The Social Exclusion Task Force in the Cabinet Office has published some important material from its work on 'Understanding the Risks of Social Exclusion Across the Life Course'.
It includes significant new emphasis on people of working age without dependent children. In terms of their perceived detachment from neighbourhood life, it's an important group to know more about.
I have two thoughts about the key findings (listed below). (i) What do they show that was not found in the Social Exclusion Unit's initial studies in 1998-2000, and the work of John Hills and co. at the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion over the years?
(ii) By way of partial answer, the most interesting key findings are the last two, because they refer to older people, consistently overlooked in the policy effort over the past ten years. Among the risk markers identified for older people were those
'who had very infrequent contact with others, low social support, and felt that they don’t belong in the area where they lived.'
There's some emphasis on the social impact of becoming widowed, although my recollection from research a few years ago is that it's a negative impact for men, but tends to be positive for women (Perren et al 2004).
These findings point again to the simmering question of quite when policy will get hold of the issue of informal social care and start to do something about it. Given the difficulty I had in getting the ageing agencies interested in neighbouring I'm not sure where the impetus is going to come from.
Key findings from the research
There are a small number of families who experience persistent and chronic social exclusion – the study suggests 4% to 7%. (Some sleight of pen here - I agree it's a small percentage: but it's not a small number).
Families experiencing complex problems were more likely to be lone parent families, have four or more children, have a younger mother, have a mother from a Black ethnic group, live in rented accommodation and in the most deprived areas.
Higher self esteem in adolescence is a protective factor against disadvantage in young adulthood.
The proportion of young people most at risk of exclusion fell from 21% to 16% over the period 2001/02 to 2005/06.
Events such as becoming employed and finding a partner reduce the risk of falling into social exclusion.
The research highlights the importance of responding to the needs of working age adults without dependent children.
Working age adults without dependent children who are older, unemployed or inactive, living alone, have few educational qualifications, and are renting their homes have a higher risk of exclusion.
Around 5% of older people had multiple risk markers of social exclusion, including poor access to services and transport, physically inactivity, fear of their local area after dark, low social support, and poor general and emotional health. Older people in this group were likely to be aged 80 and older, have no qualifications, and live alone.
- Good health and social support can protect older people from becoming socially excluded, whereas becoming divorced or widowed significantly increases an older person’s risk of exclusion.