Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
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Building united and resilient communities - developing shared futures

Building united and resilient communities - developing shared futures

COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT News Release (112) issued by The Government News Network on 14 June 2007

THE COMMISSION ON INTEGRATION AND COHESION

The final report from the Commission on Integration and Cohesion setting out the steps that need to be taken to build strong, cohesive and integrated communities is published today. This can be found at: http://www.integrationandcohesion.org.uk/Our_final_report.aspx

The independent Commission chaired by Darra Singh was established by Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly and tasked with considering what local and practical action is needed to overcome the barriers to integration and cohesion. Over the past year they have visited towns and cities across the country gathering evidence on how communities themselves are taking action in response to their own circumstances and particular cohesion challenges.

The Commission's report, Our Shared Future puts forward a wide-ranging set of recommendations for practical action to address cohesion and integration issues at a local level, along with suggestions for a national framework to support these.

Some of the key areas covered by the report include how we promote and support English language speaking, developing a new role for local authorities with strengthened support from national government and how we put a renewed focus on citizenship.

The report contains detailed research into how cohesion issues are affecting areas in different ways and how the nature of the cohesion challenge has changed.

In 2001, tensions between established groups led to disturbances in some Northern Towns. This unrest prompted the Government to respond at a national level - setting out a new cohesion policy based on the experiences of those towns. As Britain grows more diverse and globalisation brings new patterns of migration, the challenges may have changed and become more complex. Each area of the country is different and local responses are therefore needed to respond to the issues of cohesion and integration.

The report underlines the need to move away from a single approach
towards more sophisticated analysis and tailored local solutions in order to make communities more resilient and united in dealing with the present and future challenges. It stresses the need for a more local approach in each area.

Chair of the Commission Darra Singh said:

"Diversity continues to be both a huge economic and cultural strength for our country. As a nation we have a long tradition of fairness and tolerance and these traditions hold true today. We are also more united and cohesive than most countries across Europe and around the world.

"Our latest research shows that almost 80% of people think that individuals from different backgrounds get on well in their area, and as a Commission we have been struck by this sense of optimism and commitment to building strong communities.

"At the same time, Britain continues to become a more diverse country with globalisation bringing new patterns of change. We have to recognise that there are communities who are experiencing migration in a way they haven't before. This can raise real challenges in different parts of the country about how we promote integration and ensure we have strong and united communities.

"Whilst there is no cause for alarm, there is a clear case for action. Our report sets out the challenges and the practical steps that everyone - individuals, organisations, local and national government - can take to overcome them and work towards developing our shared future.

"These proposals need to be acted upon at a local level to ensure we are well-placed to tackle the new challenges and do not risk losing the cohesion we hold dear."

The principle of shared futures underpins the work of the Commission. Shared futures is about an emphasis on articulating what binds communities together - rather than the differences that might divide them - and is about prioritising a shared future over divided legacies. This is at the heart of the Commission's recommendations.

The Commission make recommendations on a number of key integration and cohesion issues including:

CITIZENSHIP and INTEGRATION

Citizenship is about recognising what we have in common, rather than focusing on difference. The Commission have looked closely at what more can be done to support greater integration and interaction and to encourage more people to play a more active role in society. They recommend:

A nationally sponsored community week - with a strong focus on celebrating the history and diversity of the local area and bringing people from different communities together, this week would provide an opportunity for local people to play a more active role in their local area - and develop relationships with people from outside their communities at the same time. Shared activities like regenerating local parks or community centres should be used to give diverse communities shared goals and a sense of purpose. Places of worship should open their doors and invite people in to see what happens in them. Local employers could open their doors to show how they are contributing to the local community. Street parties and festivals should be used to demonstrate what neighbourhoods and local people have in common.

Activities should focus on civic pride, developing local understandings of citizenship and democracy and shared values.

National school linking programme - Through visits, virtual links, speaking events, trips and cross school learning, school children would have the chance to meet up with other pupils from across the county and/or country. The programme would be nationally co-ordinated through a dedicated website.

Volunteering - the Commission would like to see a new national programme of voluntary service for young people expressly linked to local citizenship and the chance to contribute to their local area. Cohesion and integration would be at the heart of these programmes and focus on bringing people from different backgrounds together e.g. old and young people, people of different races and faiths, to work on shared projects in their local area. The community week could provide a focus for this work but the Commission would like to see the youth volunteering body "V" taking the lead on this all year round and in particular would like to see young people taking part in voluntary work immediately after their GCSEs.

The Commission also want to see more opportunities for adults to get involved in their local communities. They suggest that large employers should consider allowing employees up to 3 days paid leave a year to participate in activities e.g. volunteering for a local charity.
GCSE Citizenship ceremonies - The (short course) GCSE in Citizenship Studies is currently the fastest growing GCSE. There were 38,000 entries for the GCSE in 2005 - up 10,000 on 2004. Due to demand from schools a full course is currently being developed that will be available by 2009.
The Commission recommend that graduation ceremonies be held for young people completing their Citizenship GCSE. They say that in time this could be rolled out to all pupils. Organised by schools and linked to town hall ceremonies, the joint ceremonies would provide an opportunity to publicly mark a young persons understanding of what it means to be a responsible citizen in modern Britain and put a greater emphasis on what we all have in common.

MANAGING INTEGRATION

Strong local leadership is vital to managing successful integration and cohesion particularly when responding to changes in the local population. The Commission set out a new role for local authorities to lead on cohesion issues backed up by more support from national government where necessary. They recommend:

A new role for Local authorities - All Local authorities should spend time mapping their local areas and local population, understanding who lives in each ward, the make up of local schools and the different religious groups worshipping in their area. This information should then be used to strengthen local leadership, help local authorities to know more about their local communities and how to better meet their needs. It will help them to identify integration issues arising within communities, likely changes in population and develop targeted interventions in response. The Commission recommend that local authorities consider both the needs of new communities, and the responses from settled communities. They point to existing schemes where the issues of settled communities have been managed by engagement between Local Authorities and local residents' associations, for example, or through targeted communication and myth-busting.

National integration body - The Commission are recommending the creation of a new national body to manage integration and provide support for local authorities experiencing new migration. Sponsored by Communities and Local Government, this independent body would be responsible for supporting the integration of new migrants. Drawing together best practice from around the country and providing advice and guidance to authorities and public bodies dealing with integration issues, the body would also look at how responses need to be better tailored to reflect different groups e.g. spouses, seasonal migrant workers, students on educational exchange programmes and provide an advice line for local authorities experiencing issues.

Specialist integration and cohesion teams should be on hand to support local authorities deal with particular local issues and challenges arising from significant changes in the local population. Part of the national integration body, the teams would be made up of integration experts with experience in managing change, conflict resolution, public service planning and mediation skills. They would advise local authority leaders, local communities, schools, hospitals and other public services on the actions they could take to support integration and work with settled communities to manage new migration and change.

Local contracts. The new integration body would work with local authorities to develop local agreements or contracts for new arrivals that would set out the expectations and responsibilities that local areas have in terms of what is and is not acceptable behaviour. These would build on the excellent work already been done in some areas.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE

MORI research produced on behalf of the Commission found that 60 per cent of the people surveyed agreed that the biggest barrier to "being English" was not speaking the language. The Commission have looked at ways to better support migrants and settled communities to get the language skills they need.

Translation - The Commission would like to see an end to the assumption that materials should always be translated into community languages - translation should be reduced except where it builds on integration and cohesion. The Commission recommend that the Department for Communities and Local Government publish guidance, based on the principles set out in their report, to help public bodies make informed decisions.

More English language provision - money saved through a reduction in translation should be reinvested in English language provision to boost language skills amongst non-English speakers and ensure that vulnerable groups get the support they need. The Commission also urge the DfES to reconsider current ESOL funding arrangements in the wake of concern amongst those that they consulted and look at more innovative ways of making ESOL provision available.

Business
The Commission believe too it is only right that those who benefit most from migration, including businesses that employ migrant labour, should pay a contribution towards the cost and provision of ESOL training. The Commission are clear that only large businesses would be asked to contribute in this way - and that this idea is something that is already being done by some leading employers.

FUNDING
Funding single issue groups rather than using public money to support whole community projects can be regressive and divisive and should be the exception rather than the rule.

In a survey carried out on behalf of the CiC almost half of respondents said that it was 'differences' and lack of contact that prevented people from different communities getting on well together.

Throughout their report the Commission stress the importance of communities being helped to interact, they make clear that the way in which community projects are funded is a crucial part of this.

The Commission recommend that unless there is a clear business and equalities case, single group funding should not be promoted. In exceptional cases where such funding is awarded the provider should demonstrate clearly how its policies will promote community integration and cohesion.

The Department for Communities and Local Government should produce guidance for grant making bodies and local authorities to assist them in making decisions about single group funding.

The Commission also make clear that there are sections of Government funding that need to be considered in terms of their impact on integration and cohesion. For regeneration budgets, for example, they recommend that the new Communities England ensures that it spends its money in a way that brings people of different groups together, and this applies to a number of other organisations in the report such as the Arts Council, and Regional Development Agencies.

Notes to Editors
This Press Notice applies to England

1. The Commission on Integration and Cohesion is an independent body chaired by Darra Singh, Chief Executive of Ealing Council.

2. The Commission was established by Ruth Kelly the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in August 2006.

3. Darra Singh was appointed chair of the Commission in June 2006. The other 13 commissioners were announced on 24 August 2006. They are: Michael Keith, Nargis Khan, Hamza Vayani, Leonie McCarthy, Frank Hont, Harriet Crabtree, Ed Cox, Sam Tedcastle, Steve Jordan, Decima Francis, Steve Douglas, Ebrahim Adia, Ramesh Kallidai.

4. Today's news release is issued by the Commmission on Integration and Cohesion via the Department for Communities and Local Government media network.

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