Regulation with Rosie: Migrants

Rosie Chapman considers how migrants and the sector can help each other.

Recent government findings that migrants have a better work ethic than British-born workers might vindicate the popular stereotype of the Polish plumber who works 14-hour days without stopping for tea breaks.

Generalisations aside, eastern European immigrants make a significant contribution to the UK economy - about £6bn a year. But what contribution could they be making to civil society?

Much of eastern Europe has a history of social enterprise, but the rampant consumerism prevalent in the rest of Europe and the west hasn't pervaded these cultures as extensively as our own. Sixty charities have been created to help those arriving from eastern Europe in the past three years, yet eastern Europeans' potential as volunteers and staff might well be underexploited. There is a shortage of trustees, volunteers and paid staff in large parts of the sector, so it would make sense to reach out to this new population.

These incomers are characterised by energy, responsibility and the desire to improve their lives. They are disproportionately young and have a stake in committing, even if only in the short term, to their host society. Many are also over-qualified for the work they currently undertake and might relish the stimulus and responsibility that trusteeship, volunteering or working for a charity can offer.

These groups get information in exactly the same way as the rest of us, so put notices up in both the specialist food stores that cater for them and the community boards that are increasingly a feature of mainstream supermarkets. Everyone reads local papers and local journalists are always keen to run community stories.

The benefits from and to our new communities should go beyond new bathrooms and the minimum wage.

- Rosie Chapman is executive director of policy and effectiveness at the Charity Commission.

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