Bishop Toby Howarth, the Bishop of Bradford, has responded on the national media to the Casey Review on segregation and social exclusion in minority communities.
Dame Louise Casey’s review, (published Monday 5 December) into the integration of minorities, was commissioned by former Prime Minister David Cameron as part of the government's efforts to tackle extremism.
Among her recommendations were that immigrants could take an "integration oath" and schoolchildren be taught British values.
Segregation and social exclusion has reached "worrying levels" , says the review, and is fuelling inequality in some areas of Britain. She found "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".
Her report highlighted the plight of women in some Muslim communities, who she said were less likely to speak English and more likely to be kept at home.
Bishop Toby was invited to give a response on the BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine programme, and spoke from the Yorkshire Dales where two primary schools from different Bradford communities and areas were holding classes and activities together for the first time under the auspices of the Schools Linking Network of which he is the Chair. It was, he told the programme, “a very good example of integration already taking place”. (Pictured right - Schools Linking Network activity-- below, Bishop Toby with Meg Henry of the Schools Linking Network in Bradford)
Bishop Toby said he hoped the review would be welcomed in Bradford – but said that many of the issues raised are already regularly under discussion. “Part of it Is just very straightforward economic issues around housing, employment, education. Immigrants often come into areas where there is cheaper housing. You then get a situation where they go to school together, where they are working together – and a lot of it is about racism and people wanting to integreate but not being allowed to because the host community is resistant to that.”
He added, “ We’ve got schools linking going on but if a parent from a wealthy community says ‘I’m not going to let my kid go down because they are are going to meeting some Muslims from Inner-city Bradford’, then that’s an issue of integration from that side as well.”
Asked about the problem of ‘political correctness’ which has prevented intervention by statutory bodies or the church where beliefs or behaviour are wrong, Bishop Toby responded, “I think there is an element of that and the Rotherham* situation” showed that up. But I think we’re getting better at it, I think we recognise this report and I hope that we in Bradford can welcome it and work with it and engage with it.” (*Where groups of Asian men were found guilty of grooming under-age girls for sex. )
“But” added the bishop, “I don’t think there’s a lot of stuff that is really new here – it’s just about upping our game in terms of our response… the whole issue of segregated communities has been being talked about for a long time.”