There are a number of different definitions for Social Exclusion. Many believe that social Exclusion is a term that is used to describe marginalisation. Marginalisation from everything, employment, income, social networks, decision making and in general, an adequate quality of life. The social networks that are mentioned include family, neighbourhood and the community. Another, equally popular definition of the term Social Exclusion is the way that people are excluded from the accepted norms in society.
The ways in which these people are excluded can be either politically, socially, economically, culturally, or a combination of these ways. It was in the summer of 1997 when New Labour came into power that the topic of Social Exclusion became a focal point of attention. By the end of the year we saw the emergence of the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) whose main aim was to develop policies that would combat Social Exclusion. This was described as, joined-up policies for joined-up problems.
“New Labour appears determined to do little to modify the existing inequality in Britain. However, it is this that has always formed the main barrier to the success of schemes designed to reduce poverty”, (Jamie Percy-Smith, 2000). The Department of Social Security released a report on poverty and Social Exclusion in 1992. The main features of poverty and Social Exclusion that were highlighted in the Report were: > Need of opportunities to work.
> Need of opportunities in which to acquire education and skills. > Childhood deprivation. > Disrupted families. > Barriers to older people living active, fulfilling and healthy lives. > Health inequalities. > Poor housing. > Poor neighbourhoods. > Fear of crime. > Disadvantaged groups. Burchadt et al. has a slightly different view of this. They considered that there were five different areas of social exclusion in terms of the normal activities that is vital for citizens to participate in.
The first would be the consumption activity that relates to traditional measures of poverty, leading to the savings activity which consisted of pensions, savings and home ownership. Political, social and production activities also fell under the areas that Burchadt felt were important. One form of Social Exclusion is Single Parent Families, especially young single parents. This is seen to lead to Social Exclusion for both the parents and the children as a consequence of poverty, especially for young mothers due to their detachment from academia or training.
Through all the policies that have been released by the New Labour Government on Social Exclusion what comes to light immediately is that these policies expect individuals to take a greater responsibility towards their own welfare. This succeeds to move the attention from the focus upon structural causes an onto the excluded. Many have described the New Labour view of inclusion within a society as “part of a strategy aimed at restoring social cohesion through fostering conformity ad criminalizing dissent”, (Cooper and Hawtin, 1998).
There are a number of problems with trying to quantify, define and measure a social phenomena. There is a major difficulty with trying to find indicators of Social Exclusion as there is no agreed upon definition of this phenomena or any of its causes. It is really difficult to try and measure the extent of Social Exclusion as there are no clear indicators. For example it is well known that having divorced parents is an indicator of instability, but it is unclear if it is also an indicator of Social Exclusion.
In the Social Exclusion Unit this phenomena is defined as a ‘shorthand label for what can happen when individuals or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime environments, bad health and family breakdown’ (SEU, 1997). Some other definitions include Duffy’s statement that the “inability to participate effectively in economic, social, political and cultural life, alienation and distance from the mainstream society”, (Duffy, 1997) and Walker’s definition that Social exclusion is “the dynamic process of being shut out…
from any of the social, economic, political and cultural systems which determine the social integration of a person in society”, (Walker and Walker: 1997-1998). Social Exclusion can be defined in many different ways but it generally boils down to the fact that Social Exclusion is a multi-dimensional problem that is related closely to poverty and deprivation. Many claim that Poverty and Social Exclusion go together hand-in-hand, therefore it is necessary to define poverty.
The 1995 Copenhagen World Summit define poverty as, “lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods: hunger and malnutrition; ill health; limited or lack of access to education and other basic services; increased morbidity and mortality from illness; homelessness and inadequate housing; unsafe environments and social discrimination and exclusion. It is also characterised by lack of participation in decision-making and in civil, social and cultural life”, (United Nations, 1995). There has been an indepth assessment that has been carried out on the Governments record on Social Exclusion.