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
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