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Cohesion in Wales and the impact COVID-19

March 25th 2020

As we are asked to socially distance, encouraged to work from home and children are being kept at home for perhaps several months, Claire Thomas asks what impact this could have on our communities and social cohesion.

 

Assessing the impact of COVID-19

Over the past 18 months we have been looking at issues around cohesion in Wales, and we will be shortly be publishing what we have found. However, in the context of COVID-19 it is important to reflect on some of our findings and how it will impact on cohesion now and in the future.

Obviously people need to heed Government advice around social distancing as it is clearly extremely important for public health, however we need to think about what effect this could have on communities who are already socially isolated, particularly given opportunities for social interactions can already be limited for some groups of migrants. Many rely on local and community support networks for social interaction, particularly those who have few friends and family. For instance one asylum seeker told us the group he attends is a lifeline:

As an asylum seeker when we came here we were in isolation, nobody is around here that you can call a friend here; it is very depressing. Those first two or three months was very sad. I was lucky to volunteer here. I came in here and this was my turning point of living here in Swansea.

Over the past week many of the community groups who provide valuable opportunities for social interaction have had to close their doors, resulting in many people having little or no contact with others. Fortunately we are already hearing stories of how organisations are keeping in touch with people through virtual forms of communication; but not everyone has access to those platforms.

We are also aware of incidents of racial discrimination relating to COVID-19. Sadly, we have spoken to members of the Asian community who have told us that over the past few months they have faced hostility and harassment. This clearly undermines some of the community spirit that we have witnessed, and we urge anybody who has suffered abuse to report it.

Can COVID-19 strengthen integration, and can we learn lessons for the future?

While COVID-19 does present us with challenges, it could also be an opportunity to strengthen community cohesion. As every day passes individuals, groups and organisations are responding to this crisis by supporting others in their community. In a positive way COVID-19 has seen a surge in community spirit; people are actively thinking about their neighbours and how they can help each other. Does this present a more hopeful outlook for the future and are there any lessons we can take from this crisis to help integration in the future?

Sharing your experiences

We would be interested in hearing your experiences about COVID-19 and community cohesion, particularly around the following issues:

  • What issues has COVID-19 had on migrant groups?
  • How are you/your organisation supporting these groups? Do you face any barriers?
  • Would you like to share any good practice about supporting people?
  • Is there anything the Welsh Government, local authorities or other organisations be doing to support people?

Claire Thomas is policy and research officer at the Bevan Foundation, leading our work on migration and integration. 

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