To begin, this essay will briefly define the term social exclusion and its historical background. It will then move on to the political history of social exclusion in the United Kingdom. Particularly the essay will focus on the reasons behind unemployment, and the resulting effect of excluding people from society. The policies around employment and the benefit system will be discussed in some detail, and their consequences on working age adults, including those with serious long term mental health issues.
The French socialist government termed the phrase ‘social exclusion’ in the 1980’s; it was used to define a group of people living on the edge of society whom did not have access to the system of social insurance (Room, 1995 citied in Percy-Smith 2000). The concept of social exclusion has been defined in many different ways since then. The European commission defines social exclusion as referring to the “multiple and changing factors resulting in people being excluded from the normal exchanges, practices and rights of modern society” (Commission of the European Communities, 1993 quoted in Percy-Smith 2000 p.3). This was a move away from using the term underclass in the UK, which was not an acceptable phrase to some, as it was more related to poverty (Lavallette et al, 2001). The term social exclusion pointed at a much more complicated problem rather than just money, if you were excluded something or someone was excluding you and that could be sorted out. Although for some this new phrase just represented a ‘new’ form of the word poverty (Room, 1995 citied in Lavallette).
In the UK the New Labour government set up the interdepartmental social exclusion unit in 1997 (Percy-Smith, 2000). Its aims were to “to find joined-up solutions to the joined-up problems of social exclusion” (No10 Website, 2004). The social exclusion task force works within a number of government departments such as work and pension, children school and family and the ministry of justice (No10 Website, 2004)
The social exclusion unit published a series of reports in 1997 that criticised the way both central and local government had failed deprived groups and areas (Batty, 2002). It found that deprived area’s had fewer basic services such as GP surgeries and that little effort had been made to reintegrate some who had been excluded through unemployment (Batty, 2002). Unemployment is seen as one of the main causes of social exclusion (Percy-Smith, 2000). Being unemployed can have serious effects on a person’s confidence, sense of purpose and motivation (Percy-Smith, 2000). The person who works is seen as a full citizen, paying tax and contributing to society (Baldock et al, 1999). Unemployment can also be linked to mental health; a person is twice as likely to suffer from depression if they are not working. (Department of health, 1999).
The period since the 1960’s saw a distinct decline in the British manufacturing industry leading to a shift in the type of work available, the service sector and office based jobs replaced the manual jobs and altered the pattern of demand in the labour market. (Baldock et al, 1999) The unemployment rate for semi skilled / unskilled workers if four times that compared to managerial / professional workers (Percy-Smith, 2000). Those people who live in area’s with low demand for low skilled workers are highly likely to be unemployed for a very long time, leading to a near permanence in exclusion from the labour market (Percy-Smith, 2000). Welfare to work policies were the answer from the Labour government in 1997, `They set out plans to encourage people back into the labour market. Labour came up with the New Deal family of policies. These where aimed at specific groups. For example young people, adults and new deal for people with a disability (Percy-Smith, 2000). One of the...