The final report of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion was published today setting out the steps that need to be taken to build strong, cohesive and integrated communities.
The independent Commission chaired by Darra Singh (pictured) 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 the government promotes and supports English language speaking, developing a new role for local authorities with strengthened support from national government and how it puts a renewed focus on citizenship. It recommends 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.
It also contains a number of messages about the importance of both faith communities and local government developing and deepening inter faith programmes. Encouragingly it also calls for “a more constructive conversation between those who are religious and those who are not”.
It also states that “there is a case to be made for a review of some aspects of the way Government, both central and local, supports, consults and engages with faith-based bodies. These might include: grant giving (and appropriate guidelines for this); issues linked to contracts for the delivery of public services; and forms of engagement with non-religious belief groups, such as Humanists. There are also wider debates to be held about the role of faith in society more generally.”
The British Humanist Association has welcomed parts of it, but warned that there are important omissions and some flaws in some of the recommendations made.
The report is covered in the Guardian (“Racial strife more likely in country villages than big towns, says report”) and the Telegraph (“Violence’ warning over immigration“)