A Church-led project aimed at promoting social cohesion among Spalding’s English and East European communities has suffered a setback with no one yet appointed to a “community connector” post.
Led by the Vicar of Spalding, the Rev John Bennett, a steering group set up by Spalding Parochial Church Council wants to appoint three part-time community connectors.
But it’s proving difficult to find people with the language skills as those eligible for the job must be fluent in written and spoken English as well as speak Polish, Latvian or Lithuanian.
The project sprang from a study that identified Spalding as “one of the top ten least integrated places in England”.
Mr Bennett said: “It is proving to be a bigger challenge than I had expected to recruit the community connectors.
“Good English speakers from outside the UK are often already working full-time, and, less surprisingly, English people with good Polish, Lithuanian or Latvian are very rare.
“I am still looking to recruit, though it will take longer than I originally hoped.”
Community connectors were due to be tasked with talking to people and groups about the issues that stand in the way of integration.
But the project will remain on track despite the lack of appointments.
Mr Bennett said: “Meanwhile, I am finding some other ways to gather the information on what needs to be done to overcome the obstacles to greater integration.
“There has been a very positive response from many people in Spalding to news that we are trying to establish the community connectors project. “They recognise the need for more ways of bringing those who have come to live here from other parts of Europe into the community. There has even been interest from Latvian TV News, who interviewed me for a story about life in Spalding.
“I have already learned from talking to people about the project about some of the issues that people face with social services, doctors, schools, housing and employment, which are worse when you don’t have a good command of English.
“Of course, speaking English would make a big difference, but not everyone finds it easy to learn a foreign language, as many of us will remember from school.”
The aim of the project is to promote social cohesion by working for the “greater integration of the different nationality and language groups within Spalding.
It will have a special focus on the catchment area of Spalding Parish Church of England Day School, which coincides with the Parish of Spalding.
Since 2001, the population of Spalding has risen with the arrival of new residents from the European Union – the most numerous nationalities being Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian.
When it was set up, the project had three phases:
• September 2016-January2017 – community connectors will identify people and places were they can go to ask about the issues
• February-March 2017 – information gathered will be assessed
• April-August 2017 – community connectors will consult about proposals to address the issues identified and identify the longer-term measures needed for further integration
At the end of the first year, a report will be written for the Bishop of Lincoln’s Social Fund and that’s likely to be published in the Press.