Social inclusion strategies are failing to improve the lives of
many excluded people, according to two new polls commissioned by
Community Care, writes Rachel Downey.
Of a sample of people living in the 10 most deprived areas of
England, one-third said their financial situation had worsened over
the past four years. Only 15 per cent reported an improvement; of
these, almost three-quarters put the improvement down to an
increase in benefits or pensions.
Despite the millions of pounds already spent on the regeneration
of run-down estates, over a third said their area was in a worse
state than before 1997. Only one-fifth noted an improvement and 41
per cent said there had been no change.
Not only has the government’s strategy failed to improve
the lives of people in disadvantaged areas, it has omitted many
vulnerable groups altogether, according to a tandem sample of
social care workers. They named children, young people, people with
disabilities, older adults, and people with severe addiction
problems as being overlooked by government initiatives. Staff also
believe that social work values and skills have not been
sufficiently utilised by the government. And all bar one said
social workers were not receiving sufficient support from the
government in their work.
Back on the rundown estates, two out of five of the sample had
never heard of four of the main initiatives – New Deal, Sure Start,
the Social Exclusion Unit, and the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit. Only
5 per cent had heard of the SEU and just 14 per cent knew of the
NRU. New Deal and Sure Start fared better, with almost half knowing
about the new employment scheme and almost one-third saying they
had heard of the government’s programme to improve the life
chances of children under four.
The survey shows that those living in the UK’s most
deprived estates have little faith in the government prioritising
their needs. The sample respondents were asked to place in order
the government’s priorities from rundown estates; big
business; and the environment. Four out of five said they believed
the government was least interested in rundown estates. A total of
85 per cent put big business at the top of New Labour’s
The survey revealed high levels of crime – more than one in 10
of the respondents had experienced a crime in the past month. Of
those, the main crime was harassment – affecting 36 per cent – with
burglary, robbery and vandalism of property coming next. Not
surprising that almost two-fifths said they felt scared some, or
all, of the time.
Those living in the most disadvantaged estates regard Britain as
an appalling place to live in 2001. Almost three-quarters see it as
a society divided between rich and poor and over half regard it as
violent. Almost a half said the country was lacking in community
values; 45 per cent said it was dirty; and 40 per cent stated it
was an uncaring place to live. One third described the country as
desperate and 28 per cent said it was disintegrating. Only a tiny
proportion – 10 per cent – said it was safe and fewer still – 7 per
cent – said the UK was a compassionate place.
Almost half said they frequently felt isolated, with 14 per cent
reporting isolation all or most of the time.
So if the multitude of social inclusion schemes have failed,
what would work? Almost 50 per cent said securing a job or an
increase in benefits would improve their lives. Almost one-quarter
wanted to move out of their area, or in to better accommodation.
Just 3 per cent stated investment or improvement in their area was
the factor that would most improve their lives.