Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
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Blears - community cohesion

Blears - community cohesion

COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT News Release (104) issued by The Government News Network on 12 May 2008

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has today published new guidance encouraging local authorities to better map their communities and the people that live there as part of efforts to monitor tensions and promote more cohesive and integrated communities.

The guidance for Local Authorities Community Cohesion Contingency Planning and Tension Monitoring is a part of the government's commitment to provide local areas with the support they need to respond to their own particular cohesion challenges.

The guidance is not a reflection of unrest in the UK. Latest data from the Citizenship Survey shows that 81% of people feel that individuals from different backgrounds get on well together in their local area and that 83% agree that people in their local area respect ethnic differences. The guidance is an acknowledgement that tension monitoring plays an important role in helping those involved in promoting cohesion locally, to recognise, name, manage and resolve conflicts that may arise in the process of community change.

The guidance focuses on what councils could do to both prevent and respond to local issues. It seeks to encourage local authorities to be aware of who is living in their area, how they interact and get on. The guidance aims to encourage councils to track and monitor local trends, and be alert to potential tension 'hot spots' and work with a range of people to agree actions to manage tensions.

The guidance stresses the importance of early intervention in preventing community based conflicts that can lead to problems with integration, and general cohesion within communities. The guidance focuses on the importance of better planning including:

* better use of local data - including better sharing of info and feedback from police, neighbourhood wardens and community workers. Figures on employment, investment in the area and levels of political extremism can all point to changing attitudes.

* Community responses - councils should look to bring together all key players the community - from local government agencies, the police, community and faith groups - who can come together to address issues should they arise and who will then keep a watchful eye on tension levels across the community on an ongoing basis.

And also encourages authorities to think about possible 'triggers' and take action by:

* monitoring racist, religious and other criminal incidents closely, looking at where and when they occur and then taking action to resolve tensions that may follow.

* countering rumours and scaremongering with myth busting info setting out the facts.

* working with local media to ensure that reporting of local issues is balanced and does not exacerbate tensions.

* working closely with young people in the community from all different faith and cultural groups

* developing greater awareness that increased globalisation means international issues can play out at local level with the potential to threaten cohesion.

Hazel Blears said:

"The overwhelming majority of people in this country live successfully side by side but we cannot take this for granted. Challenges to cohesion do exist - this might be between different ethnic or faith groups or new migrants and longer term residents - but things can be done to address problems at the earliest opportunity and stop things escalating.
"We have made £50m available to local authorities to support them in responding to these specific challenges and placed a much greater focus on integration - including an end to automatic translation and more emphasis on English language learning, a move away from the funding of single groups and strengthening of our shared values."

Notes to editors

This press notice applies to England

1. The guidance for Local Authorities can be found at the following link: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/cohesionplanning

2. The Government's Response to the Commission on Integration and Cohesion
http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/governmentresponsecoic.

News Releases: http://www.communities.gov.uk/newsroom

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