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The social cohesion investment: Local areas that invested in social cohesion programmes are faring better in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic

Abrams, Dominic and Lalot, Fanny and Broadwood, Jo and Davies Hayon, Kaya and Platts-Dunn, Isobel (2020) The social cohesion investment: Local areas that invested in social cohesion programmes are faring better in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Project report. University of Kent, Canterbury, UK 10.22024/unikent/01.02.84003. (doi:10.22024/unikent/01.02.84003) (KAR id:84003)

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Research has consistently observed that social cohesion (the strength of relationship between the individual and the state, and between individuals and their fellow citizens) rises in the aftermath of natural disasters or mass tragedies. However, this sense of “coming together” is often short-lived and comes back to pre-disaster level within a matter of weeks. But what happened in the UK as the Covid-19 pandemic progressed?

The first stages of the Covid-19 pandemic saw an extraordinary increase in kindness and social connection with people organising spontaneously to support those affected through neighbourhood support groups, reaching out to isolated community members through telephone calls, and the ‘clap for carers’. However, as months pass social tensions appear to be rising again, along with increasing distrust of central government. Minority ethnic and religious communities have been accused of spreading the virus by not taking recommendations seriously, as have younger people – potentially fuelling increased tensions between groups within and across local communities.

As the impact of the pandemic persists, so do the challenges for local authorities. Strong connections, local community knowledge and good relations have already proved important for local test, track and trace systems and to tailor health messages for diverse local groups and communities. With winter and tighter lockdown rules both imminent, we believe cohesion and integration will remain crucial in helping communities through the next six months and beyond.

The “Beyond Us & Them” research project funded by the Nuffield Foundation aims to track people’s perceptions of social cohesion in different places in the UK. An important feature of the project is that we collect the views of people living in six different local authority areas (five of which are a part of the government Integration Area programme and all of which have invested in social cohesion over the last two years), as well as other places and regions.

This brief report presents headline findings on trust and cohesion from comparisons between these local authority areas versus other places in the UK. These included broadly representative samples from Scotland, Wales and Kent (the most densely populated non-metropolitan county in England). We found that people in the six local authority areas were significantly less cynical about both national and local politicians and more accepting of government decisions and guidelines. They also reported stronger and better social relationships with other citizens, and warmer feelings towards immigrants compared to other areas. Taken together these findings indicate stronger social cohesion in the six local authority areas, despite the fact that respondents from these areas reported higher levels of concern and were experiencing higher local infection rates.

Item Type: Reports and Papers (Project report)
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/unikent/01.02.84003
Projects: Social cohesion in the context of COVID-19
Uncontrolled keywords: COVID-19, social connection, local government
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Funders: Nuffield Foundation (
Depositing User: Helen Cooper
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2020 15:40 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 10:41 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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