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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Migration - Sharing Good Practice

Thursday, March 22, 2007

At an event organised for local authorities by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) on the management of migration, Meg made the following remarks.



Good morning.

It’s a pleasure to be here and to say a few words, including ‘thank you’ for the work you do in managing the migration process as well as you do. I don’t have to tell you that inward migration, managing it, committing resources, spending money, doesn’t attract votes, doesn’t attract positive comments or much in the way of public support. But managing this process is work that has to be done, for the sake of those coming into the country, and most certainly for the communities they live in.

The positive contribution

I want to start by talking a little about the positive contribution that migrants from the new accession countries have made to the UK economy since May 2004. They have filled labour shortages, and some severe skill gaps, including those in the important public services such as the NHS and social care.  Migrants from the accession states include over 12,000 carers and home care assistants, and over 1500 teachers, researchers and teaching assistants.

They also take seasonal jobs in the agriculture and food processing sectors - parts of the economy that previously have found it difficult to find workers. There is little evidence to show that British workers have lost their jobs because of migrant workers. Migration has contributed to the UK economy, an economy which has grown faster than those European Union countries that initially restricted their entry.

Recent research from the University of Liverpool shows that some migrant workers with degrees and professional qualifications - doctors, solicitors and teachers, for example - often find work in relatively low skilled occupations such as cleaning or factory packing. They then try and find jobs that better suit their qualifications. The majority of migrants from the new accession countries are young, well educated and single. This means that generally there has been a limited impact on public services although clearly this varies between areas and some of you will be managing an increase in demand for some services.

Community Cohesion

We need to be aware that there can be implications for community cohesion often due more to perceptions than reality. This can be particularly difficult for communities that have not seen any significant population changes for decades. Many parts of the country that have seen changes because of EU migration - rural areas, small towns -have not experienced large scale migration before.

To date migration has not caused significant cohesion issues nationally - though many people here today will be able to provide examples of where cohesion is an issue locally.  Local authorities have a vital role in addressing these issues, through the development of strong partnerships at local level that enable communities and community organisations to live together with respect and tolerance.  This can often involve addressing myths and misconceptions and I’ll talk about the good work that some authorities have done shortly.

Working together

Many of you will have seen the Audit Commission’s “Crossing Borders” report and the Commission for Rural Communities paper “A8 migrant workers in rural areas”. Both set out areas where organisations need to adapt in order to work better on this issue.

A number of the local authorities here attended the discussion in December on good practise. That meeting helped us identify many of the issues that face you in your own areas. We have also been working with the Improvement and Development Agency, Audit Commission, and the Commission for Rural Communities in order to put together a package that should help to effectively manage migration locally.

Today’s event is part of this work. The themes for the workshops - housing and employment, understanding data, communications, local leadership and joint responses - are issues that local authorities have told us are vital for a well managed migration process.

My department and the Improvement and Development Agency have worked with the Audit Commission on their framework for local improvements.  Local partners that we have spoken to agreed that this was a useful conceptual tool to use as we develop case studies, benchmarking and good practice.

Your Input

We want your input into compiling a publication on the process that will be useful for you when doing your job. We would welcome any details of the work that you have done, lessons that you have learned and ideas that you have that could be included. This will help others who have to face similar experiences.

A number of local authorities and other service providers have already developed some good practice out of the experiences they went through. I hope many of you will take the opportunity to talk to the organisations that have stalls here to learn about what they have been doing. For example, the New Link project in Peterborough has created innovative ways of supporting new immigrants.  By working closely with community groups it tries to develop a positive image of new arrivals among established communities.

Communication is so important here - people often base what they believe on what they have heard through hearsay or the media. Myths can spread quickly. So, examples in the toolkit show what works well, like how Crewe and Nantwich tackled rumours and myths that migrants were moving straight into council housing.  By simply briefing local staff and talking directly with community groups, they ensured that residents knew the truth about what was actually happening.

Other partners - such as the police and the churches - are often the first organisations to interact with migrants and they can also share what they have learned with you. 

“Migrant worker” website

The Audit Commission has been building a migrant worker web site. This provides advice for organisations that are working with, or employing, migrant workers as well as setting out some of the concerns that migrant workers have.  The web site will be launched in the next few days - and the Audit Commission are here, so you have the opportunity to see how it works and make suggestions before it goes live.

I hope you will contribute today - your input will add value to the work that we are undertaking in this area. I hope you find the day beneficial, and that you pick up some ideas about how to make the process of managing migration better - better for you, better for migrants, and better for local communities. 

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