Addressing Hate Crime and Building Community Cohesion

According to the latest government data, hate crime in the UK has risen by 17% since 2017/2018, meaning that recorded offences have doubled since 2012/2013, with spikes observed following particular events such as the 2016 EU Referendum and terrorist attacks. Indeed, since 2016, the UK has experienced growing divisions between communities, in particular between different generations and people from different ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds, with 62% of second-generation British minorities agreeing that Britain has become less tolerant, according to a 2017 report published by the Opinion Research.

What is the link between hate crime and social cohesion? 

With hate crime being one of the least reported categories of crime, and one that can do the most harm to our communities and societies, it is imperative that it is addressed appropriately.

In 2019, the APPG on Hate Crime led an enquiry on ‘how we can build community cohesion when hate crime is on the rise?’, which identified key recommendations on how things can be improved. The evidence submitted for this enquiry informed the conclusion that, by taking a variety of forms with different communities targeted in different ways, hate crime can have severe impacts on emotional and mental wellbeing of the communities affected. Thus, there is a need to take a multi-agency approach to tackle this, and ensure tolerance and wellbeing are prioritised in communities.

What is being done to tackle hate crime? 

To address this issue, in 2016, the Government published ‘The Hate Action Plan’ which was reviewed in 2018. Building on the progress made in 2016, the updated plan looks at ways to further build communities and take a stand against the fears and disruptions that terrorist attacks and hate crime can have, such dividing and segregating communities, and increased intolerance and racism.

In addition to this the Government announced the 2019 Integrated Communities Action Plan, building on the 2018 Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper, and setting out key priorities and cross-governmental strategies to build strong and integrated communities across the country. As a part of this, the Integration Areas Programme identified and selected five local authorities based on their differing integration challenges, and aimed to demonstrate the impacts that the interplay of demographics, patters of migration, physical geography industrial history and local economy can have in each place. The five integration plans will serve as best practice for other communities looking to implement similar strategies to deal with their respective challenges.

The APPG Perspective

In time of uncertainty and disruption, it is necessary to have tolerant and resilient communities. The APPG on Social Integration has made community integration a key focus and driver of cohesion and stability.

With the rules of immigration currently at the centre of numerous debates, many people feel as though they are not part of, or wanted in their communities. As suggested by the APPG report on Immigrant Integration, it is crucial for leaders to develop a comprehensive and proactive strategy for the integration of immigrants in order to avoid instances of hate crime towards that demographic. As a potential key tool to drive the integration of said immigrants, the APPG calls for a much better use of the English language to break down cultural barriers in different communities.

Understanding how to move forward

Though often used interchangeably, social cohesion generally refers to the fact that economic inequalities create a sense of unfairness and undermine solidarity (reflecting national social class and political divisions).  Community cohesion, on the other hand, focuses on the problems between identifiable communities, based on ethnic, faith or cultural divisions and often involve a degree of racism or religious intolerance.

Whether across generations or as a result of social or political polarisation, it is clear that many communities are still divided and facing numerous challenges as a result of it. It is the responsibility of all members of the sector to come together to develop and implement integration strategies, as well as create a climate where people can thrive on tolerance, in spite of personal differences.