The Social Exclusion Unit is to be disbanded and replaced by a new Social Exclusion Taskforce aimed at reaching the most hard to reach groups, it was announced yesterday.
Social Exclusion minister Hilary Armstrong said the aim of the new taskforce was to reach one million people at risk of persistent social exclusion who have not yet benefited from opportunities that many others take for granted.
The hard to reach groups that the taskforce will concentrate on working with include children in care, teenagers at risk of pregnancy and people with mental health problems.
“Bringing this agenda to the heart of government by creating the Social Exclusion Taskforce reflects our determination to tackle the most deeply entrenched problems,” said Armstrong.
“We will build on the good work done by the Social Exclusion Unit and support government departments in breaking the cycle of poverty and exclusion,” she added.
But Counsel and Care has raised concerns that the social exclusion agenda has failed to include the needs of one of the largest groups of socially excluded people in the UK as it will not focus on older people.
The chief executive of the charity Stephen Burke said: “A recent report by the government’s Social Exclusion Unit – A Sure Start to later Life – shows that one in five older people experiences multiple exclusion.
“Yet the new taskforce makes no mention of older people,” he continued. “With our ageing population, social inclusion must apply to all generations. We need new and better ways of reaching the many older people living lonely, isolated lives in Britain today.
“Not ageism at the heart of government,” he concluded.
The taskforce will draw together staff from the former Social Exclusion Unit in the Department for Communities and Local Government and policy specialists from the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit.
It will be based in the Cabinet Office and report to Armstrong and parliamentary under secretary Pat McFadden.
An Action Plan, expected this autumn, will set out how the government will reach the most excluded in society and tackle issues such as how to raise the outcomes for children in care and reduce teenage pregnancy rates.