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Public policy Social cohesion has become an important theme in British social policy in the period since the disturbances in Britain's Northern mill towns (Oldham, Bradford and Burnley) in the summer of 2001 (see Oldham riots, Bradford riots, Burnley riots). In investigating these, academic Ted Cantle drew heavily on the concept of social cohesion, and the New Labour government (particularly then Home Secretary David Blunkett) in turn widely promoted the notion. As the Runnymede Trust noted in their "The Year of Cohesion" in 2003:

"If there has been a key word added to the Runnymede lexicon in 2002, it is cohesion. A year from publication of the report of the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, the Cantle, Denham, Clarke, Ouseley and Ritchie reports moved cohesion to the forefront of the UK race debate."<ref name="runnymede">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation

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According to the government-commissioned, State of the English Cities thematic reports, there are five different dimensions of social cohesion: material conditions, passive relationships, active relationships, solidarity, inclusion and equality.

  • The report shows that material conditions are fundamental to social cohesion, particularly employment, income, health, education and housing. Relations between and within communities suffer when people lack work and endure hardship, debt, anxiety, low self-esteem, ill-health, poor skills and bad living conditions. These basic necessities of life are the foundations of a strong social fabric and important indicators of social progress.
  • The second basic tenet of cohesion is social order, safety and freedom from fear, or "passive social relationships". Tolerance and respect for other people, along with peace and security, are hallmarks of a stable and harmonious urban society.
  • The third dimension refers to the positive interactions, exchanges and networks between individuals and communities, or "active social relationships". Such contacts and connections are potential resources for places since they offer people and organisations mutual support, information, trust and credit of various kinds.
  • The fourth dimension is about the extent of social inclusion or integration of people into the mainstream institutions of civil society. It also includes people's sense of belonging to a city and the strength of shared experiences, identities and values between those from different backgrounds.
  • Lastly, social equality refers to the level of fairness or disparity in access to opportunities or material circumstances, such as income, health or quality of life, or in future life chances.

On a societal level Albrekt Larsen defines social cohesion 'as the belief—held by citizens in a given nation state—that they share a moral community, which enables them to trust each other'. In a comparative study of the US, UK, Sweden and Denmark he shows that the perceived trustworthiness of fellow citizens is strongly influenced by the level of social inequality and how 'poor' and 'middle classes' are represented in the mass media.<ref>Albrekt Larsen, Christian (2013). The Rise and Fall of Social Cohesion: The Construction and De-construction of Social Trust in the US, UK, Sweden and Denmark. Oxford: Oxford University Press</ref>

Analysts at the credit rating agency Moody's have also introduced the possibility of adding social cohesion as a formal rating into their sovereign debt indices.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref>


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