Social Services Strategic Planning has been involved in social inclusion/exclusion and anti-poverty issues for the past four years. Like most other people we have struggled to gain a handle on this enormous and disparate agenda throughout the whole of that time. Some of the work we have done during this period has been directly focused on social inclusion per se. Almost all of it has had a social inclusion dimension. We have developed a few insights on the way which you might find helpful.
The Governmentís Social Exclusion Unit describes the problem thus:-
Social exclusion is a shorthand term for what can happen when people or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime environments, bad health and family breakdown.
In the past, governments have had policies that tried to deal with each of these problems individually, but there has been little success at tackling the complicated links between them, or preventing them from arising in the first place.
There are other realities in addition to the complicated links. This is a complex society driven by an elaborate mixture of scarcity and plenty, collaboration and competition. From one point of view the socially excluded are those who cannot compete successfully and with whom others see no advantage in collaborating. The Government shows little sign of addressing the excluding aspects of its own social policy but the rest of us will have more chance of success if we recognise the real constraints and work round them.
The four central principles necessary to improve social inclusion are information, focus, partnership and participation.
Like all large agenda subjects social exclusion lends itself to generalised arm waving. "We are developing a strategy to tackle poverty in the City." But where is it; who experiences it; how many; with what consequences? The key is specific answers to specific questions.
Any effective assault on social exclusion has to be focused on an aspect of it and drive single-mindedly for solutions to that aspect. But the Social Exclusion Unit is right to emphasise the linked nature of many facets of exclusion so a people focus is more likely to succeed than a facet focus.
If that is true, to take the Social Exclusion Unitís own list of targets as an example, truancy and neighbourhood renewal are less likely to succeed than rough sleepers, pregnant teenagers and 16-18 year olds not in education. On the other hand if the problem is defined as rough sleepers, pregnant teenagers or 16-18 year olds not in education (i.e. The phenomenon not the people) that will not succeed either.
When you identify an area of exclusion you need to identify the major stakeholders. They include organisations and companies which help to create the problem and those which can help address it. They are often the same organisations. A large part of the process has to be about negotiating and keeping their active participation in solutions.
Any successful assault on social exclusion has to include an active strategy for involving the excluded in solutions. In our complex society most of us feel powerless to influence large events: the most excluded feel powerless to influence even those which impinge directly on them. Part of the solution is always about learning how to do that better.
How Social Services Strategic Planning Can Help
Using the principles outlined above there are five broad possibilities.
Who we are
Mike Williams has been a management consultant for more than 20 years, working in both the commercial and not-for-profit sectors. Partnership at Work, which he founded with Janet Williams in 1988, stands for people and organisations working effectively together - users and service providers, staff and managers, purchasers and providers of services. He has successfully applied a wide range of business techniques to the special needs of not-for-profit and social purpose organisations.
Keith Fletcher, the Director of Social Services Strategic Planning, is the author of "Best Value Social Services" and "Negotiation for Health and Social Services Professionals". He was deputy chief inspector in the Social Services Inspectorate Wales and has spent the past seven years almost exclusively working on what is now called best value.
Gloucester Anti-poverty Strategy: a review, Mike Williams and Keith Fletcher, (HTML Version) (MS Word Version) Gloucester City Council on behalf of the Gloucester Anti-Poverty Alliance
Social and Economic Regeneration in Wales, Dr. David Adamson, Community Enterprise Wales, Paper 1.
Social Exclusion and Poverty; a local infrastructure, Keith Fletcher, Social Services Strategic Planning.
Responses to Social Exclusion and Poverty, Social Services Strategic Planning.
Negotiation for Health and Social Services Professionals, Keith Fletcher, Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Available from booksellers, from the publishers or from SSSP price £15.95
Best Value Social Services, Keith Fletcher, Social Services Strategic Planning. Available from booksellers or from SSSP price £9
Voluntary Sector Activity Contributing to the Anti-Poverty Strategy of the City of Hull, Marion Horton and Mike Williams, for the Healthy Hull Anti-Poverty Working Group. Available from Healthy Hull, 01482 616280, price £10
Involving the Voluntary Sector as a Full Partner in an
Anti-Poverty Strategy, Marion Horton and Mike Williams for the National
Local Government Forum against Poverty. Available from Mike Williams,
at Work, 01484 686912, price £1.
© SSSP Ltd., September 2003