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Social mixing between young people - key to integration in isolated and deprived communities

Social mixing between young people - key to integration in isolated and deprived communities

20th December 2016

After a year-long review into integration and opportunity in isolated and deprived communities in Britain, Dame Louise Casey has published her findings at the beginning of this month. Initially commissioned by the then prime minister David Cameron, the review looks at what could be done to increase community cohesion in Britain’s most disadvantaged areas.

The review states that, due to the unprecedented pace of immigration, some communities are now more divided than ever and certain groups have been segregated from the rest of the population. Additionally, ethnic groups across the country are characterised by large social and economic gaps. In order to address the inequality and failure of integration, Dame Casey points out that it is social interaction between people from different backgrounds that could foster better ties and social mobility among the population.

In particular, social mixing between young people can lead to more understanding of difference and more confidence and resilience in living in a forever changing society. To prove this particular point, Dame Casey offers several note-worthy examples of positive interaction between young people. These include the constructive impact of Youth United Network, the extra support provided by Prince’s Trust and the NCS programme for 15 to 17 year olds.

While schools can provide a very important opportunity for children and young people to meet and work with those from different backgrounds to themselves, belonging to a uniformed youth group can also contribute to social mixing.

The focus of Youth United’s work to date has been on opening up new opportunities for young people in disadvantaged communities and from hard to reach groups. These opportunities have promoted integration and social mixing in two forms. Through ensuring that Youth United groups are diverse, members have the opportunity to interact with young people from different backgrounds. They are exposed to different cultures, which in turn, makes them more receptive to and accepting of differences. Additionally, as members of uniformed groups, young people have the chance to interact with people of different ages, cultures, abilities and backgrounds through social action activities. Both within and outside the group, young people in uniformed youth organisations come in contact with a diverse group, thus fostering a sense of belonging and cohesion in the community.

All in all, since 2012, Youth United has created nearly 42,000 places in new uniformed youth groups. 85% of these units are located in the most deprived half of the UK (as defined by the ONS Indices of Multiple Deprivation) and the remaining work we have done is to support uniformed youth groups to adapt their practices to support some of the most hard-to-reach young people in the UK, including young offenders and young people with special educational needs or physical disabilities.

Despite a number of valid concerns identified by officials and politicians alike, Louise Casey’s review reaffirms the values of the work uniformed youth groups do in disadvantaged areas.

A perfect example of work that Youth United promotes is the Volunteer Police Cadets (VPC) Tower Hamlets unit. This particular unit comes together every Thursday to not only promote a practical understanding of policing amongst all young people and encourage the spirit of adventure and good citizenship, but also to increase the trust and understanding between young people from different backgrounds.

Uno, Fariha, Mohima, Nadia and Fatima are five of the many young people part of the Tower Hamlets unit. Uno (pictured) has been part of the VPC for a year now and admits that before, she did not have something constant in her life. Fast-forward 12 months, Uno has gained her Duke of Edinburgh bronze award, has completed the Three Peaks challenge and has participated in the Trooping of Colour parade.

The VPC Tower Hamlets unit was present at the Notting Hill Carnival. By supporting the organisers in variety of roles, such as providing directions to revellers and being stationed at key transportation points, the Cadets were not only encouraged to work together, but also to actively interact with the community.

While all the members of the unit come from incredibly different backgrounds, Uno stresses that participating in borough competitions and supporting each other through these experiences have brought the Cadets closer together. In her own words, it is the fact that they are “in this together” that makes it easier to relate to each other and connect with other people.