Why is this issue important?
Community Cohesion, and the extent to which people and communities “get along” can be influenced by a wide range of issues including demographic structure, geography, ethnicity, culture, faith, politics, previous experiences, local national and international events as well as socioeconomic factors.
Kirklees has proud, diverse and distinct communities. The area owes much of its economic success and the vibrancy of its cultural life to the diversity of the backgrounds and lifestyles of its inhabitants. However, it is a strength that cannot be taken for granted, particularly at a time when our economy is changing and the needs and aspirations of our communities are changing with it.
A significant amount of work has taken place in Kirklees to help strengthen community cohesion. In collaboration with partners we will continue to focus on building healthy and resilient communities who are able to do more for themselves and each other, by increasing the connections between people, opportunities for people who are different to meet and mix with each other and learn from each other, finding common ground and shared identity and building a more cohesive society.
The Prevent Duty(1) came into force for local authorities in 2015, and Kirklees is recognised as a Prevent Priority area. Prevent is one of the four main work streams of the overall UK strategy for countering terrorism, known as CONTEST. Prevent aims to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism by focusing on the following three objectives;
- challenging ideology that supports terrorism and those who promote it;
- protecting vulnerable individuals from being drawn into terrorism through appropriate advice and support;
- supporting sectors and institutions where there is a risk of radicalisation.
There are strong links between our cohesion work and the Prevent Duty as the long term solution to tackling violent extremism lies in prevention. Prevention and Early Intervention work is fundamental to building resilience both for individuals and communities. We can describe the relationship between good community cohesion and violent extremism as on a continuum: Communities that have good community cohesion are further away from episodes of violent extremism. Investment in cohesion work as a preventative measure reduces the volume of resource required to deal with violent extremism.
Building resilience for people and communities is linked to having good community relations. Good connections between people who live in a geographic area create the conditions for improved community cohesion. If people are connected with those who live around them, the quality of their life and experiences is enhanced, with trust and rapport existing in communities and difference becomes something that is respected rather than feared.
What significant factors are affecting this issue?
Parts of the district have experienced tensions and separations between communities for many years and these problems are often exacerbated as people increasingly compete for resources and a stake or a voice within society. Perceptions of unfairness in national and international events, as well as in local circumstances can stoke tensions and divide communities. Occasionally, these tensions can result in hate crimes or even the potential for violent extremism. Equally social change is invoking a sense of fear and isolation in some of our neighbourhoods, leaving individuals feeling excluded and disempowered.
Community cohesion can be influenced by individual and community factors such as age, neighbourhood, ethnicity, culture, faith, politics and socio-economic factors.
Some of our communities have significantly changed over the last 50 years, with new communities developing, settling and flourishing. Kirklees has a broad range of different communities, some live side by side in mixed and diverse neighbourhoods, whilst others have less experience of and opportunity for interaction with people from different backgrounds. In some cases schools have become segregated and we must work to link children and their families together to ensure that community connections are made and cohesion between different people is maintained.
Local feelings about perceived differences and fairness between treatment of communities can have an impact on tension between communities. Wider factors, including national and international issues and how these are reported, can also impact on cohesion and create tension in communities. Our work to monitor and manage community tensions is crucial in understanding what is happening in communities, how people are feeling and what we can do to prevent breakdowns in relationships and maintain harmony between communities.
In 2016 (3), four out of five people (79%) in Kirklees were satisfied with their local area as a place to live, similar to 2012 (76%) (5). However, there were differences across Kirklees with people living in more deprived areas being less satisfied. At District Committee level, 90% of Kirklees Rural residents were satisfied with their local area as a place to live, but in contrast only 66% of Dewsbury and Mirfield residents felt the same way, which is significantly lower than the Kirklees average. When children and young people (school years 7, 9 and 12) were asked the same question in 2014 (2), overall in Kirklees 73% of them said they were satisfied with their local area, with little difference between localities.
The majority of young people in Kirklees say they feel safe from harm in their local area (80%), on public transport (70%), at school (87%) and going to and from school (84%). (2) However, around one in seven (14%) of children and young people in Kirklees schools experienced regular bullying in 2014. (2) Whilst the majority (86%) said they knew where to get help if they were bullied, around one in four children and young people said their school dealt with bullying badly or not very well.
Overall in Kirklees more than half of all adults (54%) agreed that their local area is a place where people from different ethnic backgrounds get on well together, significantly more than in 2012 (43%). (3)(4) This perception was similar across the district committee areas, where the largest increase in positive responses was in Batley and Spen (51% in 2016 compared to 38% in 2012).
Compared to 2012, overall in Kirklees and at District Committee level significantly more people agreed that their local area is a place where people treat each other with respect and consideration (54% in 2012 and 63% in 2016).(3)(4) Despite this increase, there are still significant variations across Kirklees; ranging from 48% in the most deprived areas to 83% in the least deprived areas. Interestingly, in 2016 a larger proportion of people of South Asian ethnicity agreed that people treat each other with respect (71%) than those those of White ethnicity (62%).
The majority of people in Kirklees (81%) feel that anti-social behaviour in their area has stayed the same over the last 12 months, with 11% of people feeling that it has increased and 8% feeling that anti-social behaviour has decreased.(4) Further details of the public perception of crime can be found here.
Overall in Kirklees, the majority of adults (88%) said that they felt safe in their local area during the day and 65% after dark.(3) People living in the Kirklees Rural area felt significantly safer after dark than those living in the other district committees and feeling of safety were lowest within Dewsbury and Mirfield. Feelings of safety were higher in females during the day and in males after dark.
Overall in Kirklees, 28% of people said they feel lonely or isolated some of the time or more frequently and 72% said they never felt lonely or not very often.(3) The highest levels of feeling lonely were within Dewsbury and Mirfield and lowest within Kirklees Rural. In terms of having someone to rely on in a crisis, 80% said that they have someone who can help them. More females (87%) tended to have someone to help them than males (80%). Those living in Kirklees Rural were more likely to have someone to help them than the other District Committees.
The use of green space is another important indicator of community cohesion. 89% of the Kirklees population said that they have access to a park or green space within a mile of their home.(3) However, a smaller proportion (74%) stated that they had used this within the last 12 months. Access and usage of green space was highest within Kirklees Rural and lowest within Batley and Spen.
In order to strengthen cohesion in Kirklees, it is important to unlock and build the “social capital” that exists in the services, networks and relationships in communities. Participation in regular volunteering is one measure of social capital and in 2016, one in four (25%) of people in Kirklees had volunteered in the previous 12 months, and 8% volunteered at least once a month. Volunteering participation varies across Kirklees, from 21% in Batley & Spen to 29% in Kirklees Rural. Volunteering is more common amongst people living in the least deprived areas and those with higher incomes and qualifications.
Which groups are affected most by this issue?
Community cohesion is important across Kirklees and is not particular to any group. Strong, cohesive communities tend to have high social capital and the combination of both these factors influences health and wellbeing through people being resilient, having good connections in the communities they live in, a sense of pride in their neighbourhood and knowing people they can turn to in times of trouble.
Where is this causing greatest concern?
Our community cohesion work is focussed on priority areas in North Kirklees and Huddersfield, but our approach to connect people through assets and bringing people together has a district wide potential, and we will develop further work through the district committees to strengthen local connections and enhance cohesion. “You and Your Community” was a participatory budgeting scheme to stimulate more community activity and connect people at the local level, through the district committees, and allowed local projects to be supported with local decision making.
The evidence base for community cohesion priorities is informed by both quantitative and qualitative information. Local data tells us about a range of factors which can affect people knowing their neighbours, participating in local community life and opportunities for social mobility. Reponses to surveys such as the Current Living In Kirklees (CLiK) and the Children and Young People’s Survey provide us with further intelligence and insight. Importantly, regular discussions with community activists also enables us to understand what good cohesion means to people, how they feel connected in their local area and perceived levels of community resilience. This local intelligence allows us to target priority areas for the delivery of interventions that enhance community connectedness and build good community cohesion.
More detailed District Committee level reports on community cohesion for Batley and Spen, Dewsbury and Mirfield, Huddersfield and Kirklees Rural were completed in 2017. These reports include detailed information from the CLiK 2016 and CYPS 2014 surveys, anti-social behaviour hot-spot maps as well as analysis of the number of hate crimes, rates of persistent absenteeism and levels of deprivation.
What are the assets around the issue?
Community assets including people, organisations, institutions, the local economy, environment and culture are key to connecting people and enhancing community cohesion. All communities have assets, including the local volunteers who run community groups and the places where people bump into each other. If we can encourage communities to connect what they have through shared buildings, groups of different people coming together to take part in joint activities from learning new skills and formal training through to involvement in civic activities, festivals, self-help groups and community action then we can unlock local assets. More detailed information on community assets can be found in the assets overview section and the assets sections of the District Committee summaries (Batley and Spen, Dewsbury and Mirfield, Huddersfield and Kirklees Rural).
Locally, there are many organisations that help to support and develop community cohesion. For example, the Batley Smile Project has funded a range of community projects including The Mission at Howden Clough Community Centre. This organises activities to reduce social isolation & loneliness amongst older, isolated residents in Batley. The focus is on building confidence through friendship, conversation and participation in order for participants to become active community members.
Last year, support to Recovery (S2R) ran a series of sessions in North Kirklees area. These sessions were targeted at parents of Junior school age children, aiming to combat isolation within minority groups. This provided an opportunity for the children to have fun, whilst parents focused on better ways of emotional self-management.
Our shared values, outlined in the Connecting Communities Statement of Intent, are an asset which allows us to focus the work to build good community cohesion:
- Common Ground: A clear sense of shared aspirations and values, which focus on what we have in common rather than our differences;
- Active citizenship enabling active participation in society, in public institutions, the work place and in political life to enhance civic engagement and influence across the borough;
- Equality of access and opportunity for all residents to the labour market, housing, education, healthcare, social welfare and day to day requirements people have;
- Local identity to help generate collective pride and a sense of belonging to someone’s area, where individuals and communities feel safe and welcomed;
- Promotion and awareness of the rights and responsibilities of citizens and organisations to enhance the connections between communities, strengthen community leadership and support social inclusion;
- Responsibility: A strong sense of individual and collective commitments and obligations, which brings personal and social responsibility;
- Social mobility: People able to realise their full potential to get on in life;
- Participation, empowerment and aspiration: People of all backgrounds have the opportunities to take part, be heard and take decisions in local and national life;
- Tackling intolerance and extremism: A robust response to threats, whether discrimination, extremism or disorder that deepen division and increase tensions.
Views of Local People
Community Engagement staff undertook focus discussion groups with community activists across the district in priority neighbourhoods in late 2016 to better understand community responses to cohesion. A “picture of cohesion” statement was produced by Huddersfield University and the Safe & Cohesive Communities service, which was used to have honest and open discussions.
Notably, some issues that relate to fairness tend to have a very localised focus, such as abandoned rubbish, maintenance of playing fields, and use of a local land. Where there are issues that the council can work with communities to resolve, these will be explored.
The Current Living In Kirklees (CLiK) survey in 2016 (3) asked a number of questions relating to community cohesion, which has helped us to understand views and thoughts, and can be broken down to district committee level and explored by demographic group. Specifically, the questions include:
- To what extent do you agree or disagree that your local area is a place where people of different ethnic backgrounds/ages/income levels/needs & abilities get on well together?
- To what extent do you agree or disagree that your local area is a place where people treat each other with respect and consideration?
- To what extent do you agree or disagree that your local area is a place where people trust each other?
What could commissioners and service planners consider?
Build on existing community assets
Commissioners, service planners and Councillors should consider local community assets such as those outlined above so that they can support and build on local strengths and also understand where there are gaps and unmet needs in particular places or amongst particular communities.
Assess the potential impact of projects on community cohesion
A Connecting Communities Assessment tool has been developed for services to consider community cohesion when developing new areas of work. This explores the impact of planned work on community cohesion, and is complementary to the mandatory Equality Impact Assessment (EIA). The tool explores the impact of projects on cohesion and allows for self-assessment at the beginning and throughout project delivery.
Use the shared values form the Connecting Communities Statement of Intent
When commissioning and developing services for communities, the shared values from the Connecting Communities Statement of Intent outlined above should be prioritised to help build personal and community resilience and enhance community cohesion.
Build on existing community assets
It is important that commissioners, service planners and Councillors understand and consider the community assets outlined above so that they can support and build on local strengths and also understand where there are gaps and unmet needs in particular places or amongst particular communities.
Work with Schools as Community hubs and other partnerships/ services
Look for opportunities to support and work with schools as community hubs to promote community cohesion. There are opportunities to use the hubs as a new context for existing work and also to develop new ideas directly with hubs.
- HM Government. Revised Prevent Duty Guidance: for England and Wales. 2015. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prevent-duty-guidance
- Kirklees Council. Children and Young People’s Survey. 2014.
- Kirklees Council, NHS Greater Huddersfield CCG, NHS North Kirklees CCG. Current Living in Kirklees Survey. 2016.
- NHS Kirklees and Kirklees Council. Current Living in Kirklees (CLIK) Survey; 2012
- West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner. Public Perception Survey.
Date this section was last reviewed