Agenda item

Service Overview: Community Cohesion


Fiona Gibbs, Stronger Communities Manager & Prevent Lead, was present for this item and delivered a presentation outlining the work undertaken by the Stronger Communities and Prevent Team. The key theme of the Team’s work was to support the Council’s commitment to having stronger communities and equality in Hillingdon.


Key work areas undertaken by the Stronger Communities Team included:


·         Providing a strategy and policy lead on community cohesion, integration and preventing violent extremism (Prevent).

·         Advice and guidance on community cohesion, integration and preventing violent extremism across the council.

·         Advice, guidance and support to external partners

·         Holding a community engagement and community development role in relation to community cohesion and integration and building stronger communities.

·         Leadership/coordination of partnership working related to community cohesion, integration and preventing violent extremism.


Elaborating on this, officers highlighted that establishing relationships with the Borough’s diverse communities, building trust and enabling partnership working were core aspects of the Team’s activities.


It was highlighted that, as part of the Council’s COVID-19 response, the team had worked collaboratively with the voluntary sector and health partners in establishing the Community Champions Programme, wider community engagement and promoting vaccination take up. Going forward, the Team would work with public health, the NHS and other health partners in addressing health inequalities, particularly those that had been highlighted throughout the pandemic.


Members were informed that the Team managed and coordinated the Prevent Partnership and acted as a lead on the implementation of the Prevent Duty for Hillingdon. Under the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015, local authorities had a duty to deliver a ‘Prevent’ strategy. Objectives of the strategy included:


·         Tackle the causes of radicalisation and respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism;

·         Safeguard and support those most at risk of radicalisation through early intervention, identifying them and offering support;

·         Enable those who have already engaged in terrorism to disengage and rehabilitate.


The Committee enquired as to how extensive the radicalisation problem was in Hillingdon; officers highlighted that Hillingdon was not designated an area of priority by Prevent which meant the Team were not funded by the Home Office. With regard to the type of radicalisation deemed to be of concern, it was highlighted that right-wing extremism had emerged nationwide and evidence of that had been seen within the Borough around referrals of vulnerable individuals. It was also noted that there was still an endemic threat from Islamist extremism.


The Committee asked about Prevent training; whether it would be available for Members and how the delivery of Prevent training had gone throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The Committee were informed that officers would be happy to offer Prevent training for Members. Officers highlighted the difficulties in delivering Prevent training during the pandemic however, the good relationship built up with schools ensured that the Team kept discussions and engagement going throughout the lockdown periods. It was also noted that the Home Office had been promoting a new ‘Report It’ app to report any suspected radicalisation content online that people come across; Hillingdon’s team helped to disseminate this information out to communities and at training sessions.


By way of clarification, officers informed the Committee that Prevent training in schools followed two paths; firstly there was Prevent training for staff delivered once each academic year and was Home Office approved training, secondly there were workshops with younger people around issues such as hate crime and prejudice online.


Officers mentioned that it was difficult to measure community cohesion as it could be argued that a community was cohesive given there were no signs of community tension. An example of a successful event held by the Team was given as the 2020 International Women’s Day, shortly before the first lockdown, whereby 200 people from diverse backgrounds came together at the Beck Theatre to celebrate women and enable networking.


The Committee commended and thanked officers on what was a small but extremely important team within the Council.


RESOLVED: That the Committee noted the officer’s verbal report.