The Simon Heng column

Over the past few years, the nature of social care has been
changing in the way services are provided and in its very aims, but
I believe this will have unforeseen consequences. Take benefits and

My local newspapers and pensioners groups are outraged by the
proposed closures of some of the sub-post offices. This goes
alongside the Benefits Agency’s drive to encourage people to take
up their benefits through direct payments into their bank accounts
and the virtual disappearance of rural bus services.

The vocal pensioners argue that the sub-post offices are at the
heart of their communities: a meeting point on pension day at a
local shop (increasingly rare in rural areas). As I also have
mobility problems, I can appreciate that it takes much effort to go
out and mix with the rest of my community, without a specific
reason, like collecting one’s pension. Paying pensions
electronically is more cost-effective and probably safer (there is
less likelihood of being mugged, for example).

However, with the decline in statutory day-care provision and
the rise in services focused on keeping people living in their own
homes, it’s clear that three apparently unrelated changes may
combine to lead to greater social isolation for large numbers of
the ageing population.

In the same way, there are large numbers of disabled adults
living in rural areas who have relied on daycare provision (and the
subsidised transport that goes with it) for most of their social
lives. Many have been using the same day centres for decades: their
social circles are their fellow day centre users. Although I
believe that benefits provision and social care should be
progressive, encouraging people to lead purposeful (and hopefully,
economically independent) lives, this trend will destroy social
networks built over many years.

Unless as much effort goes into helping people to develop the
skills to maintain these social circles, or develop the social
skills and confidence to make new ones, this will be another group
that will become more isolated.

Now what was the most recent definition of social exclusion?

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