Select Committee on Liaison Minutes of Evidence

Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from the Prime Minister

  I promised to write with more detail on a number of points raised during my appearance before the Liaison Committee on 4 July.

  Phyllis Starkey asked about the Government's activities which specifically focus on addressing inequalities experienced by Muslim communities, with particular references to employment and education. I have attached a note which sets out in detail what the Government is doing to address these issues.

  Mike Gapes asked about the number of people who come to the United Kingdom legally to work, to study, to join families or to seek asylum each year. The enclosed tables provide the information requested. The provisional figures for last year are close to the approximations I gave at the Committee—there were just under 12 million people arriving in the UK: 284,000 people came to study and the number of asylum applications (excluding dependents) was 25,720.  There were fewer applications for asylum in 2005 than in any year since 1994. The tables also give figures for those coming to the UK as visitors—close to 7 million last year—and more detailed figures for those coming here to work and their dependants, and those joining family members.

  Barry Sheerman asked about funding for English language teaching for migrants. Migrants who come to the UK must be able to access good-quality, appropriate English language learning that gives them the skills they need to live and work successfully. We have committed significant resources across the UK to providing this learning. Since 2001 we have invested over £1 billion in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision. Over 1.8 million ESOL learning opportunities have been taken up over this period and over 160,000 learners have achieved a first Skills for Life ESOL qualification. Over the last 5 years both enrolments and funding for ESOL provision have tripled. Last year alone we offered over 483,000 ESOL enrolments with over £279 million of funding. And since November 2005 the citizenship element of English for Speakers of Other Languages, including the new ESOL citizenship teacher and learner support materials, has helped learners integrate successfully to life in the UK.

  This is already a huge investment, and we know there is always more to do, but our resources are not unlimited. We recognise the increased demand for ESOL learning across England. Officials in the Department for Education and Skills, together with their counterparts at the Home Office, are looking at ways to ensure that the language needs of priority groups for the strategy are able to be met. This includes considering which learners are best supported through Skills for Life funding and qualifications, and which learners might better be supported in developing the skills they need to live and work in the UK through an alternative route.

  Demanding targets have been set to improve the basic skills of adults in England, including language skills. By 2010, we aim to have increased the literacy, language and numeracy skills of 2.25 million people in England. We are on course to meet these targets, and will be working with our partners to ensure that the excellent progress to date is maintained. We also support pupils learning English as an additional language in schools. The Department for Education and Skills launched a strategy for English as an Additional Language (EAL) in October 2003 as part of its Aiming High strategy for raising achievement of minority ethnic pupils. Key initiatives since 2003 include an extensive EAL programme delivered through the Primary National Strategy involving a package of professional development for mainstream staff. Local authorities (LAs) were invited to join this initiative as associates, 21 of which were targeted. Currently over 70 LAs are participating. We have recently launched a Secondary National Strategy for EAL which builds on this work in secondary schools.

  The Department has funded two accredited training courses for teachers in EAL: one is run by Birmingham University with the Northern Association of Support Services for Equality and Achievement, and the second is run by the Institute of Education in partnership with Redbridge local authority. Two further accredited training courses for teaching assistants have also been funded: one run by Portsmouth and Hampshire local authorities with Portsmouth University and the other run by Enfield local authority with Middlesex University.

  Scottish Ministers have also recognised the importance of adequate language provision. Between 2001-04, £5.4 million was directed via the Scottish Further Education Funding Council to ESOL provision and other part-time non-advanced and advanced courses for asylum seekers and refugees in FE colleges. From the academic year 2004-05, this resource has been mainstreamed into FE baseline funding.

  Community based ESOL is often funded through local authority Community Based Adult Learning (CBAL) budgets. Best estimates of spend from the CBAL partnerships suggest that a total of around £1.84 million is spent on ESOL provision by the sector as a whole. In addition, adult literacy and numeracy partnerships have received around £41 million between 2001-06 to develop adult literacy provision including ESOL. The Scottish Executive is currently working towards the publication of an Adult ESOL Strategy for Scotland. The Strategy aims to help in matching supply with demand by enabling agencies and providers to work together more effectively to meet learners' needs.

  In Wales ESOL provision is provided as part of the National Basic Skills Strategy for Wales. The Strategy was launched in 2005, with a commitment of £40 million over a three year period. In addition, a specific, focused National Support Project for English as an Additional Language and ESOL in Wales is currently being developed with a resource of £120,000 in 2006-07.

  Finally, John Denham asked me about the proposed establishment of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion. Ruth Kelly has announced that she has asked Darra Singh, Chief Executive of Ealing Council, to chair the Commission on Integration and Cohesion. The Commission will consider how local areas themselves can play a role in forging cohesive and resilient communities by:

    —  Examining the issues that raise tensions between different groups in different areas, and that lead to segregation and conflict;

    —  Suggesting how local community and political leadership can push further against perceived barriers to cohesion and integration;

    —  Looking at how local communities themselves can be empowered to tackle extremist ideologies; and

    —  Developing approaches that build local areas' own capacity to prevent problems, and ensure they have the structures in place to recover from periods of tension.

  The Commission will undertake its work within the context of existing Government policy, for example on managed migration and preventing extremism. It will be grounded in an understanding of current and future patterns of diversity, but will focus on developing practical solutions for local communities based on the best existing practice. It will also consider the needs of communities defined by a shared characteristic (such as race or faith), which may require regional or national solutions. Although its recommendations for local areas will cover England only, it will consider issues which affect Scotland and Wales, and good practice from other countries. It will report to Ruth Kelly by summer 2007.I am copying this to Phyllis Starkey, Mike Gapes, Barry Sheerman and John Denham.


  This report sets out the Government's activities which specifically focus on addressing inequalities experienced by Muslim communities, with particular references to employment and education.

Evidence base of Muslim Inequalities

  It is clear that the Muslim communities experience below average outcomes in the key areas of education, employment, health and housing.

  Statistics within this report are drawn from a variety of sources, including the 2001 census, and combine both faith and ethnicity data. As data is not collected uniformly on faith, data for Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities is often used as a proxy in some circumstances.

  Key inequalities are—

    —  Education: under-attainment at GCSE level although results are improving faster than the national average; above average participation rate in higher education, but concentrated in certain institutions and courses with lower rates of course completion.

    —  Employment: three times more likely to be unemployed; approximately half are economically inactive (52% compared to 33.5% national average).

    —  Housing: a third of Muslims live in overcrowded accommodation.

    —  Health: higher than average rates of smoking; increased risk of coronary heart disease and increased risk of diabetes.

  The most up-to-date figures for the areas of inequality highlighted above indicate an upward trend in outcomes for Muslim communities over the past couple of years:

Inequality Muslim trend National trend
% in employment
Spring 2003 Bangladeshi






Spring 2004 Bangladeshi






Improvement of 4.8 percentage points Improvement of 0.9 percentage points No statistically significant change An improvement of 0.1 percentage points to 74.9% in spring 2004 for Great Britain

% achieving 5+

A*-C grade











Improvement of 6.9

percentage points

Improvement of 7.2 percentage points
Improvement of 4.2 percentage points

  NOTE: Unless indicated Pakistani / Bangladeshi are used as proxies for `Muslim' as faith data is not collected/available.

What has been done to address these inequalities?

  In 2004 the Government initiated the Muslim Engagement Action Plan. The plan focuses on three thematic policy areas -

    —  reduce the major aggravators of disaffection and tackle extremism;

    —  tackle the underlying inequalities experienced by Muslim communities; and

    —  build capacity within Muslim communities.

  In 2005 the Government's strategy to increase race equality and community cohesion, `Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society', was published. This first ever cross-departmental strategy on race equality and community cohesion brought together practical measures across Government to improve opportunities for all in Britain—helping to ensure that a person's ethnicity or race is not a barrier to their success. It aims to tackle inequalities by giving greater emphasis to tailored initiatives that meet the specific needs of particularly disadvantaged communities, rather than treating all BME communities in the same way. This includes a particular focus on Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities who are disadvantaged across a range of areas, as the data shows.

Tackling inequalities in the labour market

  Our ethnic minority employment policies do not focus specifically on faith but on the groups with lower or no employment, qualifications and skills: mainly, but not exclusively, those from the Bangladeshi, Pakistani, African and Caribbean populations and those who are living in the 272 local authority wards which have high rates of unemployment and high numbers of ethnic minorities. The majority of Muslims living in Britain are from Bangladeshi and Pakistani groups and 45% of Muslims live in the 272 wards.

  We have in place a number of mainstream and targeted initiatives and programmes to help connect people from these communities to work. These include:

    —  New Deals: the New Deal for Young People was the first employment programme to be pro-active in the promotion of equality of opportunity and outcome of all ethnic minority people, and adopt a strategy to identify and overcome the barriers faced by young people from ethnic minority backgrounds. It also encouraged more ethnic minority providers and businesses to participate in the New Deal. The New Deals have helped more than 200,000 ethnic minority people into work, of whom 38,000 are of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin. Employment [CR1]Zones and Action Teams for Jobs have also been successful in helping ethnic minority people get and keep jobs.

    —  Jobcentre Plus Performance Targets: the Jobcentre Plus target structure provides incentives to place into work residents of 272 wards with the highest ethnic minority populations coupled with high levels of unemployment. In 2004-05 Jobcentre Plus exceeded its targets in identified high ethnic minority wards. Targets for 2005-06 seek to increase further the proportion of job entries from these areas.

    —  Ethnic Minority Outreach: Ethnic Minority Outreach (EMO) was introduced in April 2002 to deliver, primarily through the voluntary and community sector (VCS), outreach services to jobless people from ethnic minority groups who need help in making the transition into work. EMO has been successful both in terms of reaching those ethnic minorities who may make little use of mainstream Jobcentre services, such as Indian and Pakistani women and, more recently, in terms of job outcomes. One example of this is an outreach programme undertaken by Jobcentre Plus each Thursday at the London Muslim Centre. Since its introduction, EMO has achieved over 9,000 successful job outcomes for its customers, almost 3,000 of these in the last operational year. EMO ends in September 2006 and will be replaced by individually targeted help through the City Strategy (see below).

    —  Fair Cities: Fair Cities Boards have been established in Birmingham, Leeds/Bradford and London (Brent). The boards work with local employers and stakeholders on city-wide strategies to tackle ethnic minority worklessness. An evaluation of the Fair Cities pilots is being developed. By March 2006, 38 people (32 from an ethnic minority) had been placed into jobs.

    —  Work Search Premium: For some people, the additional costs associated with looking for work may be a substantial barrier to seeking work. To examine whether we need to give additional incentives to people to participate in the labour market, we are testing ways of helping families where one partner is in lower-paid employment and the other is non-working. A Work Search Premium of £20 a week payable for up to 26 weeks to the non-working partners of people in receipt of Working Tax Credit is being developed. The initiative started in October 2005, in six areas of high unemployment and high volumes of people neither working nor claiming benefits. Many children living in poverty are from single-income ethnic minority households which this measure targets. A similar initiative, announced in Pre-Budget Report 2005, will start in January 2007.  This will be bigger, targeted at a broader range of inactive clients though it will not offer a premium[CR2].

    —  Invest to Save Budget pilots: We are currently sponsoring three pilots addressing ethnic minority employment issues all run by VCS partnerships. The three are: a Christian faith-based group, working with prisoners in London to get them into work and avoid re-offending; a Muslim faith-based group helping inactive Pakistani and Bangladeshi people in South & West Yorkshire (including Bradford) into work and working with local employers to tackle some of the myths that have grown up locally on the difficulties involved in employing Muslims; and a group of more than 20 VCS organisations working with a private employment agency to tailor help to the needs of inactive people in five London boroughs (three of them Olympic boroughs).

Future strategy and initiatives

  The majority of the ethnic minority population live in the five main conurbations—nearly half of them in London. Our strategy targets these areas and aims to use both Government-focused and individually focused approaches. These are informed by our commitment to ensure that the needs of these communities are factored into our policy development. The key components are:

    —  Procurement: We are reviewing use of the purchasing power of Government and its contractors, and the powers vested under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2002, to contract only with employers that have robust equality polices in place and monitor the diversity of their workforces. Similar policies in the USA have dramatically increased workforce diversity and improved the quality of jobs available to ethnic minority applicants. We are piloting this in a number of Departments with the aim of extending it to all Government Departments. Using the funding of Government suppliers and their sub-contractors will promote change in recruitment patterns across a wide spectrum of industry and the country, therefore benefiting all communities including Muslim communities.

    —  The City Strategy: announced in the 2006 Green Paper A New Deal for Welfare: Empowering people to work, the City Strategy will bring together existing funds aimed at addressing unemployment and disadvantage in our major cities. It will give consortia of local representatives greater flexibility to use designated funding, targeting their money and resources in innovative and effective ways to deliver local employment based targets. The first City pathfinders, in East & West London, were announced on 4 April 2006.  We have identified the most disadvantaged areas through mapping the Cities with the most deprived communities—we know, for example, that in the Olympic boroughs 75% of women from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds are inactive. We are inviting Expressions of Interest from City Consortia which will link into the Local Area Agreements. We are currently issuing guidance to partnerships in mapping and identifying the most disadvantaged groups in identified and selected disadvantaged cities. Many of these areas have high concentrations of ethnic minority communities, and in areas such as East London high concentrations of Muslims. Combining funds, targets and audit requirements should reduce the burden on local deliverers and allow them to develop local solutions to address child poverty, unemployment and the associated deprivation. We envisage that this initiative will be well placed to carry forward the legacy of the Olympic Games post 2012.

    —  Ethnic Minority Advisory Group (EMAG): a new group is being established to advise the DWP on strategy, policy, and initiatives. Membership has yet to be announced but we are ensuring that there is a voice representing a community cohesion focus. We are also considering setting up a sub-group to deal with faith issues and women in particular.

    —  The Olympics: The five Olympic boroughs all have high ethnic minority populations (around 40% or 300,000 people) with low employment rates (Tower Hamlets has an employment rate of just 32% for its ethnic minority population). We are engaging with the planning process in a number of ways to help ensure that local people not only benefit from the immediate employment opportunities that the Games will generate—but also in the long-term renaissance of the East End and Thames Gateway. We are working with the London Employment Skills Task Force (LEST) and the London Organising Committee of the Olympics (LOCOG). We are also talking to faith-based organisations—the London Muslim Centre for example—to take a volunteering programme forward and help address any barriers that faith communities may face.

Tackling inequalities in education

  Our approach to tackling inequalities in education is to centre our proposals around the backbone of the Government's wider Skills Strategy—the core aim of which is to give every young person a firm foundation in the skills they need for their future. At present, the picture for Black and minority ethnic groups is a mixed one. For example, most minority ethnic groups have improved their performance at GCSE—and some ethnic groups continue to outperform their peers significantly at school, while for others the achievement gap remains wide.

    —  Underachievement: underachievement in school-age education is a key issue affecting future life chances for Muslim young people. A national programme focused at raising the attainment of Muslim pupils in secondary schools was rolled out in September 2004 and was doubled in size in June 2006.  Targeted interventions aimed at raising the attainment of mainly Muslim ethnic groups have produced significant improvements. In 2000, 29% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils achieved 5 good GCSEs, compared with 49% of all pupils. In 2005, 48% of Pakistani and 53% of Bangladeshi pupils did so against a national average of 55%—more than halving the attainment gap for Pakistani pupils and almost closing it for Bangladeshi young people.

    —  7 July: We have published guidance for schools on dealing with issues arising from 7 July 2006.

    —  Islamaphobic bullying: We have published guidance, materials and hosted national conferences supporting schools to identify and tackle Islamophobic bullying. We have also produced literature in community languages encouraging young people and their families to report bullying.

    —  Curriculum review: We have commissioned a review of the curriculum examining how it can better reflect the cultural and faith diversity of the country and promote an inclusive sense of Britishness.  

    —  Youth services: We have commissioned the National Youth Agency to consult Muslim young people on how youth services could better meet their needs as part of the Youth Green Paper consultation.

Future strategy and initiatives

  Extremism: DfES, Home Office and the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre are working together to produce practical advice for higher education institutions on tackling/deterring extremist activity on campuses.

  Religious Education: We have commissioned the Markfield Institute of Higher Education to review the teaching of Islam in higher education institutions. The review will examine whether the teaching provides a sufficiently wide perspective of Islam.

Muslim Schools

    —  DfES already assists existing independent Muslim schools through the process of moving to the maintained sector.

    —  We issue clear and simple written guidance to help them through the process, guidance that was developed with a user group on which Muslim schools were represented.

    —  We provide a named contact to provide continuing support to promoters of new schools and independent schools seeking to join the maintained sector to help them develop their proposals and overcome any potential barriers.

    —  We provided AMS-UK with a grant of £100,000 last year to carry out an analysis of potential barriers to independent Muslim schools' entry to the maintained sector and advise the Department on how these might be overcome. We will also be inviting AMS-UK to consider what support independent Muslim schools might need to put together proposals to join the maintained sector.


    —  Since 1997 seven voluntary aided Muslim schools have been set up in the maintained sector, 4 primary 3 secondary. Two were former grant-maintained schools and five came from the independent sector. A further independent Muslim secondary school has been approved to join the maintained sector in 2007.

    —  All schools within the maintained sector must meet certain conditions. These include operating fair admission arrangements, providing equal opportunities to boys and girls (unless they are single-sex schools), promoting good relations between different racial groups and promoting community cohesion. A fuller list of duties is set out in the attached Annex.



  Muslim households are the most likely to experience overcrowding and there are a number of initiatives underway to address this:

    —  low-cost home ownership programmes that open up the housing market to first-time buyers from Black and ethnic minority communities;

    —  choice-based lettings that offer more flexibility about location and type of housing;

    —  meeting the decent homes targets by 2010 will help to improve living space and this will disproportionately improve the situation for BME households as they are disproportionately represented in the non-decent homes;

    —  the work of the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit that tackles housing issues, alongside other important factors that affect or influence the potential for overcrowded households such as poor job prospects; education, health and crime;

    —  the Pathfinder Plan to improve and `open up' once deprived neighbourhoods to housing opportunities.

    —  proposals to facilitate the use of Sharia-compliant loan finance by social tenants who wish to buy their homes under Government low-cost home ownership schemes.

Health interventions

  There are a number of initiatives underway that will address health outcomes for Muslims:

    —  The PCT-led Race for Health programme has placed race equality at the core of primary care health services, tackling issues such as diabetes, strokes, heart disease and cervical screening within black and minority ethnic communities. The programme supports a network of 13 PCTs around the country, working in partnership with local black and minority ethnic communities.

    —  Following the publication of a best practice toolkit Heart Disease and South Asians in December 2004, in 2005 we co-sponsored with the South Asian Health Foundation the production of `Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation of Cardiovascular Disease in South Asians' with the support of the Chief Medical Officer.

    —  The government's tobacco campaign specifically targeted South Asian communities. It worked in partnership with community organisations and Asian community radio and television to highlight the dangers of tobacco smoking and chewing and encouraged people to stop smoking. Leaflets, posters and information booklets have also been produced to promote stopping smoking, supported by an Asian tobacco helpline which provides counsellors who speak Urdu, Hindu, Bengali, Punjabi and Gujarati. Anti-smoking campaigns held during the time of Ramadan have also been successful.

    —  It is clear that the quality of data on the health needs and experiences of BME groups needs to be raised and the Department of Health is committed to doing this. In July 2005 it revised the guidance on ethnicity monitoring of NHS patients and social care users. The guidance, which includes a number of best practice examples, applies to hospitals, where the collection of ethnicity data is mandatory, to community health settings and to social care settings. The new single electronic patient record will also include ethnicity information; and performance on ethnic monitoring has been built into the Quality Outcomes Framework for GPs.

    —  Following the HM Treasury funding seminar for minority faith communities the Department of Health agreed to consider the potential for promoting greater access to their Section 64 Scheme of Grants for minority ethnic and faith groups, including Muslim communities. The Department of Health is now reviewing the grants criteria and will run workshops in areas with high Muslim populations that will promote the scheme amongst minority faith communities.


Faith Communities Capacity Building Fund

  Launched in September 2005 the fund supports capacity building and inter-faith programmes which will support the development of faith based organisations and increase participation of faith communities in civil society. The first round has seen £7.75 million distributed across 588 organisations. A total of £1.5 million of this was to Muslim organisations.

  A second round is due to launch shortly. £4.5 million will be available for distribution.

Connecting Communities Plus

  Connecting Communities Plus (CCP) is a new £6 million a year grants programme over three years designed to support activity to deliver the cross government strategy `Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society'. While not directly focused at faith groups it will fund for example projects that aim to improve access and outcomes for BME communities in education, employment, health, housing and the Criminal Justice System. There are three levels of grant;

    —  Strategic grants for national level organisations working across the English regions—up to £150,000 per annum for 3 years

    —  Project grants for organisations based in at least one of the English regions—between £12,000 and £100,000 per annum

    —  Community grants for local groups—usually up to £6,000 per organisation.

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