The new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Integration – which will explore how we can build amore integrated Britain – was launched this morning. The focus of the APPG will be on how we can build and enable the social ties which help people to develop shared identities in modern Britain.
Speaking at the APPG launch, Chuka Umunna MP, Chair of the APPG, said:
‘Too often, people from different ethnic, socio-economic and age groups are living side-by-side but aren’t actually mixing with one another or leading interconnected lives. And there are worrying signs that the income and lifestyle gap between the rich and poor in our society may continue to widen.’I believe that we are at a crossroads. If we don’t take action now to bridge the divides in our communities, we run the risk that they will grow into gulfs.’
Commenting on the widening socio-economic gulf in Britain, Chuka added:
‘Rising inequality is one of the most pressing problems facing our nation, and is compounded by the growing segregation of different class groups. It’s no wonder we’ve wound up with TV programmes like Benefits Street — produced by well paid people who are not on benefits — which treat people who claim unemployment benefit like a different species.’
He then outlined the need to focus on breaking down barriers to integration, particularly to groups who feel threatened by immigration:
‘Those of us who champion the benefits of immigration and diversity also need to recognise that rapid demographic change can put enormous pressure on local public services and threaten people’s sense of security and belonging.’My own party has too often shut its ears to these concerns. Labour has rightly argued that immigration has brought real economic benefits, but this is an accountant’s answer to a question which goes to the heart of how people feel about modern Britain.’Our failure to confront head on the fact that our country hasn’t lived up to the Olympic ideal has, at times, caused us to unfairly dismiss reasonable concerns about the impact of immigration on our communities.’