What is Community Cohesion?
“By community cohesion, we mean working towards a society in which there is a common vision and sense of belonging by all communities a society in which the diversity of people’s backgrounds and circumstances is appreciated and valued; a society in which similar life opportunities are available to all; and a society in which strong and positive relationships exist and continue to be developed in the workplace, in schools and in the wider community.” Source: Dept for Children, Schools & Families.
In lay terms it means “establishing shared values and building better relationships by bringing people together across cultural divides, no matter a person’s age, gender, race, sexual orientation or religion”
The term Community Cohesion was firmly established in 2001 after the riots in Burnley, Oldham and Bradford, left in its wake chaos, property destruction and fragmented communities. The riots involved large numbers of people from diverse backgrounds resulting in violence and attacks on the police. Communities were scared and had a mistrust of any form of authority.
Against this background the first report to use this term and to propose a new policy framework around it, was Community Cohesion: The Report of The Independent Review Team (the “Cantle Report”). The report was supported by three local reviews of the three towns most affected by the riots. These were: for Bradford, the Ouseley Report (2001); for Oldham, the Ritchie Report (2001) and; for Burnley, the Clarke Report (2001) (the Ouseley Report was commissioned prior to the disturbances in Bradford). The Government responded with Building Cohesive Communities, a Report of the Ministerial Group on Public Order (The “Denham Report”) which set out a wide range of proposed actions.
EMAG and Community Cohesion
It was about the same time when EMAG itself began to establish itself as a champion of Community Cohesion bringing together people of diverse faiths and backgrounds together. Our work actively promotes community cohesion and is reflected in our constitution which is to:
- Work towards the elimination of racial disadvantage and its counter effect
- Promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups.
- Promote community cohesion and equality
- Celebrate the diversity of ethnic backgrounds within the community
Examples of our Work
In the 1980s Afghan families began escaping the communist regime, then in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s they were escaping the Taliban, many families were settled on the Edgar Road and Butts Farm Housing Estates. After escaping strict and torturous regimes they were faced with harassment, discrimination and violence in the estates they were living in.
In 2001 we carried out a survey and found residents were scared going to work and back because of the fear of being attacked while travelling to and from within the estate. They told us:
We just want to be left alone so we can work and have peaceful normal lives
In 2001 our proportion of casework dealing with Racial Harassment was 55% across Richmond Borough.
In January 2002 we set up The Edgar Road Support Group for residents of the Edgar Road Estate in Hanworth including asylum seekers/refugee families. This group was set up to provide a safe place and give support to families who suffered racial harassment/attacks on the Estate.
Our work, building links, building relationships and developing community cohesion in partnership with the Police and Social Landlords saw a reduction in Racial Harassment casework to only 7% in 2014.
During the last 14 years our work has helped individuals regain their confidence, develop skills and go on to become valuable members of both the local and wider community.
Community cohesion requires, Engagement, Relationship and Partnership work with both communities and service providers. We also need to most importantly identify those vulnerable communities who are most effected detrimentally by their situation and environment.
What community cohesion does is develop Positive Outcomes for all involved in the programme.
a) Increased participation
b) Increased trust
c) Increased community progress and development
d) Increased working together
e) Better use of resources
Part of our community cohesion work also includes inviting statutory and non-statutory officers to our Multifaith trips whose main aim is to gain greater insight and understanding of our diverse communities and their faiths and is attended by people of different faiths as well as people of no faith.
Observed feedback from participants on a trip to Canterbury Cathedral
We learn to respect all faiths and religions
Understanding differences and common elements to many religions is important to working with individuals
We also put on Multicultural events which celebrate Diwali, Eid, Guru Nanak’s birthday and Christmas and are attended by participants from around the world who have different cultures and languages. These are large events attracting at least 100 people and include the Mayor and Councillors from Richmond upon Thames, the Police and officers from Richmond Housing Partnership.
Another event is our Annual Bike Across Cultures which has the aim of promoting the benefits of cycling and walking to black & minority ethnic communities, about having fun and celebrating our cultures. It’s a project which is been planned, organised and run in partnership with non-statutory, statutory organisations and local Black & Minority Ethnic community groups. The Police attend to provide safety tips, the Mayors of Richmond and Kingston open the event and other statutory officers attend and participate in the event.
In 2013 we had a major community cohesion event called Holi the “Festival of Colours” this is a joint event with Richmond Councils Arts Service delivered at Orleans House Gallery, bringing together 4000 people, children centres and local schools. Its purpose to reduce isolation and promote understanding between South Asian communities, particularly those living in deprived wards to participate more fully in the life of the borough beyond their own neighbourhood.
Really good at bringing together the community’ I loved it, it’s my first time in England I thought I would never get the chance
These are all good examples of how EMAG involves the local community and service providers to work together, to find out about each, respect other and increase community cohesion in the process.
By fostering community cohesion, vulnerable minority ethnic communities flourish and thrive in the wider community and contribute towards positive outcomes in British Society.
While we have made great strides over the years in combating hate and racial discrimination as the figures from our casework show, incidents that occurred after Brexit indicate there is still work to be done.
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