Community Cohesion for Children, Young People and their Families: A rapid review of policy, practice and research in local authorities

Anne Lines, Maha Shuayb, Pauline Benefield, Monica Hetherington, Catherine Paterson, Juanita Ries

01 January 2007

This review provides a snapshot of guidance, policy and practice as at November 2006. Highlighting research, best practice and current initiatives in community cohesion, and identifying gaps in knowledge, it is essential reading for all local authority staff involved in the work towards community cohesion.

About the study

In recent years, there has been a shift from a multi-cultural focus to breaking down barriers to produce cohesive communities. Recent legislation focuses on empowering communities to become more cohesive, which depends on interconnectivity, interdependence, and taking collective responsibility to achieve sustainability. A more holistic view of models of delivery is being taken in local authorities and the school is seen at the heart of the community. Local authorities are expected to play a key role in civil renewal, becoming 'civic pioneers' and demonstrating creative and innovative thinking and outcomes, and to show demonstrable impact.

The Every Child Matters agenda and the Education and Inspections Act 2006 are also key drivers in the integration of children's services, children's trusts, local strategic partnerships, joint area reviews, children's centres, and extended schools, to name but a few examples.

Key Findings

Key findings

  • There is a wealth of policy, guidance and information about community cohesion from central government and other organisations.
  • To date, there appears to be a paucity of research on community cohesion. For this reason, it is not possible to identify definitive evidence of good practice in community cohesion in the research reports found for this review.
  • The majority of research studies on community cohesion are concerned with adults.
  • There is a limited research focus on the role of children and young people in community cohesion outside of school.
  • Little research was found on the relationship between community cohesion and faith communities or refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Some local authorities have gained Beacon status or won other awards for their practice in promoting community cohesion, particularly in relation to different cultural and faith communities.
  • Examples of local authority community cohesion strategies that it has been possible to identify for this review are: Barking & Dagenham; Bristol; Calderdale; Coventry; Luton and Northamptonshire.
  • Racism may be an issue in rural areas.
  • Local authority policy documents such as social inclusion, anti-bullying and local preventative strategies for children at risk from social exclusion address strands of community cohesion, but these are not necessarily identified as such.
  • From the studies surveyed, there was little recent evidence of research focusing on community cohesion in relation to sexual orientation or political extremism in young people.
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