In three areas examined in detail - East Kent, Liverpool, and the London Borough of Southwark - the researchers, at Goldsmith's College, London, found there was no overall strategy for preserving and promoting good community relations. And, they say, "almost nowhere in the UK" is there a coherent, comprehensive local strategy. This is in spite of the effective practices of individual organisations and occasional partnerships which have, in some places, contributed to a marked improvement in local community relations.
One of the principal researchers, Dr Saulo Cwerner, was taken aback by the lack of information available to asylum seekers and those trying to help them and their host communities.
"The lack of communication was I think one of the main things we discovered. At times it was very, very startling. There were even times when I found I was relaying information, rather than collecting it," he says.
The ESRC report identifies a number of obstacles to the development of an effective multi-agency approach to integration and community relations. It also draws attention to the main areas where more information - and better information - is urgently needed:
The research results are being distributed to 'stakeholders' - voluntary bodies and agencies dealing with asylum seekers around the country, as part of a wider drive to coordinate services and improve community relations.
The report notes: "One of the fundamental issues that this research has revealed is the fact that almost nowhere in the UK is there a coherent, comprehensive local community relations strategy involving a great number of relevant stakeholders in the statutory, voluntary, and community sectors. More specifically, in the three areas studied in more detail for this project such overall strategy does not exist, at least formally, although one can discern some basic elements that could potentially become central aspects of such strategies."
Although partnerships and forums have developed in many areas, local organisations - especially voluntary groups - need more help to combine their individual efforts into consistent and coordinated community relations strategies.