The number of researchers and organisations actively campaigning has increased and today many groups such as the child poverty action group CPAG have active websites and regularly carry out audits to publish figures and highlight the issue.
The Townsend reports published in 1997,which will be looked at later have highlighted the need to combat social polarisation. His studies showed the gap between the rich and the poor increasing at an unacceptable level for more economically developed country MEDC.
In Britain today despite the post war welfare consensus relative poverty still exists on a number of levels which are unacceptable. The New Policy institute published its fourth annual report of indicators of poverty and social exclusion and found the following:
- 1 in 3(4.4million) children live in poverty in 97/98 was 1 in 10
- 63% of lone parent families live in poverty
- couples with children account for the largest number in poverty (4.7 million)
- 36% children live in a family without a full time worker
- the number of people living in temporary accommodation is rising sharply
These figures make alarming reading for what is meant to be a MEDC with a model welfare system. Clearly there are casualties of changing social order across Britain and new ways and targeted anti poverty action needs to be implemented.
The map below shows the locations of the 88 most deprived local authority districts;
In 1997 the social exclusion unit was set up by the prime minister to combat the lack of equality of outcome and reach its commitment to social justice. Whilst the terms poverty and social exclusion are used interchangeably the term exclusion more specifically refers to the non membership of society. It infers that people are facing barriers to entry in achieving their full citizenship status.
The social exclusion unit defined the phenomenon as follows;
“social exclusion is a shorthand term for what can happen to when people or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime environments, bad health, poverty and family breakdown.(social exclusion unit 1999)”
The unit is constructed of civil servants from various departments and external experts with valuable knowledge of dealing with the problem. The government seeks to address the problem as a whole i.e. “find joined up solutions for joined up problems” as single solutions will not solve a complex series of problems.
Thirty nine neighbourhoods ere put forward for the New Deal For Communities (NDC) these areas exemplified non membership to society and with long tem benefit dependency, poor educational attainment and a number of other connected and reinforcing factors meant the welfare state in its crudest form had not been working and people had slipped through the safety net of our countries welfare regime.
Neighbourhood renewal is the governments national strategy for regeneration and the twenty year plan aims to narrow the size of social polarization between the richest and poorest communities. Their first report from a hackney housing estate condemned previous local and central government so major changes had to be implemented. An 800 million Neighbourhood renewal fund for eighty-eight of the countries most deprived areas was awarded to the unit and local strategic partnerships were introduced to ensure the money reached the grassroots and there was coordination.
In November 2000 David page published the findings of his report into social exclusion of housing estates often referred to as “islands of deprivation”. His study was carried out in three settings showing social and economic conditions of post industrial Britain.
As expected large social housing estates in “cycles of disaffection” which had been subject to twenty years of cut backs were in poor conditions and social exclusion was wide spread. His findings are summarised below;
- Residents identified as vulnerable to social exclusion were likely to be poorly educated, low skilled and demodulated, with low aspirations and expectation’s. Young people who had not worked since leaving school were extremely likely to of experienced family life.
- Despite those vulnerable to social exclusion being in a minority the norms and values of this group were perceived as defining an estate culture which dominated common areas of each estate, and coloured its reputation within the neighbourhood.
- In each area, the biggest single identified by residents was the antisocial behaviour of young people. Concerned parents tried to prevent peer pressure involving their children in crime and drugs. Some thought their children’s lives would only improve if they left the estate.
- Public services play a crucial role preventing social exclusion by;1)keeping vulnerable people connected to mainstream society 2)maintain a visible physical embodiment of civil society in areas were community safety and mainstream values are breaking down. 3)providing vital support to vulnerable families and children at risk.
The comprehensive findings show maintaining public services is the crucial and shows that many people are dependent on the governments commitments to neighbourhood renewal. A variety of other services set up such as connexions personal advisors to keep young people informed of opportunities and sure start from the department of education and skills have also been put into action.
Clearly social exclusion does still exist and in a capitalist society wit a mixed economy of welfare provision clearly groupings of individuals are not benefiting from a democratic society and a free market economy. In a competitive global market place and the inherited neo liberal terrain which Tony Blair’s new labour are working from extreme social welfare reforms are not possible via state funding.
Thee has been a growth of private finance agreements to keep public spending down and welfare provision up. However controversy meets this as not only does it undermine labours social democratic roots but risking public services with private organisations can be an unsuccessful venture.
Aside from funding issues what is increasingly apparent and was summed up in David Pages phrase “Estate culture” is the attitudes and help from residents. People have to be receptive and support the governments bid to narrow the gap.