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Austrian Foreign Minister sees how Britain’s diverse communities are thriving

(London Post)  Ministers see ground-breaking integration work that goes on across England through Near Neighbours projects.

Austrian Foreign Minister, Sebastian Kurz, was yesterday (3 November 2015) shown around a “craft and conversation class” which brings people of all faiths together in Southall.

Accompanied by the UK’s Communities Minister Baroness Williams, Kurz was keen to discover the ground-breaking integration work that goes on across England through Near Neighbours projects.

The project in Southall has been held up as one of the best in the country. It brings women from the diverse local community together to encourage them to practise their English while they learn creative skills – like sewing, photography, baking and painting.

Communities Minister Baroness Williams said:

Projects like the one here in Southall help bring people together right across our country. That’s why over the past 3 years we’ve been able to support over a thousand like it.

Every class helps neighbours in diverse areas get to know one another’s culture and recognise and cherish the shared British values that bind us.

These fantastic projects have been met with great enthusiasm across the country. Now I hope they will inspire another country too.

Baroness Williams takes part in sewing lessons
Baroness Williams takes part in sewing lessons

Near Neighbours bring people together in communities that are religiously and ethnically diverse, so that they can get to know each other better, and strengthen the local community they live in.

So far 300,000 people across the country have benefitted, with:

  • 97% considering that projects had developed relationships with neighbours from different religious backgrounds
  • 89% of project leaders considering that their projects to have led to a greater sense of togetherness or community spirit

During the visit the minister also met the leaders of Southall’s diverse faith community to hear their views and discuss why integration was so important to their area.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz believes that integration is of vital importance.

He said:

Successful integration is vital for any country. It is a major focus of my government and that’s why I’m eager to see examples of successful projects which bring people from every background together.

It was clear to see that the faith leaders I met today in Southall are bound by their shared values and the discussions I had with them will certainly give me food for thought.

Near Neighbours was set up in 2011 in partnership between the Church Urban Fund and the Archbishop’s Council and is funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Near Neighbours grants were first targeted in 4 areas: the M62 ‘mill towns’ of Bradford, Burnley, and Oldham; Leicester; and selected boroughs and wards in east London and Birmingham.

Last year the department boosted the fund by a further £3 million, to bring the total funding to £8 million and expansion to 9 new areas – Luton, Rochdale, Bury, Dewsbury, Leeds, Nottingham, north and west London and the Black Country.

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