Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
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Blears - £50 million investment in community cohesion

Blears - £50 million investment in community cohesion

COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT News Release (186) issued by The Government News Network on 6 October 2007

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears today announced a ten-point action plan to promote cohesion and tackle community tensions including £50million investment.

This is part of the Government's response to the 10-month review by the Commission on Integration and Cohesion which looked at the major challenges Britain faces in responding to increasing change in local communities.

New data out this week confirmed the Commission's finding that the national picture is a positive one. It showed that 81% of people feel that individuals from different backgrounds get on well in their area, 85% of people feel they belong strongly to Britain and 77% feel they belong strongly to their neighbourhood.

But despite the overwhelming majority of people getting on together, the Government's initial response will make clear that there are still new and often complex challenges that require action nationally and locally in order to bring communities together and tackle perceptions of unfair treatment.

The new proposals have been set out in a letter from Hazel Blears to the Commission's Chair Darra Singh - Chief Executive of Ealing council. Key Government action includes:-

£50 million investment over the next three years to promote community cohesion and support local authorities in preventing and managing community tensions. This is an increase from £2m in 2007/08. Local councils will use the money to respond to their own particular challenges -some focusing on new migration, others looking more at how they promote interaction between people from different backgrounds. Activities might include - youth projects bringing people from different backgrounds together; involving young people in community activities through volunteering, mentoring or becoming neighbourhood wardens; school or places of worship twinning programmes, local pride in the community campaigns; conflict resolution; award ceremonies to celebrate local people and local achievements.

Promotion of new 'Citizen Days' across all local areas in England following four successful pilots. All local authorities will receive guidance on how to promote a strong sense of citizenship and civic pride with activities focused around new local 'Citizen Days'. These will celebrate both national and local culture and stress shared local tradition alongside shared British values like respect for rule of law, tolerance and democracy.

Information packs for new migrants - setting out a series of rights and responsibilities. The packs will help new migrants get to grips with what is expected of them from national laws to local traditions - this could include respect for the rule of law and no drink driving. It will also set out guidelines on British cultural norms - including tolerance and understanding of other faiths and communities.

Specialist integration and cohesion teams will work to support local councils in managing any major changes in the local population. This could include integration experts helping in mediation, planning to manage the impact of migration or community relations. These teams will be piloted from next year.

New national indicators on promoting cohesion will help local authorities focus their attention on what really works in their local area and help other areas learn from it. These new indicators will demonstrate for the first time how cohesion is playing out in different areas of the country. In addition they will place a new responsibility on local authorities to create opportunities for people from different backgrounds to mix and develop a sense of belonging.

A rebalancing of local translation provision with a much greater emphasis on learning English. The Commission on Integration and Cohesion made clear that not being able to speak English is the biggest barrier to integration. We will publish new guidance for local authorities and public bodies in the coming weeks. The guidance will set out how local authorities should only translate where necessary and put a greater focus on promoting English.

New Cohesion funding guidance. We will stress that funding for public bodies should focus primarily on groups promoting integration and support the coming together of different communities rather a single identity.

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said: "Britain has a proud tradition of tolerance and different communities living side by side. In addition, migration has always made a tremendous cultural and economic contribution to the country. But whilst this remains the case, we cannot be complacent and must tackle the future challenges head-on.

"As a Government and a country, we must be honest there are issues we need to address as a result of new patterns of migration and ensure that we have the ideas and policies to tackle them over the next 10 years.

"Britain grows more diverse and globalisation brings new patterns of migration. There are new challenges, affecting parts of the country who may not have experienced them before."

"Our plan includes a comprehensive set of measures to tackle the new issues we face and promote integration and develop strong, resilient communities. It will promote our shared British values like respect for the rule of law, tolerance and fairness. New investment will help spread a stronger sense of civic pride and shared heritage. It also raises to a new level our work direct with local authorities and communities, ensuring they have greater support at a local level in building united communities."

Other actions contained in the plan include:

Practical support on cohesion. A cohesion web-based 'one-stop shop' will be set up so that any individual, group or organisation who needs help, advice or support on how to develop their cohesion policies or respond to cohesion issues will be able to access expert help and guidance via a dedicated website. New cohesion impact tests will also be available - a useful tool for 'cohesion proofing' policies.

A new interfaith strategy that will focus on what more needs to be done to promote interaction and dialogue between faiths and develop shared values.
Increasing our understanding of what works. The Citizenship Survey is the tool used to measure levels of cohesion in this country. Currently carried out every two years, from now on the data will be collected on a quarterly basis, ensuring that our work is underpinned by the very latest intelligence on people's attitudes and experiences.

Notes to Editors

This press notice applies to England

1. The Commission on Integration and Cohesion was an independent body established in August 2006.

2. Our Shared Futures - The Commission's final report was published on June 14 2007 and can be found at http://www.integrationandcohesion.org.uk/

3. Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has written to Chair of the Commission Darra Singh responding to the recommendations in the report. This letter can be viewed at
http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/hazelblearsletter

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