On 2 August 2017 we met with Matthew Ryder, the deputy mayor of London in charge of social integration, social mobility and community engagement. The meeting was held in the Polish Centre and attended by a group of representatives from Polish organisations ranging from old and established to very young.
The intention of Mr Ryder had been to encourage the Polish community to get more engaged in shaping the strategy for London and to present his office and role, with the aim of building solid bridges between Poles in London and the London administration.
Within Mr Ryder’s portfolio are areas of engagement with London’s diverse communities to support social integration, promotion of social mobility so that London is more equal and thriving, and support of volunteering so that Londoners have avenues to get engaged in causes they care about.
In the social integration and mobility context, one of the key areas we discussed was currently poor provision of English classes. We whole-heartedly supported this opinion knowing how much our disadvantaged users would benefit if English teaching was more available, and more accessible.
In terms of accessibility, we pointed out that current provision of English – limited as it is – does not respond to needs of working people, or people with specific linguistic needs (like English for work) and seems to be guided entirely by convenience of local providers. In our view and the view of many our users, current provision doesn’t add value to their life in London as well as doesn’t add value to London as a home of diverse communities.
It goes without saying that support in terms of employability and employment advice for migrant Londoners would create new options for people and add to improving integration and equality of migrant Londoners. Currently, the only employability support available targets refugees. Extending this provision to migrants in lowest-income or lowest-skill occupations could redress some of the most stark labour inequalities of London and make it a better place to live for everyone.
In terms of building community engagement between the Mayor’s office and London’s communities, we raised the point of formal mechanisms of engagement with organisations representing interests of immigrant Londoners, namely Migrant and Refugee Advisory Panel (MRAP) and London Strategic Migration Partnership (LSMP).
MRAP is a consultative body formed mainly of migrant organisations and other civil society organisations with stake in welfare of immigrants (e.g. trade unions). LSMP is a statutory consultation group collecting views of key stakeholders (including two reps of the MRAP group) in order to shape London’s policies on migration, integration and mobility. Among the LSMP stakeholders are representatives of the Home Office, Skills Funding Agency, Greater London Authority, MOPAC and London Councils (list not exhaustive).
Having been an active member of MRAP for the last two years and having worked with LSMP on some aspects of impact of Brexit on London, we raised an issue of unclear lines of demarcation between the two and their terms of reference. We are going to continue this conversation with Mr Ryder’s office in hope that both bodies can act as true conducts of cooperation and understanding for the benefit of London’s migrant communities and the city itself.
Mr Ryder expressed his desire to collect three or four specific actionable concerns that would improve life of the Polish community, and any community in London. We are very keen on this approach and will be delivering our list, based on our over 30-years experiences of supporting Eastern Europeans in London, so that Eastern EUropeans have an influence over strategic directions of London. Watch this space!
In the meantime, if you are an Eastern European Londoner and would like to contribute your views and concerns to our list, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org. If there is a practical action that can be taken and you think it would make life in London better for you and your family and friends, we want to hear about it.
Rest assured that your identity and contact details will protected, unless you tell us otherwise.