Contemporary Policy and Society Essay

Submitted By Jayhead
Words: 2759
Pages: 12

Mainstream society, in an ideal world, would be peopled by individuals and families, who were well-fed, healthy, content, in employment, and in sound mind. For a great many in the U.K, however, the reality of everyday life is very different, and find themselves on the outskirts of society, if not excluded entirely. Groups which suffer exclusion from the mainstream include those with mental illness, some ethnic minorities, drug users, the disabled, elderly people, Those suffering from poverty and living in deprived areas, and many more. The Collins Dictionary of Social Work defines social exclusion as 'A process that deprives individuals and families, groups and neighbourhoods of the resources required to flourish in society'. Although one could be forgiven for thinking that the only resources needed to flourish in modern society were purely financial, as social workers, we must view the exclusion of service users holistically, and attempt to adress this according to need. The term and basic concept of social exclusion was originally coined by Rene Lenoir (1974), the secretary of state for social action in the Chirac government, and then used by the European Union in the 1990s to describe marginalised groups cut off from sources of regular employment and welfare institutions (www.drcsummerschool.eu).

Using this definition as a starting point, one would assume that in the current economic climate, there are vast swathes of this country that are lacking the resources to flourish, thereby suffering from social exclusion. Poverty and social exclusion in deprived areas, of course, is by no means a new phenomenon, and when the Labour party came to power in the U.K in 1997, the concept was quickly taken by them up as a tool to achieve their own range of social goals. Almost as soon as the party had come to power, New Labour launched the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) to analyse the reasons behind the explosion of, amongst other things, teenage pregnancy, homelessness, and child poverty. The New Commitment to Neighborhood Renewal: National Strategy Action Plan was launched in 2001, with action to be taken across six key areas- education, unemployment, health, crime and anti-social behavior, housing and the prevention of homelessness. A major part of this scheme was the Neighborhood Renewal Fund (NRF), with eight hundred million pounds spent on the eighty-eight most deprived areas of the country. Other initiatives under this strategy include the New Deal for Communities (NDC), which has given two billion pounds to thirty-nine of most deprived communities in order to find new ways to tackle deprivation, unemployment, and to improve services.

But what are the underlying reasons for social exclusion in these so-called deprived areas? It could be argued that through the questionable morality of those living in deprived areas (such as theft, violence, and anti-social behavior), people have actually excluded themselves from the mainstream, as opposed to any inherent structural inequality in society. But what makes people living in low-income areas more likely to exhibit anti-social behavior than those living in middle-class or rural areas? According to one report which evaluates the findings of the Anti-Social Behavior Task Force (Wood, 2004), the type of area where people lived was the strongest predictor of perceived high levels of anti-social behavior. Those in hard- pressed areas were far more likely to encounter problems than those in areas characterised by wealthy achievers. Offenders were generally groups of young people of both sexes. Wood states that the parties involved were often strangers, although from the local area. With rife poverty, low employment, and little opportunity of academic achievement, this behaviour is, whilst certainly anti-social, almost understandable from a group that feels let down and marginalized by both the government and society at large.

With the divide between the rich and the poor…