Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Four types of deprived neighbourhood It's theory time. Here's the new typology of low-income neighbourhoods, based on the dynamics of household mobility. The overall level of mobility in Britain is about 11% per year, and it's mainly a function of the age structure of neighbourhoods and the life-cycle stage of households. Brian Robson and colleagues at the Centre for Urban Policy Studies in Manchester have proposed and tested a model of four types of deprived neighbourhood: Transit areas are deprived neighbourhoods in which most in-movers come from less deprived areas and most out-movers go to less deprived areas. In Escalator areas, most of the in-movers come from areas that are equally or more deprived, so that the neighbourhood becomes part of a continuous onward-and-upward progression through the housing and labour markets. Gentrifier areas are ones in which there is a degree of social improvement since most in-movers come from less deprived areas and most out-movers go to similarly or more deprived areas. Isolate areas represent neighbourhoods in which households come from and move to areas that are equally or more deprived. Hence they can be seen as neighbourhoods that are associated with a degree of entrapment of poor households who are unable to break out of living in deprived areas. The report, published by CLG last week, draws particular attention to Isolate areas: Isolate areas may provide the strongest case for comprehensive policy intervention to improve the prospects of all households since the areas are unlikely to improve without intervention. In Isolate areas, especially those whose adjacent areas are also deprived... the opportunities for residents are likely to be more restricted and... the net result of in-flows and outflows is unlikely to lead to ‘natural’ improvement in the stock of households. Also, the authors note that deprived neighbourhoods which are surrounded by other deprived areas could face greater problems and present more challenging contexts than those that are adjacent to more prosperous areas. In the latter, local opportunities – for employment, for access to higher-performing schools, etc – are likely to be markedly greater.
The naming and shaming game Back in January I reflected at some length on the government's plans to 'name and shame' offenders who have been convicted in local courts. Patrick Wintour, in a measured article, reports in today's Guardian that Ministers are looking at 'controversial plans' to distribute leaflets in neighbourhoods as part of this inititiative. I'm afraid it does suggest a degree of political desperation. We (and the government, how could I forget them) should note in particular the huge and staring-in-the-face-obvious potential for these measures to amplify local social divisions, rather than stimulate cohesion. I'm not sure if I can put it more simply than this: they won't work. And apart from anything else, the plans are a wretchedly unthinking dismissal of the professionalism and commitment of probation workers who do so much to help offenders recover and re-establish themselves. Something else - Wintour notes: 'Ministers recognise that the demise of local court reporting, due to cuts in local media journalism, has ended one source of communicating the effectiveness of the courts.' Uh, have they heard of neighbourhood online networks? Happily, communication in neighbourhoods does not necessarily stop just because the economics of one medium becomes prohibitive. People still have ways of finding things out, and with systems like Harringay Online (I know, I've mentioned it before, but it continues to amaze me) residents communicate more and more. Perhaps 'communicating the effectiveness of the courts' could be one of several reasons why government should invest in local online nets. Please.

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