Monday, 28 November 2011

Community cohesion? Not us say the white working classes

Community cohesion is being viewed as a 'top-down',government-imposed model according to a new report out this morning.

The study,White working-class views of neighbourhood, cohesion and change by the Joseph Rowntree trust found that the white working classes had a the sense of being a forgotten group disconnected from policy and politics.

The report was set up as a response to the fact that community cohesion has been influential in shaping government policy since the 2001 disturbances in Burnley, Oldham and Bradford,whilst recognising that few studies have assessed the contribution of white working-class communities to cohesion.

However the report recommends that after nearly ten years of being a key policy, the evidence from this study was that community cohesion had not succeeded in creating shared values or reducing intolerance.

Many residents felt they were a forgotten community and had been ignored by policy-makers at local or national level. The sense of disconnection was due to neighbourhood change but also the impact of immigration,the study found.

They also discovered that many residents felt they had been unfairly treated by government, especially in terms of allocation to social housing. They felt that housing organisations rewarded groups who did not appear to add anything positive to neighbourhoods.

The research showed residents felt they were being treated unfairly and did not have a voice. They saw themselves as a forgotten group, and felt that government had not listened to them in the past, nor showed any signs of doing so in future.

The language used in their discussions appeared to be racist. Yet many residents would be upset by this suggestion. Racialised opinions should be seen in the context of people feeling the effects of neighbourhood loss, political disconnection and competition for scarce resources.

There were also concerns about the pace of neighbourhood change. Many residents stated that cultural identity – as evidenced in social clubs, public-sector housing and pubs – had largely disappeared, replaced by communities (minority groups and newly arrived immigrants) who had no allegiance to the neighbourhood, identity-based organisations and services.

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