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The goal for a Wales of cohesive communities
Author: Dr Steven Marshall
A Wales of cohesive communities: Attractive, viable, safe and well-connected communities.
What have we learnt from the data in the last year?
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had widespread effects on the lives of people in Wales as elsewhere which has affected the indicators in the chapter in different ways. Some have shown improvement while others saw a decline, or, in some cases, a partial return to previous levels in the second year of data during the pandemic. It will not be clear until future years if these changes are short term changes or a sustained change.
The measure relating to community cohesion (people agreeing that they feel they belong in their area, that people get along well and treat each other with respect) has increased since 2018-19, from 52% to 64% in 2021-22,. The proportion of people feeling safe in different situations is 66%, down from 71% in 2018-19.
There has been an increase in people feeling that they can influence decisions in their local area (30%) which continues to reverse the downward trend seen prior to the pandemic.
89% of people say they are satisfied with their local area as a place to live. There were increases in the percentage of people satisfied that good services and facilities are available in their local area (74%) and with their ability to access facilities and services (86%).
During 2021-22 there was an increase in the number of households that had approached their local authority for support as they were threatened with homelessness although this was still lower than in 2019-20. During the COVID-19 pandemic many households who were previously homeless have been supported into emergency temporary accommodation with the aim to move them into more suitable long-term accommodation.
What is the longer term progress towards the goal?
Many of the indicators for cohesive communities are still relatively recent measures collected in the National Survey for Wales and it is therefore difficult to comment confidently on changes over time. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as changes in the way the National Survey is collected, also affect comparability with earlier data.
Most of the indicators within this goal have had detailed analysis carried out to determine the factors that are linked with differences in the level of the indicator.
The indicators in this chapter are most commonly associated with age and disability or health in terms of equality dimensions. Where there is an association, being older or in good health are linked with more positive values of the indicator. Long term progress is therefore linked with improvements in health and deprivation or poverty.
All of the indicators are associated with at least one measure to do with socio-economic status or deprivation. The actual measures differ across the indicators but in each case being better off is associated with more positive values of the indicator. The one exception is that being economically inactive is linked with volunteering more, but this is mainly due to the fact that retired people are more likely to volunteer.
There are connections between the different measures of cohesive communities, particularly in the case of loneliness which has a statistically significant link with four other measures. The associations can easily work in either direction, for example, lonely people may be less likely to volunteer but also volunteering may help to reduce loneliness.
People feel that crime has increased a lot in recent years, although the picture from recorded crime is more mixed. During the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a decrease in most types of crimes including violent crimes recorded but fraud and computer misuse offences have been rising.
It is not yet clear if there are any sustained behaviour changes as a result of the pandemic that may impact on the long term progress towards the goal.
Nearly two-thirds of adults agreed with all three measures of community cohesion – belonging to the local area, people from different backgrounds getting on well together, and treating each other with respect and consideration. This is an increase on pre-pandemic years and a slight drop since last year (2020-21).
In 2021-22, 64% of people agreed with all three statements about their local area that make up the national indicator, while 95% agreed with at least one statement.
These figures have been broadly stable since they were first collected in 2012 until the sizeable increase in 2020-21. Whether the increases in 2020-21 and 2021-22 are a short-term effect of the pandemic (with communities coming together locally) and whether they will be sustained or partly sustained will not become clear until data is available for a number of future years.
There is no statistical difference between men and women on either the individual measures or agreeing with all three statements.
There is a clear trend towards increased community cohesion as deprivation in the area falls.
Feeling safe after dark
Two-thirds of adults feel safe in various situations after dark.
The national indicator is the percentage of people that agreed with four statements about feeling safe after dark: at home, walking in their local area, travelling by public transport or travelling by car. In 2021-22, 66% of people felt safe in all four situations. These results have remained relatively constant across the years since first asked in 2016-17.
Men feel safer (81%) than women (51%). There is a clear trend towards an increased feeling of safety as deprivation in the area falls, with 72% of people who live in the least deprived areas feel safe in all situations compared with 54% of people who live in the most deprived areas.
Satisfaction with local area
Overall, according to the 2021-22 National Survey, 89% of people say they are satisfied with their local area as a place to live, slightly higher than the results in 2020-21, 2018-19 and 2016 17.
86% of people were satisfied that they were able to get to or access the services they need, slightly down on 2020-21 but an increase since 2018 19 (83%). The latest slight fall was not statistically significant.
Fewer than 60% of people (in 2021-22) said that municipal services such as community centres, secondary schools, libraries and youth or sports clubs were available in their local area. In contrast, over 80% said public -transport links, shops and pubs were all within a 15 to 20 minute walk from their home.
Influencing local decisions
More people now feel they can influence local decisions.
In 2021-22, 30% of people felt that they could influence decisions affecting their local area compared with 26% in 2020-21 and 19% in 2018-19. This is a marked increase since before 2020 and may reflect real change as a direct result of the pandemic, but it requires monitoring in future survey years.
Results from online data collected as part of the National Survey 2021-22 show that 29% of people say they volunteer for clubs or organisations. This compares with 26% in 2019-20 when the survey took place face-to-face. In all years people most commonly volunteered for charities and sports clubs.
Social interaction has been shown to be beneficial to personal wellbeing and volunteering is an aspect of social interaction that has proven positive benefits in terms of both health and wellbeing.
Younger people are the most likely to feel lonely, although during the pandemic adults aged 45 to 64 felt more lonely than in previous years. Those aged 65 and over still felt the least lonely.
The National Survey collected data using the De Jong Gierveld loneliness scale which covers both emotional and social loneliness.
In 2021-22, based on all six measures, 13% of people in Wales were found to be lonely, the same as in 2020-21 and lower than in 2019-20. However, there are some marked variations in the percentage of people who say they feel lonely in each of the individual measures. In 2019-20, 36% of people said they missed having people around them compared with 53% in 2021-22 (down from a peak of 71% in 2020-21). In 2020 21 there were increases in the proportion of people who said they had enough people they felt close to, as well as in the proportion having enough people they could rely on. These increases were maintained in 2021-22 at 85% and 78% respectively, compared with 75% and 69% in 2019-20 (Chart 5.6).
Other sources such as the ONS Opinions and Lifestyle Survey found an increase in some aspects of loneliness during the pandemic.
A new national indicator was set in 2021 which will measure the status of digital inclusion. The definition for this indicator will be informed by the result of a research project on a minimum digital living standard commissioned by Welsh Government and undertaken by the University of Liverpool.
In the meantime, results from the National Survey in 2021-22 show that 93% of adults personally use the internet at home, work or elsewhere. The survey currently also asks questions about digital activity and the skills people have. These are grouped into 5 types of skill:
- handling information and content
- problem solving
- being safe and legal online
In 2021-22, 78% of internet users had performed activities that related to all 5 of these skills compared with 73% in 2019-20.
Whilst the homelessness prevention rate remained steady in 2021-22, services for those facing homelessness were transformed during the pandemic with an emergency response supporting many households into emergency temporary accommodation. Whilst the ‘no-one left out’ approach has been in place continuously since March 2020 the focus is now on moving from a position of reliance on temporary accommodation, to a system focused on prevention and rapid rehousing.
During 2021-22, 9,228 households in Wales were assessed as being threatened with homelessness, an increase of 27% over 2020-21 but 8% below the level in 2019-20.
Homelessness was successfully prevented for at least 6 months in 67% of these cases. Since 2017-18, homelessness has been successfully prevented in around two-thirds of cases.
In October 2019 there were 405 people estimated to be sleeping rough across Wales, up 17% (58 persons) on the previous year. In 2019, there were estimated to be 33 deaths amongst homeless people in Wales, compared with 34 in 2018 and 13 in 2017.
Management information captured since March 2020 indicate that from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to the end of June 2022, over 24,200 people who were previously homeless have been supported into emergency temporary accommodation, with the aim to move them into more suitable long-term accommodation. Local authorities’ monthly estimates of the number of people sleeping rough across Wales fluctuates throughout the year but overall have remained below 135 since November 2020.
A new national indicator was set in 2021 which will measure the percentage of people who have confidence in the justice system. Data is not yet collected for this indicator, but is expected to be first available in 2024-25.
Most people don’t experience crime. In the last year police recorded crime has increased whilst the proportion of the adult population who are victims of crime has remained relatively stable.
Data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (excluding fraud) in 2021-22 shows 10% of adults were victims of crime and 1.8% were victims of personal crime, similar to levels in 2020-21.
Police recorded crime increased in 2021-221 by 17%, following the 11% decrease in 2020-21. There were increases in most offence categories including violent crime. The exceptions were drug offences and possession of weapons offences which decreased compared to 2020-21. It is likely that the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions introduced as public health measures in March 2020 have had an impact on the incidence of many types of crime.
Reported fraud and computer misuse offences have fallen by 13% in Wales between 2020-21 and 2021-22 to a rate of 5 offences per 1,000 population in Wales.
Latest data on perceptions of crime from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) in 2019-20 shows 53% of people in Wales believe crime has risen a lot nationally in recent years similar to previous years. The percentages of those believing crime in their local area has risen a lot are much smaller (15%). The latest data on violent crime in Wales from the CSEW shows incidence of violent crime in Wales fell to a rate of 18 per 1,000 adults in 2019-20.
Further analysis of the 2018-19 National Survey data included regression analysis to highlight significant factors for some of the indicators.
Other research and analysis that may be of interest.
CSEW violent crime incidence comes from the Personal crime Incidence open data tables (Office for National Statistics)
Police Recorded Crime rates are calculated using Mid Year Estimates (StatsWales)
All other data are from the National Survey for Wales.