The government has published a wide-ranging strategy to tackle segregation and inequality, with five council areas selected to pilot new measures aimed and promoting integration and opportunity.
The green paper, published today, focuses on a number of policy areas, including education, housing, employment and women’s rights.
Introducing the integrated communities strategy, housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid said Dame Louise Casey’s review of community cohesion showed the “pace and scale” of change had placed pressure on services, left “too many” communities divided and people isolated.
The government said public attitudes “pose challenges”, with research showing the proportion of the public who describe themselves as racially prejudiced has never fallen below 25% in the last 30 years.
The green paper says variations in “the nature and scale” of the challenges mean plans and policies should be tailored to tackle specific local issues.
This approach will be initially trialled in five areas and the government says it will work with councils and other partners to “co-design” integration strategies.
The areas, which have been chosen because they have “demonstrated a keen grasp of the challenges they face and shown a desire to try new things and learn what works”, are Blackburn with Darwen BC, Bradford City MBC, Peterborough City Council, Walsall MBC, and Waltham Forest LBC.
The strategy requires a “whole council” approach to integration, with a “mainstreaming” of objectives across policy and service delivery.
The government also said it will work with councils to ensure school intakes are “more representative of the wider area” and “strengthen expectations” for new free schools to promote integration.
The green paper says regulation of independent schools will be reviewed to establish whether it can be tightened to ensure required standards are met.
Guidance will be also be published on how the government, Ofsted and councils can work together to ensure children attending unregistered independent schools and out of school settings are safe and receiving a suitable education.
The government said it will also provide £50m to expand school-based nursery provision for disadvantaged children.
The strategy includes a government pledge to work with Ofsted on developing new inspection arrangements aimed at ensuring “strong… promotion of fundamental British values”.
The government said it will also evaluate the effectiveness of the controlling migration fund, which aims to mitigate the impacts of immigration on local communities.
Mr Javid added: “This government has an ambitious goal: to build strong integrated communities where people - whatever their background - live, work, learn and socialise together, based on shared rights, responsibilities and opportunities.
“This strategy sets out how we plan to do so.”
Responding to the strategy, chair of the Local Government Association’s safer and stronger communities board Simon Blackburn (Lab) said the development of area-based strategies would support what “sits at the heart” of what councils “do every day”.
He added: “However, if we are to truly help create cohesive communities, local government needs to have the powers and resources to be able to do so.
“Devolving more powers to councils in these key areas is critical to supporting local areas, alongside measures that help specific parts of our communities or bring communities together.”