A wide-ranging government strategy aimed at tackling segregation and inequality will aim to give communities control over local decision-making and the services they receive.
The Integrated Communities Action Plan, published on Saturday, sets out a raft of cross-department commitments, with the aim of delivering them by the end of this parliament.
The plan follows a green paper published last year in response to the 2017 Casey review of community cohesion. It will roll-out the work undertaken in five pilot areas.
In a bid to strengthen leadership, the government said it will ensure the equality objectives of all public bodies include actions to improve integration.
Government departments will also review “priority policies and services to determine how they might best drive integration”, with progress reported through a new ministerial group on safe and integrated communities.
The strategy promises that the rollout of universal credit will have “integration challenges” factored in, with a focus on engaging all sections of communities to boost employment opportunities.
The strategy says integration is “a two-way street”, with a responsibility on residents to welcome migrants.
New measures include the revision of the ‘life in the UK’ test to “give greater prominence to British values”.
The language requirements for those applying to become British citizens will also be strengthened and the impact of these requirements on visas will be kept under review.
The plan promises to help refugees overcome barriers to employment, with the government pledging to work with support organisations, job centres and employers.
Measures to assess and support the mental health needs of refugees will also be prioritised.
The government said it will evaluate the impact of the controlling migration fund, which councils have received a share of to help ease pressures on services, by April 2020. This will include an assessment of the impact of a pilot of local authority asylum support liaison officers.
In a foreword to the strategy, housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire said: “I’ve been lucky enough to experience first hand how faith groups and ethnic minorities make our places better, safe and stronger. Rather than a problem to be fixed, they are something to celebrate.
“Our action plan will do that and more. It will build the capacity of our leaders, strengthen our communities, improve integration through learning English and give people the infrastructure they need to thrive.”
The strategy also includes a range of measures relating to education, including the strengthening of expectations on free schools to promote integration and strengthening the enforcement of independent schools.
The government has also pledged to “support and empower people to take action to build integrated communities locally”, through a new ‘community guide to action’. This could include bringing commercial units back into community use for social projects.
Announcing the integrated communities strategy in March last year, former 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 areas included in the pilot were Blackburn with Darwen BC, Bradford City MBC, Peterborough City Council, Walsall MBC, and Waltham Forest LBC.