Community cohesion: Migration should be seen as a positive boost to Sheffield, says the council

Migration is vital to Sheffield
Migration is vital to Sheffield

The complex issue of migration and the challenges it brings has been highlighted in a report by Sheffield Council.

Officers say migration is vital for big cities as people move to work, study and live but it can put a strain on communities.

The council 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.

Report author Angela Greenwood, community services manager at Sheffield Council, says: “Sheffield has a proud history of welcoming new communities into the city.

“Increased diversity brings huge potential benefits but increasingly complex patterns of migration at a time of economic uncertainty can also strain community relations and cohesion.

“At worst, people living parallel lives can lead to serious breakdowns of trust and respect between different cultures, faiths and ethnicities.

“Fear of the unknown and feeling powerless and insignificant undermines cohesion. The tendency is to blame others rather than take responsibility for one’s situation.

“In such situations people are vulnerable to being exploited and recruited to extremism.”

The report says cohesion is not threatened by diversity, but is undermined by deprivation and economic, social and educational inequality.

“Social cohesion creates a safe and resilient city for all. We all benefit – not just particular social groups. It’s good for the economic prosperity of the city, its people and its businesses.

“Diversity improves community life when there is relative prosperity and little segregation. The wealth gap undermines community life. Substantial and rapid change creates challenges for public and private services to respond.

“There is a need for increased school places, more housing and increased NHS resources.

Cohesion is also potentially undermined within organisations when they have to reduce capacity while maintaining or increasing service levels.”

The report says seeing each other as neighbours and recognising similarities helps along with “open and honest” discussions.

“We should encourage integration alongside addressing issues of differences in development between communities and recognise that community tensions are natural – all voices need to be heard.  

“Leaders and public services must understand where their policies and activities lead to greater integration across diverse communities, and foster the type of understanding and respect that will ultimately make Sheffield’s communities more resilient and cohesive in the face of profound demographic change.

“In doing so, they also need to take care not to suggest that greater diversity in ethnic or faith terms is in any sense a problem to be solved.”

The council has worked with voluntary, community and faith organisations to discuss 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