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Communities: Commission on Integration and Cohesion

Volume 698: debated on Monday 4 February 2008

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government (Hazel Blears) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today I am publishing the Government’s response to the Commission on Integration and Cohesion. Copies of the response have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

In August 2006 the Government asked Darra Singh, the chief executive of Ealing Council, to chair a commission examining the issues of integration and cohesion—how, in the light of concerns about communities living “parallel lives”, of changing patterns of migration, and of new technologies transforming the way people interact with each other, the Government can help build strong communities where neighbours feel at ease, share a sense of belonging, and have the opportunity to work together to shape the future of the place where they live.

In June 2007, the commission delivered a serious and ambitious report based on in-depth consultation. It set out practical proposals for building cohesion and integration at a local level and contained a number of specific recommendations for government.

The report has already influenced a range of policies, changing the debate about how best to bring people of different backgrounds together and empower them to influence the decisions which affect their lives.

Today, I am pleased to set out in detail my response to all 57 of the commission’s recommendations—what we have already done, what we will do in the future and how we will further develop the commission's ideas.

It sets out a new clarity on, and commitment to, delivering cohesive and integrated communities, backed by increased investment in cohesion of some £50 million over the next three years, and a new public service agreement to drive practical action across government.

At the heart of the Government’s approach, like the commission’s, is the principle that cohesion can only be understood and built locally. Central government’s role is to set the national framework within which local authorities and their partners can deliver improvements to cohesion.

Our response sets out how we will support this local delivery through six key principles:

1. a move away from a “one size fits all” approach;

2. mainstreaming of cohesion into wider policy areas;

3. a national framework for local support and guidance, including establishing specialist cohesion teams to provide support to local authorities facing cohesion challenges and giving local authorities a tool to assess the impact their planned activities will have on cohesion;

4. integration of new migrants and existing communities, starting with new guidance for local authorities on developing information packs for migrants;

5. building positive relationships; to this end we are today also publishing a consultation on guidance for funders, which encourages local authorities to consider how funding can be better used to support greater interaction; and

6. sharing lessons about what works.

I am grateful to Darra Singh and his commissioners for their hard work. With this response the Government are demonstrating their commitment to maintaining the momentum the report has created and helping build stronger communities where all individuals, no matter what their background, feel a sense of shared belonging, and can work with their neighbours to shape a better future for the place where they live.