Without co-ordinated action across Government, the next few years could see an increase in social exclusion. The trends that are exposing more people to the risk of exclusion include an increasing premium on skills, an ageing population with more social care needs, greater ethnic diversity and a growing proportion of single person households. The warning comes in a discussion paper from the Social Exclusion Unit, which was set up to help improve action to reduce social exclusion by producing ‘joined-up solutions to joined-up problems’.Social exclusion is the shorthand 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, bad health and family breakdown.
The paper shows there has been progress. The number of children living in relative low-income households has fallen by 0.5 million since 1997. Without action it is estimated that the number would have risen to 1.5 million. There has been a 70% reduction in the number of people sleeping rough since 1997 and 66% fewer families with children are in bed and breakfast accommodation. In the same period some 200,000 lone parents have moved into work.
Research by the Social Exclusion Unit shows that people born into poverty continue to have far worse life chances than those from privileged backgrounds. Risks of exclusion are highest in specific areas. Some 47% of lone parents are out of work, 18% of pensioners and 16% of children live in poverty and Bangladeshi and Pakistani households are three time more likeyl to be on a low income. .
The Unit is auditing the spending plans of departments to make sure they conform to the aim of reducing exclusion. It is also seeking the views and further evidence from a wide range of experts and stakeholders on the material presented in the paper. It wants to stimulate discussion on key questions, such as: how to tackle worklessness in particular areas?