is £20,499 and £17,187 respectively, compared with £23,088 for White households.

Blackburn with Darwen has taken steps to address the issues of disadvantage and segregation in housing. New developments have been required to ensure a variety of housing sizes and tenures so that they could appeal potentially to a variety of groups.

The Twin Valley Homes Housing Association (TVH) has provided larger houses in new housing developments and innovative approaches to housing design to ensure that its stock is accessible to all communities.

TVH has also taken steps to support and welcome Asian families moving into predominantly white areas. But much more will need to be done to develop and promote a shared and positive vision of a mixed community, which is widely owned by the community, and to roll back residential segregation.

Because of the relative youth of the Asian population Blackburn with Darwen’s schools have a much larger percentage of BME pupils – around 40% - than in the population as a whole. This figure will continue to increase.

The borough’s education and young people’s services have adopted a very positive approach to promoting community cohesion. There are many examples of imaginative work to bring young people of different backgrounds together within the borough and beyond, to collaborate on projects and share experiences. Blackburn College has been recognised nationally for its work on community cohesion.

Blackburn with Darwen schools have also made strong progress in recent years in improving the educational outcomes of young people. In the past, achievement for White children and those of Indian and Pakistani heritage has been below the national average for each of these groups but in recent years that gap has been narrowed or closed. Pakistani children and white boys have seen a particularly strong improvement in the last two years.

However, the level of segregation in schools is high, growing and more extensive than the level of residential segregation would suggest. The BSF programme offers a major opportunity to promote integration and reduce segregation and it will be vital that these opportunities are used to the full. A particular issue in Blackburn with Darwen is the number of faith schools: half the borough’s schools are at least partly segregated on religious grounds. However, faith schools can work to reduce segregation.

Some primary faith schools have an open door policy and a very mixed intake. Indeed faith schools are generally well regarded and sought after by Asian parents.

The Anglican diocese has a mission to serve the needs of the community and will admit children other than Anglicans though these have priority.

St Wilfred’s is the sole Anglican secondary school and has opened its admissions to be more welcoming to the local community of whatever faith, even though it is oversubscribed.

Notwithstanding restrictions on grounds of faith parents do have choices about where they send their children. In Blackburn with Darwen many children do not attend their local schools but go to schools elsewhere in the borough, in neighbouring authorities or the private sector. If parents feel that a school is likely to suffer from the increased presence of BME children – because of concerns about the extra resources needed to deal with non English speakers; a reduction in levels of achievement; or fear of change and difference – then they may choose to send their children to other schools. If BME children feel they are likely to be abused, misunderstood or unappreciated then their parents will also wish to make choices accordingly.

The borough has a strong track record in creating jobs but the challenge is to ensure that local people benefit from these jobs.

There are particular challenges in respect of the Asian population of working age, activity rates are almost 20% less than in the White population and skill levels are low - nearly half the Asian heritage workforce has no qualifications. Different ethnic groups in the workforce are also concentrated in different sectors of the labour market. The Asian heritage workforce is significantly more likely to be employed in the Wholesale/Retail and Transport sectors and less likely to be employed in Construction and Health and Social Work. Though over a quarter of the Asian working age population is employed in manufacturing, it is largely in less skilled occupations.

Contrary to national trends, unemployment in Blackburn with Darwen does not fall disproportionately on any one ethnic group though it is concentrated amongst the 18-24 age group. There are likely to be significant differences between the profile of the borough’s Indian and Pakistani working population. Nationally, labour market participation rates for the Pakistani workforce – and in particular women - are significantly lower than Indian and amongst the lowest of all minority ethnic groups.

Levels of crime in the borough are relatively high compared with national and regional averages but compare well with similar areas and are falling. Indicative of tensions and the nature of relations between different communities in Blackburn with Darwen is the fact that 49% of BME respondents in a local survey said that they were worried about being physical attacked compared to 22% of White respondents.

19% of BME respondents said that they had experienced an attack compared with 4% of White respondents. Between 2003/04 and 2006/07 ‘all racially aggravated’ offences increased by 156 per cent but there are clear procedures for responding to these and the increase may reflect an increased confidence in reporting. Innovative approaches have also been developed aimed at reducing repeat offending for perpetrators of hate crime The Police have developed a strong reputation for working with the local community.. A Minorities Police Team was established in the 1990s and has grown over the intervening period.

Members of this team can make a crucial difference in investigating a range of incidents involving Asian and other minority communities. Responses to potentially inflammatory incidents by the police and the Council working together have been rapid and effective. The meetings which the Leader of the Council has called with community leaders to discuss such incidents have been widely praised.

Recent challenges for community cohesion have come from international and national terrorist activities. This has included high-profile counter terrorist arrests. These actions involve police from outside the area and this has inevitably increased the difficulty of maintaining good communications with the local community.

The recent arrests and subsequent release without charge of those involved in a Gaza relief convey has been a particular source of resentment locally.

The PVE agenda has generally been controversial and led to tensions across the borough and between different groups. The Council chairs the Pan-Lancashire PVE Forum which oversees PVE activity and spending. This has received national recognition for its work including from the National Community Tensions Team. Local community involvement in the agenda is high.

Health in the borough is generally poor with life expectancy the fifth lowest in the country. There are also wide variations in health. Men in the most deprived wards live eight years less on average than those in the least deprived wards; 27% of the Asian population in the 40-64 age group has diagnosed diabetes; and it is estimated that the death rate from coronary heart disease is approximately 40% higher amongst the Asian population; GP lists where patients are predominantly Asian are much longer than those with largely White patients.

There has been frustration at what was perceived as a slow response to these issues but the PCT, in particular, is now taking a range of more focused and vigorous actions to address health inequalities.

The Council has worked hard to engage with its communities in a variety of ways including, 100 Voices and Neighbourhood Voices, the new Neighbourhood Boards and the Youth Parliament. The willingness to meet quickly with community leaders when incidents, such as arrests under the terrorist legislation have occurred has already been mentioned. However, inevitably this is an area where still more needs to be done.

Many of those we spoke to particularly young people and women, felt that they were not engaged through existing channels or represented by current ‘community leaders’. More work is needed to understand the complexities of the Muslim communities (some initial mapping work is included in Appendix 2) to identify and develop new leaders and, where necessary, challenge existing leaders. There was also a widespread view that there was a reluctance to openly discuss or address issues of race, faith and segregation.

Blackburn with Darwen has a track record on promoting cohesion of which they can be proud. There was widespread acknowledgement of the success of initiatives such as the Belonging campaign, 100 Voices and Neighbourhood Voices and satisfaction that overt signs of hostility and disturbance were low. However, our principal conclusion is that, in order to stay at the forefront of initiatives to promote cohesion and to address the major challenges it faces the borough needs to make a step change in its response and activity.

At the heart of this challenge is the issue of the separation between Whites and Asians and within the Asian community between those of Pakistani and Indian heritage resulting in different groups living ‘parallel lives’.

Levels of geographical and educational segregation in Blackburn with Darwen are among the highest in the country and increasing. Some commentators suggest that it is natural for people to want to live with others like themselves and there is general agreement that it is beneficial for communities in the early phases of migration.

Certainly White Britons demonstrate this tendency more than any when they move abroad. However, we believe that when segregation becomes entrenched and embraces most aspects of life, residence, education, religious worship, work and leisure it can perpetuate disadvantage; limit choice and aspiration; and create insular communities.

Such communities, with little contact with or experience of others, can perpetuate stereotypes of themselves and of others, be resistant to change and ‘outsiders’ and exhibit intolerance and even violence towards those who are seen as different.

In our focus groups we heard from many who wanted to break away from segregation and be able to live and go to school in more mixed communities. But we also heard how often their personal attempts to do this had been frustrated by other people’s fears and stereotypes.

We therefore recommend that the Council should adopt a bolder, higher profile approach to promoting community cohesion which specifically recognises the challenges of separation and engage with partners and the community in seeking ways to reduce it.

The starting point would be to develop a shared and positive vision of a mixed community, which is widely owned by the community. Specific interventions could then be developed in terms of promoting and facilitating mixed housing developments such as: undertaking a proactive campaign with parents and communities to promote the positive benefits of diverse schools and perhaps challenging faith schools to reconsider their admissions policies in the light of the impact on cohesion; developing role models to help employers to combat stereotypical trends and asking employers to review recruitment policies to encourage more mixed workforces.

None of this will be easy or quick – segregation has taken decades to develop and will take many years to reduce. It will be essential to be realistic and to have reasonable and long term aims and to continue to develop opportunities for different communities to meet and interact. Blackburn with Darwen has a good record in this respect but much more will be needed if a critical mass of the community is to be reached. All partners and community organisations will need to play their part. The new Neighbourhood structures offer particular potential to promote this new cohesion agenda.

This is not to argue that the borough should not continue to vigorously address the issues of deprivation, inequality, underachievement and low aspirations, but these efforts are likely to be much less effective if segregation is not also tackled.

Recommendations

Providing clarity of vision, leadership and direction

Recommendation 1: The Council should decide, with the LSP, whether to adopt a bolder, higher profile approach to promoting community cohesion which specifically recognises the challenges, offers a commitment to addressing them and promotes an open debate about how this is best achieved.

Recommendation 2: A community cohesion strategy should be produced with the fullest partner and community involvement.

Recommendation 3: The Council should consider, with the LSP, the launch of a major new cohesion initiative, possibly around a joint community response to the recession.

Reducing segregation

Recommendation 4: The Council should explicitly recognise that the persistence of separate communities is a problem and engage with partners and the community in seeking ways to reduce it. However, this could also be expressed as a shared and positive vision of a mixed community, which is widely owned by the community. Other actions might include:

  • Specifically addressing the integration implications of all new housing developments
  • Working with private landlords, builders and developers to design communities which are mixed and cater for a variety of needs
  • Using planning policies to reinforce mixed housing use
  • Setting modest but realistic targets to say extend the mixed community boundary, perhaps by a matter of a number of yards per annum
  • Promoting and supporting efforts to help Asian families feel safer and more welcome moving in to predominantly white areas
  • Undertaking a proactive campaign with parents and communities to promote the positive benefits of diverse schools
  • Further developing school linking projects and extend these to parent groups and the wider community
  • Ensuring all schools are open to wider use and for different communities, for example for adult learning programmes
  • Developing joint teaching across different schools
  • Developing joint arts and sports and other programmes, across schools
  • Providing support for minority (BME or White) children and parents and actively aiming to increase each minority representation until it becomes self sustaining
  • Challenging faith schools to reconsider their admissions policies in the light of the impact on cohesion
  • Seeking to maximise the potential of BSF to create more diverse schools
  • Reviewing patterns of employment with employers and provide labour market analysis to guide future development
  • Continue to work with statutory providers like the LSC and the colleges to address the skills agenda and to improve access to combat stereotypical employment
  • Working with business support agencies to develop a wider SME system which caters for all backgrounds
  • Developing role models to help employers to combat stereotypical trends
  • Asking employers to review recruitment policies to encourage more mixed workforces (and subsequently to be able to mange diversity).

Recommendation 5: The Council, its partners and the wider community will need to redouble its efforts to provide and promote opportunities for different communities to meet. This should include:

  • Further specific initiatives to bring groups together such as ‘meet your neighbours’ which are interesting and fun
  • A more thoroughgoing and systematic approach to the duty to promote community cohesion in schools
  • Creating more public spaces where different groups feel safe and comfortable , including understanding and addressing the barriers to this
  • Exploring the role that businesses can play in promoting cohesion including engaging with the iCoCo business project.

Increasing engagement

Recommendation 6: Further effort is needed to understand and engage with BME and white communities. This could include:

  • Systematic analysis and understanding of the structures and cultures of the Muslim communities.
  • Identifying and developing new leaders who wish to work as ‘gateways’ rather than ‘gatekeepers’ ; and challenging those who do not
  • Specifically supporting women and young people to play more active representational roles
  • Supporting organisations that work across communities.

Tackling deprivation and underachievement

Recommendation 7:The Council should continue to emphasise the importance of tackling deprivation, reducing academic underachievement and promoting aspiration as key components in promoting cohesion and integration. The recent drive to improve health outcomes and reduce inequalities needs to be maintained.

Building on the neighbourhood approach

Recommendation 8: The new Neighbourhood Boards should have a specific remit for promoting cohesion. They should take responsibility for

  • mapping local community dynamics
  • understanding local perceptions and realities
  • anticipating dissatisfactions and tensions through local networks
  • identifying and developing community leaders as ‘gateways’ not ‘gatekeepers’
  • funding and supporting organisations which promote cohesion.

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