Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence

Annex A

Community Cohesion Practitioner Groups

  1.  The practitioner groups are supported by the Home Office Community Cohesion Unit and Race Equality Unit. There are groups on the following subjects:



  Political and Community Leadership.

  Police and Community Safety.


  Health and Social Care.



  Voluntary Organisations.


  Culture, Leisure Art and Sport.

  Press and Media.


  2.  The Regeneration practitioner group has been addressing those aspects of developing area based initiatives which are most likely to promote cohesion, recognising in particular the way in which area based initiative funding has been perceived by communities as divisive.

  3.  The Community Cohesion Unit is producing a Guide to Community Cohesion for Area Based Initiatives which, subject to inter-Departmental agreement, will be issued alongside existing advice from the Regional Co-ordination Unit. The recent report of the Select Committee on Regeneration Initiatives also asks that the Unit report publicly on the community cohesion implications of any new regeneration initiatives, including the recently announced Enterprise areas.

  4.  Paragraph 27 of the Select Committee report notes "the opportunity to adopt a more flexible approach to drawing the boundaries of areas subject to regeneration, allowing for funding to be used outside wherever boundaries are established". The Community Cohesion Unit plans to address this issue in its guidance for area-based initiatives alongside recommendations on funding flexibility.


  5.  The housing practitioner group is addressing barriers to community cohesion within the housing sector, including both social housing and the private rented sector.

  6.  There is the need to ensure that ensure individuals have real housing choices and minority ethnic groups are not concentrated in the worst housing stock through for example, fear or discrimination.

  7.  The group are with ODPM producing an action plan in relation to social housing lettings which was announced on 17 June 2003. The plan will be published in September.

  8.  The practitioner group plans to undertake research into the potential for the private sector to contribute to cohesion as landlords, funders and investors.


  9.  Recommendations have been made for action to encourage positive and effective leadership, build the capacity of local authority members, engage under represented and disaffected groups in the mainstream political and democratic process. The next step will be to develop an action plan to take forward the recommendations.


  10.  The Practitioner Group for Policing is contributing to a range of work to ensure community cohesion is mainstreamed into the Police Reform Agenda, helping ensure that it is articulated in concrete, pragmatic ways which help police promote community cohesion operationally. As part of the Pathfinders Programme, a budget of £100,000 has been set aside to provide training support to the police forces in the pathfinder and shadow areas. The funding will be available to spend in the period of April 2003 to the end of March 2004. This will provide a further mechanism to disseminate policing excellence across the country.


  11.  The group has examined issues around use of English for those entering schools, the impact of mono-cultural schools on community cohesion and poor attainment levels amongst white working class boys and black African-Caribbean boys. The DfES, working with the group and officials in the Community Cohesion Unit, has drawn up an action plan for taking forward recommendations from the group.


  12.  Poor health can limit children's attainment at school and consequently, employment opportunities. Effective delivery to minority ethnic communities of preventative public health initiatives and access to health care are both important. The group has been working to identify targets to help reduce the equality gap. Issues include reducing the high infant mortality rate for some minority ethnic groups, improving access to health bodies for minority ethnic groups, raising the quality of ethnic minority data of service users across all areas and ensuring that black and minority ethnic service users are actively involved in the planning of their care.


  13.  Labour Force Survey statistics show a persistent gap in the employment rates of many minority ethnic groups and the population overall. The Employment practitioner group is examining how improvements can be made and how national strategies impact on deprived communities. The group has so far focussed on research, collecting examples of best practice, focus Groups, and employers.


  14.  The Practitioner Group for Voluntary Organisations has been following up issues in relation to separate funding of distinct communities, with a view to ensuring that single group funding does not reinforce barriers to cohesion. As part of its work, CCU held a series of three workshops in co-operation with the Association of Charitable Funders, aimed at:

    —  informing funders about the reasons behind the Community Cohesion agenda;

    —  encouraging them to think about the principles of cohesion and how it might be worked into funding practice;

    —  enabling them to share best practice.


  15.  The Practitioner Group for Youth has contributed to the Government's programme to embed community cohesion principles in mainstream policies relating to the youth sector, and is carrying forward work to draw up community cohesion criteria for youth work.


  16.  A criticism of the reports on the 2001 disturbances was the lack of any substantial consideration given to the role of faith communities. The faith issues practitioner group has been working towards identifying the role which faith communities can have in helping to promote community cohesion and is developing proposals which will build on this, and allow policy making to take proper account of faith.


  17.  The Practitioner Group for Culture has assisted the formulation of the Government's programme to incorporate community cohesion principles into the range of mainstream policies relating to sport, leisure, art and culture, and is involved in work to draw up an appropriate community cohesion skills framework for sports workers.


  18.  The group held its first meeting in May 2003 and includes representatives of national, regional and local press. The Review Team commented on the possible effect of media reporting. The practitioner group is considering mechanisms which may help to promote community cohesion.

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Prepared 11 September 2003