Community cohesion: International events are worrying Sheffield people, says council

International events and Brexit are worrying Sheffield people
International events and Brexit are worrying Sheffield people

Brexit, international events and the media are all making Sheffield people feel uneasy.

These are the findings of a wide ranging new report by Sheffield Council, which has spent the past three years working on a Community Cohesion strategy for the city. This is part of a series of stories looking at this strategy.

The council says the timing of the strategy is particularly important due to international and national political situations, such as Brexit.

Angela Greenwood, community services manager at Sheffield Council, says people in Sheffield are being affected by a number of different issues.

“International events can have major impacts on cohesion in Sheffield – their impact sends shockwaves around the world, through the media and through people who have family connections in faraway places such as Syria and Iraq

“The use of social media can draw vulnerable and idealistic young people to certain causes. This creates immense distress to families and fear in the wider population.

“Recent attacks in European cities combined with escalation of recruitment have increased monitoring of perceived potential recruits. Although safeguards are necessary, increased monitoring can create a climate of suspicion and threaten cohesion.

“Media reporting can increase the stigmatising of targeted groups, and it can feel unsafe to offer alternative views for fear of escalating and perpetuating a media frenzy.”

The council says positive stories of communities working together need to be told.

“Alternative narratives are essential to allow people to form more complex views, beyond simplistic headlines.

“What helps is critical attitudes to the press and diversity awareness – of history and situations in the context of racism, or of other prejudices that stigmatise and facts that dispel the myths.”

The report says a “significant barrier” to community cohesion is poor knowledge and understanding of one another and of different ways of life.

“This is particularly the case for perceptions on religions. Overcoming these barriers is a growing challenge every day. We need to encourage the development of a meaningful understanding and appreciation of different ways of life.

“Our understanding is increasingly being influenced by media reports of local, national and international issues and events. These reports can be selective, misinformed and damaging.”

The council wants to focus on what new and existing communities have in common with strong and positive relationships between people from different backgrounds

It will work with schools to encourage pupils and parents from different backgrounds and cultures to mix and learn from each other.  

It says: “Often race and faith are seen as the most frequent friction points within communities, but cohesion is about promoting good relationships within communities and equality for all.

“We want neighbourhoods where people are proud to live, and communities that support each other and get on well together. This makes communities stronger, healthier and more resilient.”

The council worked with voluntary, community and faith organisations on the new strategy and the result was an in-depth report called Sheffield Together: The Sheffield Cohesion Framework.   

The full report can be read here:

http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/documents/s32561/Cohesion%20Charter%20Report.pdf