East Midlands Council’s recently published a report on the impact of international migration on their region.
It concludes that international migration has generally been good for the economy, that recent migrants make a net contribution to the UK budget and are less likely to claim state benefits than the non-migrant population.
However it also highlights four key challenges that must be addressed if community cohesion is to be maintained at a local level:
- There is no single, consistent source of local data on migrant communities or their characteristics, which makes it difficult for councils to effectively plan and deliver local services;
- Changes to Government policy have shifted the cost of caring for some vulnerable migrant communities to councils, without any additional financial support;
- Councils need to have a greater say in how and where supported asylum seekers are dispersed by the Home Office in local communities; and
- There is a lack of local provision for teaching English for those new migrants who do not speak the language well, which can limit job opportunities and increase translation costs for councils.
One of the key things holding work in this field back is the problem of data set out in the first point, the current data sources are a bit generalist, based as they are on the 2011 census, NHS records and some occasional research surveys. Some possible data sources such as the Roman Catholic Church diocese for some eastern European communities such as the Poles, or gathering data from places such as Eastern European food shops are rarely engaged with.
Parts of the UK have much more intense levels of economic migration such as London and the agricultural areas of the East Midlands, the latter of which gets covered in this report. It does make sense for local authorities and other bodies in those areas where this is an issue to work together to develop a single set of shared usable data. This would not only assist with engagement but would also address difficult cohesion issues such as dispelling myths and rumours that can arise as we know from our own substantial cohesion work over the years. In order to be useful all round, this might include:
- General Demographics
- Employment details. This is likely to be important for some of the current debates
- Housing. Again understanding this is important to current debates
- Public health data, lifestyle and motivational values
The issue of migration is not going to go away and many migrant communities are settled with some more integrated than others. More detailed data is not only useful but could enable groups of local authorities and other public bodies to save money too.