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This essay will discuss ‘Poverty and social exclusion’. There will be a brief explanation of the terms that will be used throughout the essay. As we know, there are many writers who express their views; therefore references will be used to explore different writers’ understanding on certain subjects. Firstly it will focus on poverty and discuss different meanings in relation to poverty. Then secondly, it will look at different policies that have been an influence on poverty and social exclusion. Thirdly, it will consider all different factors that link to poverty and social exclusion. Finally, it will summarise the answer to the original question and discuss what has been covered throughout the essay.
Social Policy is a subject that relates to the welfare state, human well being and other factors that influence human well being. It includes many policies relating to: housing, education, benefits and other related policies that are put in place for the welfare of state and its people. Social Policies have been changing from time to time; therefore as social workers, it is important to be up-to-date. Policies are implemented by all people: employees, workers and general public. They promote and improve the welfare state as well as human living. This will be looked at in more detail later on.
The concept of Poverty can be described in two ways: the state of an individual whom may not be able to acquire the basic necessities such as: food, shelter and warmth. Another definition of poverty is when a certain part of society feels or is ‘excluded’. Blakemore and Griggs discuss that: “One way of seeing poverty as relative is to say that people who have incomes below half the national average are poor” (2007 p: 98). This could mean that one may have the basic necessities but lack involvement within the community, social life or living a luxurious lifestyle, which is also known as ‘Relative’ poverty. It is important that society is made aware of what poverty is and the role of different Social policies that are administered to tackle poverty and related issues such as social exclusion.
Social Exclusion itself is the result of poverty in most cases. One of the best definition that describes social exclusion was expressed by ‘Child Poverty Action Group’ by Walker and Walker(2007): Social exclusion refers to the dynamic process of being shut out, fully or partially, from any of the social, economic, political and cultural systems which determine the social integration of the person in society”.
Social policies were created for the purpose of stability and equality in society. One of the main aims was to change the environment the individuals live in and to enhance their lives, through which social inclusion would be applied. Although there are different Policies, there principles remain the same throughout all administered policies, which is to promote ‘Equality’ through three processes: ‘Fairness, Equity and Equal of Opportunity’.
In the early 1940’s, Beveridge report was put in place to reform social policy. Beveridge introduced child benefits, taxation and benefits for those who are unemployed. This was done through a weekly contribution of those who worked. “It shows with admirable clarity and directness how involuntary poverty can be abolished from British social life by a redistribution of about one-tenth of the national output of goods and services in favour of those citizens whose needs are greatest” (Owen, 1943, p743).
Another policy that was introduced later in 1990’s was ‘The Third Way’. This policy focuses on two aspects: ‘to make work pay’ and ‘to strengthen responsibility and community’. “It conveys the message that the reform of welfare systems is a moral enterprise that requires personal and emotional commitment by those engaged in its implementations” (Jordan, 2000). This involved focusing more on means- tested benefits’ and provide more support to low- wage workers through a tax system. The welfare programme looks at reformation by adopting tough enforcement methods in which the public is directed towards getting trained, qualifications and employment.
Bailey (2006) looks at the employment, poverty and exclusion. He touches upon the topic of welfare benefits and labour market. He discusses that ‘Organisation for Economic Cooperation (OECD) policy statements have increased its focus on individuals having positive financial motivation to work, and move away from welfare benefits. They have introduced support through personal advisers for those who are unemployed. Also, Levitas (1998) mentions that although unemployment has had a negative impact on individual welfare, the Government argues that it is encouraging people to work, as it promotes the necessity of social inclusion through paid work.
Social exclusion is the result of poverty, as mentioned earlier. However poverty is linked to many complex factors that play a huge part in people’s lives. Majority of the factors are linked to one another, this creates more of a cycle that is hard to break unless policies are not implemented. Pierson mentions that “Social exclusion is a process that deprives individuals and families, groups and neighbourhoods of the resources required for participation in the social, economic and political activity of society as a whole” (Pierson 2002:7). Some of the components to social exclusion are: low income, unemployment, poor housing, and poor environment.
Adams (2002) discusses that ‘the higher risk of unemployment and low pay, the more likely they are to face poverty’ in comparison to other population. Several people who are unemployed suffer from deprivation in many areas. “For many people, employed work and its loss have great significance, since they define themselves, and achieve social status”. Vast people and families do care if they earn money and provide for the family. This involves the self esteem as well as their perception of their own status. In relation to this, Adam also discusses that unemployed people are more likely to experience poverty than others, all because of their low benefit entitlement, which would disable them from social activities. Since social workers are asked to develop a critical understanding of employment policies, it is important to understand such issues that relate to unemployment.
Sheppard (2006 p: 17) mentions that there are factors such as: neglect of proper care, drug abuse, crime as well as families and parents that are single and broke contribute towards excluding people socially. Those people were classed as ‘outsiders’ due to the amount of inadequate socialisation. He emphasised on the fact that parents are the central and that more commitment in childcare should be made to tackle the social exclusion issue. Sheppard also includes the argument that poverty brought many excluding effect: low levels of food and nutrition, mental as well as physical poor health and not to mention deprived environments. Therefore even if they maintained their hopes and desires to enter a more socially accepted lifestyles, it would be with such great difficulty. He uses the example of a homeless person applying for benefits without an address.
Payne (2006) focuses on the mental health element. She relatively talks about how Department of Health identifies mental health problems as one of the factors that influence poverty that associate with social exclusion. Payne also explores people with mental health should be included rather than excluded as social exclusion and poverty will only increase the mental ill health, therefore through this way, mental ill health could be decreased. In relation to this, strategies are set out to identify ways of getting people with mental ill health to explore the working environment; housing and community involvement, which may influence their mental ill health in a more positive way.
As we can see, Social Exclusion is a widespread subject that covers many areas of Poverty. The question still arises: ‘Are Social Policies the product of history and not logic’. This essay has looked at different policies and approaches that have been made to improve the welfare state. This essay may have justified that it is the product of history and not logic. However, some may argue that Social Policies are the product of history and logic combined together. Either way, this essay surely proves that policies have been and will change from time to time for the purpose of a better welfare state.
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