The House of Lords has set up a Select Committee on civic engagement, with Lord Hodgson as chair, to explore the issues of citizenship and civic engagement in the 21st century, to report by 31 March 2018 and with a deadline for evidence of 7/8 September.
Lord Hodgson said: ‘British Society has experienced many changes in recent years and this has put new stresses and strains upon it. Citizenship and civic engagement are a vital part of the’glue’ that maintains a cohesive and tolerant society. This Committee has been established to investigate citizenship in the UK, what it means and whether it should change. We also want to find out if there are barriers preventing people from being more involved, both locally and nationally. We hope to hear from people all over the country who have an interest in this topic, who work with communities who are disengaged, as well as from people who are disengaged themselves.’
The Select Committee writes:
The Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement was set up on 29 June 2017 and it has to report by 31 March 2018.British society is changing. Technological, economic and cultural issues are leading to far reaching shifts in how individuals, families and communities live and work together. The referendums on Scottish independence and Brexit, the recent attacks in Manchester and London by people, some of them born in Britain, an apparent low level of confidence in the effectiveness of the political system, not to mention concern regarding sections of society that feel ‘left behind’ – all of these point to the need to reflect on those values, principles and processes that might play a role in bringing people together and promoting engaged citizenship.
This is why the House of Lords has set up a committee to explore the issues of citizenship and civic engagement in the twenty-first century. The committee is keen to hear from a wide range of individuals, groups and organisations in order to understand the nature of the citizenship challenge for different parts of society; the aim being to identify new ways of building bridges within and between communities, and to support civic engagement. How to think about citizenship and civic engagement in a more vibrant, positive and integrated manner is of particular interest to the committee. The questions set out below are intended to provide a framework for those who wish to offer their views. You need not answer all these questions.
It is helpful if opinions are supported by factual evidence where appropriate. Comparisons with the law and practice of other countries are welcomed.
- What does citizenship and civic engagement mean in the 21st century? Why does it matter, and how does it relate to questions of identity?
- Citizenship is partly about membership and belonging. Are there ways we could strengthen people’s identity as citizens, whether they are citizens by birth or naturalisation? Could citizenship ceremonies or events throughout the educational process play a role? Should pride in being or becoming British be encouraged?
- Civic engagement can be seen as both a responsibility and a right of citizenship. Beyond the existing legal framework, should citizens have additional formal rights and responsibilities? How do you see the relationship between the two? Should they have the force of law individually or be presented as reciprocal duties between citizen and state? How should they be monitored and/or enforced?
- Do current laws encourage active political engagement? What are your views on changes to the franchise for national or local elections, including lowering the voting age? Should changes be made to the voting process or the voting registration process?
- What should be the role of education in teaching and encouraging good citizenship? At what stages, from primary school through to university, should it be (a) available, and (b) compulsory? Should there be any exemptions? Should there be more emphasis on political participation, both inside and outside classes? How effective is current teaching? Do the curriculum and the qualifications that are currently offered need amending?
- Do voluntary citizenship programmes such as the National Citizen Service do a good job of creating active citizens? Are they the right length? Should they be compulsory, and if so, when? Should they include a greater political element? Should they lead to a more public citizenship ceremony? Are they good value for money? What other routes exist for creating active citizens?
- How can society support civic engagement? What responsibility should central government, devolved and local governments, third sector organisations and the individual have for encouraging civic engagement? What can the Government and Parliament do to support civil society initiatives to increase civic engagement?
- What are the values that all of us who live in Britain should share and support? Can you identify any threats to these values, which affect the citizenship of, for instance, women or various minority groups? If so, how can their citizenship be strengthened?
- Why do so many communities and groups feel ‘left behind’? Are there any specific factors which act as barriers to active citizenship faced by different communities or groups – white, BME, young, old, rural, urban? How might these barriers be overcome?
- How do you see the relationship between citizenship and civic engagement on the one hand and social cohesion and integration on the other? What effect does the level of diversity in schools and workplaces have on integration in society as a whole? How can diversity and integration be increased concurrently?
- How important are levels of English proficiency for first and second generation immigrants and what could be done to increase them, including through support for ESOL classes? Are there particular barriers faced by newcomers to Britain? Could the naturalization process, including the citizenship test, be improved and if so, how?
- Can you give examples of initiatives and role models that have helped promote a positive vision of British Citizenship within a tolerant and cohesive society?
Written evidence should be submitted online using the written submission form available at http://www.parliament.uk/citizenship-civic-engagement-form.
The deadline for written evidence is 8 September 2017.You can follow the progress of the inquiry at http://www.parliament.uk/citizenship-civic-engagement
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