Social exclusion does not only mean insufficient income. It even goes beyond participation in working life; it is manifest in fields such as housing, education, health and access to services. It affects not only individuals who have suffered serious set backs, but social groups, particularly in urban and rural areas, who are subject to discrimination, segregation or the weakening of traditional forms of social relations. More generally by highlighting the flaws in the social fabric, it suggests something more than social inequality and, concomitantly, carries with it the risk of a dual or fragmented society. 1. It is important to understand more precisely what needs to be prevented in order to design services and develop practices capable of responding to diverse experiences of exclusion. For example, in some instances what ‘needs to be prevented’ is the negative impact on children’s behaviour of overcrowded living conditions and parental violence resulting from unemployment and/or poor health. In another context, poor living conditions can impact negatively on a disabled child’s capacity to explore their physical abilities. What ‘needs to be prevented’ in this instance is the child missing out on opportunities to develop physical skills. In both cases poor physical environments are implicated in the danger of social exclusion, but the processes involved and the necessary responses are rather different.
2. Preventing social exclusion needs to be understood in the context of children’s and families’ relationships with society, as well as their relationships with services. Thus a focus on ‘levels’ of prevention which emphasises avoiding the use of ever more specialist services is only part of the story. Action intended to reduce the likelihood that children will become socially excluded needs to be based in an understanding of the social processes that result in exclusion, and focused on achieving better outcomes in terms of children’s and families’ social...
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