New refugee integration indicators for the UK

By Professor Jenny Phillimore, Director of IRiS

The so-called refugee crisis of 2015 saw the arrival of the largest number of refugees into Europe for decades.  Whilst initial responses in mainland Europe were concerned with accommodating arrivals, and in UK with developing new resettlement schemes, the focus on most Governments has now shifted to refugee integration.  Across the continent increasing attention is being paid to the long-term future of refugees and the communities in which they live as Europe seeks to embed refugees into the social, economic, political and cultural lives of towns, cities and nations.

The UK has to some extent led the way in refugee integration policy in the past two decades with the Indicators of Indicators (IoI) report, published by the Home Office in 2004, establishing ten integration domains each covering multiple indicators used extensively both in the UK, across mainland Europe and across the world.  I have used the IoI framework extensively in my own work to evaluate European, national and local integration initiatives, to measure refugee integration outcomes and to theorise around what works in integration.

Researchers at the Home Office had been talking about the possibility of renewing the IoI for some years but with the advent of the so-called crisis in Europe the need to update the document which shapes integration policy, practice and measurement became ever more apparent and in 2017 the process of renewal began with a workshop of integration experts.  At that time it was expected that we would work collectively to produce a new set of indicators by the end of the year.  In fact renewing the IoI has taken two years but has resulted in what is probably the most extensive piece of work around refugee integration ever produced.  Not only are the indicators more comprehensive and contemporary but they are accompanied by an interactive toolkit to help users identify and utilise existing instruments for measuring different aspects of integration, a What Works document outlining good practice in refugee integration and a Theory of Change showing how each domain can move from theory to practice.  The IoI and associated materials are to be launched at a conference in London on June the 3rd and are already attracting attention from across the globe.

IoI list
[ Figure 1: Indicators of Integration framework]


The process of renewing the indicators and producing the new materials was longer, harder, more challenging and more rewarding than anticipated at the outset.  It was and continues to be very much a collaboration between the Home Office and three lead academics: Alison Strang who co-authored the original IoI, Linda Morrice an expert of refugee education and integration and myself alongside other contributors such as Lucy Michael who brought a Northern Irish perspective.  Each of us has contributed to the entire process helping to shape the focus and purpose of the IoI and to renew, add and update the domains and indicators.  We have added four new indicators including ICT and leisure and separating language from culture, added social care to the health domain, and changed employment to work to ensure that self-employment and entrepreneurship are now covered.  Crucially the language of the indicators has changed to reflect much more the two way nature of integration and the responsibilities of host communities to welcome newcomers reflecting findings from the work that Sin Yi Cheung and I have undertaken identifying factors that shape integration outcomes using the UK’s Survey of New Refugees.

The consultation around the IoI covered all nations in the UK and has involved workshops with local authorities, strategic migration partnerships, NGOs, think tanks, all relevant Government departments and critically refugees.  The result we hope is a document that can be used flexibly according to the needs of user groups and will help shape integration policy and practice in the UK and beyond for the next decade.  My involvement in the IoI project over the past two years has been supported by the University of Birmingham and the Economic and Social Research Councils IAA scheme which ensures that the learning from research projects can be turned into tangible benefits for society.  The launch today, on the 3rd of June, may mark the end point in the process of renewing the IoI but is the beginning of a new phase of work implementing the new framework and supporting stakeholders to use the document and associated materials in ways that help support refugee integration in the UK.

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