Social cohesion post-pandemic
A recent article on the LSE blog reveals striking results. It shows that areas within the government’s Integration Area programme have sustained higher levels of trust during the COVID-19 pandemic – in politicians and in each other (see charts below). Similar patterns emerge when it comes to immigration attitudes and engagement. The map above, taken from here, shows where these areas are situated.
Establishing cause-and-effect here is difficult, especially with a comparatively new programme. But the findings seem to indicate that significant investment in integration has played a positive social role during the pandemic. It has helped these areas to be more cohesive and to avoid of the politics of blame.
The article outlines some key principles that have enabled this to happen across the Integration Areas – including the importance of a shared vision and the creation of channels for social mixing. (Read this report for more).
As life gradually returns to normal, there’s a big risk that cohesion is side-lined. It certainly appears to have fallen down the government agenda, with the ‘levelling up’ approach primarily talked of in economic terms.
All the evidence, however, suggests that in straitened times cohesion can suffer. Hostility to change and difference become more acute when it’s felt that there’s less to go round. With the UK approaching a period of post-pandemic hardship, this is likely to be drawn into sharp relief.
As the authors of the LSE analysis conclude, as well as focusing on infrastructure, employment and business, “the government should also pay attention to strengthening the social fabric and social cohesion in particular.”