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From Norfolk RCC
What is Social Exclusion?
Social exclusion is shorthand for situations where people find it difficult or impossible to participate in society as fully as they could.
The Governments definition is:
"People or areas suffer from a combination of problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime, bad health, poverty and family breakdown. Social exclusion is principally about income but it is more than material poverty. It is about prospects, networks and life chances."
(Government Social Exclusion Unit)
Circumstances leading to exclusion can include:
- Physical disability
- Mental disability
- Learning difficulties
- Language differences
- Cultural/religious differences
- Age-related disability
- Transport problems
Social Inclusion OR Social Exclusion?
- Social exclusion is what happens
- Social inclusion is what puts it right
Causes of Social Exclusion
Social exclusion isn’t just about poverty, it can play a part , but so can:
- The way power structures work in our society:
- Political and community decision-making
- The effect of education
- Social class
- Communication systems
- The way money moves through society:
- Access to the financial system [banking and credit]
- Physical access to financial outlets
- Low pay
- The way certain groups are defined by society, and usually by the media
- Ethnic minorities
- The disabled
- Rural people
How do we identify social exclusion?
We should be aware of the “at risk” groups and consider them in our work - obviously
But ….. definitions of exclusion can reflect an urban picture – the government’s definition is a description of a sink estate – should we be aware that the definition may not be sufficient in a rural environment?
For instance - rural areas are changing rapidly, with considerable in-migration of more highly educated and professional people. But does finding those people on community groups and parish councils mean that there is a part of the original community that has become marginalized and invisible?
How do we ensure social inclusion?
- By not assuming that poverty is the only driver.
- By not assuming that the excluded are “less able”.
- By designing inclusive processes.
- By ensuring that processes designed by others acknowledge inclusion.
- Encouraging others to identify exclusion and overcome prejudice
- By not allowing groups liable to exclusion to become stigmatized
- Distinguishing between those who aren’t able to take part and those who simply don’t wish to – and respecting that decision.
Food for thought?
We know social exclusion is often less visible in rural areas, due to its dispersed nature and cloaking by affluence.
The in-migration of educated, professional and retired people is causing rural society to becoming more polarized.
Is this resulting in a new form of exclusion….. ?
- Village shops change to reflect the tastes of newcomers
- They stock items local people don’t want at a price they can’t afford
- Retail outlets selling necessities change to those selling luxuries [food and petrol to antiques and delis]
- Housing prices reflect the national market
- A huge gap develops between what local people can earn and what property costs
- There is insufficient affordable rented housing
- Living in a rural area is more expensive than living in a town
But …. Services are concentrated in towns or larger villages under the guise of “sustainability”
So …. Do we live in a society where it’s OK for well-off people to live in villages, because they can afford to access services elsewhere, but when the less well-off want that same choice, they are defined as “unsustainable”? Therefore parts of the rural population are being excluded from their own communities by lack of affordable housing, low wages and poor transport – and policy. But, apparently this isn’t social exclusion, because if people would only move to where they are told they would no longer be excluded.
What we need to remember is
- Social inclusion is not an offshoot of social work, it is the recognition that circumstance can influence the ability of any of us to participate in society
- Social exclusion not a label reserved for the poor or less able, but one that we will all experience at some point in our lives.
Papers and reports
Monitoring Poverty and social exclusion 2006 http://www.jrf.org.uk/bookshop/eBooks/1815-poverty-UK-2006.pdf (previous reports available from poverty site
- http://www.poverty.org.uk/ This site monitors what is happening to poverty and social exclusion in the UK and complements our annual monitoring reports. The material is organised around 50 statistical indicators covering all aspects of the subject, from income and work to health and education.