The Casey Review: A review into opportunity and integration
Over a year ago I was asked by the then Prime Minister and Home Secretary to undertake a review into integration and opportunity in isolated and deprived communities. The integration I wanted to look at was not just about how well we get on with each other but how well we all do compared to each other.
I wanted to consider what divides communities and gives rise to anxiety, prejudice, alienation and a sense of grievance; and to look again at what could be done to fight the injustice that where you are born or live in this country, your background or even your gender, can affect how you get on in modern Britain.
I wanted to be honest about how much harder life is for some and to think about what we can do to resolve this and build more cohesive communities.
I approached this task hoping that by improving integration and the life chances of some of the most disadvantaged and isolated communities, we could also inject some resilience against those who try to divide us with their extremism and hate.
I went where the evidence took me, talking to community groups, officials and academics as well as teachers, pupils and faith leaders. Some of the meetings and conversations I had were very challenging and the stories hard to hear, but none of the 800 or more people that we met, nor any of the two hundred plus written submissions to the review, said there wasn’t a problem to solve.
No review starts from a blank piece of paper, and I was grateful to all whose research and opinion I could call upon to help guide the work. This review takes and builds on all that expertise, and I hope that it does service to all those who took part.
At the start of this review, I had thought that I knew what some of the problems might be and what I might report on. Discrimination and disadvantage feeding a sense of grievance and unfairness, isolating communities from modern British society and all it has to offer.
I did find this. Black boys still not getting jobs, white working class kids on free school meals still doing badly in our education system, Muslim girls getting good grades at school but no decent employment opportunities; these remain absolutely vital problems to tackle and get right to improve our society.
But I also found other, equally worrying things including high levels of social and economic isolation in some places and cultural and religious practices in communities that are not only holding some of our citizens back but run contrary to British values and sometimes our laws. Time and time again I found it was women and children who were the targets of these regressive practices. And too often, leaders and institutions were not doing enough to stand up against them and protect those who were vulnerable.
I know that for some, the content of this review will be hard to read, and I have wrestled with what to put in and what to leave out, particularly because I know that putting some communities under the spotlight – particularly communities in which there are high concentrations of Muslims of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage – will add to the pressure that they already feel. However, I am convinced that it is only by fully acknowledging what is happening that we can set about resolving these problems and eventually relieve this pressure.
None of this is easy. But too many leaders have chosen to take the easier path when confronted with these issues in the past – sometimes with good intent – and that has often resulted in problems being ducked, swept under the carpet or allowed to fester.
I approached this review with an absolute belief that we are a compassionate, tolerant and liberal country. But social cohesion and equality are not things we can take for granted; they require careful tending, commitment and bravery from us all.
In fact some of our most treasured national institutions are built on that belief; a health service that is free for all who need it, a media that exposes corruption and injustice whoever you are, and a legal system that treats everybody as innocent until proved otherwise.
So I hope that this review will be read in the same spirit with which I have tried to write it; with honesty and not shying away from the difficult and uncomfortable problems that we face.
A failure to talk about all this only leaves the ground open for the Far Right on one side and Islamist extremists on the other. These groups are ideologically opposed to each other but actually share the same goal: to show that diversity and modern Britain or Islam and modern Britain are somehow incompatible. But of course they are wrong.
We have always been at our strongest when most united. We are better for being open and inclusive as a society. Every person, in every community, in every part of Britain, should feel a part of our nation and have every opportunity to succeed in it.
There can be no exceptions to that by gender, colour or creed. Those are our rights. Those are our values. That is our history. It must be our future too.
My overriding hope is that we can work together in a spirit of unity, compassion and kindness to repair the sometimes fraying fabric of our nation.