In the rush of Connections I don’t have a great deal of time to blog, nor do I think anyone will have time to read these wonderful words…so I have rehashed some info from an assignment I did earlier this year! I said I would talk to you at some point about Social Exclusion, so this is as good a time as any to intro the concept.
Social exclusion has been defined as 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, bad health and family breakdown. The framework allows policy makers to look beyond what is happening within society and to how many, and into the realm of determining what and whom are involved in the continuation of individuals and groups being shut out. Social exclusion policy is then able to address the structures responsible and focus attention on the social relations, the processes and the institutions that underlie and are part and parcel of deprivation. A report from the Social Exclusion Unit states that ‘the most important characteristic of social exclusion is that these problems are linked and mutually reinforcing, and can combine to create a complex and fast moving vicious cycle.’ The definition of social exclusion makes clear that it is not just individuals but whole communities or locations which can be impoverished and ‘cut off’, and most importantly it suggests social exclusion is preventable.
Social exclusion is most often caused not by the individual but by the structures supporting the individual yet often their disadvantage and in turn the policies given in solution are seen to lie in their exclusion, rather than in excluding structures.
Most of my interest in social exclusion revolves around vulnerable children, and our ability to prevent their demise as adults. It seems absurd to me that we can watch socially excluded communities continue generation after generation. If exclusion is indeed preventable, should we not intervene? Many say to me, ‘our intervention is in employment programs for adults’. The thinking I guess is that the children will be lifted out of poverty and in turn receive a better life whilst also receiving an example of a good work-ethic from their parent. I am not denying the truth in this thinking however I think it is an incredibly small part of the pie.
Do you know that it has been found that the typical middle class child enters prep with 1,000 to 1,700 hours of one on one picture book reading, whereas a child from a low income family averages just 25 hours. Think about that! A child is going into school with little letter or sound recognition, without the concept of sitting and listening and really without much of a concept of fiction or imagination. No wonder they don’t dream big for their lives…they have never seen anything other than their depressing lives or the junk on tv! And recent research has revealed that less than 5 per cent of postcodes in Victoria account for more than a quarter of various social and economic problems such as child abuse, imprisonment and long-term unemployment.
M.Ramphele, Managing Director of the World Bank states;
“The first few years of a child’s life have multiplier effect. Young children who are well nurtured tend to do better in school and are more likely to develop the skills they will need to compete in a global economy. Investing in young children is an essential investment in human and economic development.”
There is entire research that shows the physical damage to a child’s brain when they are exposed to poverty, neglect, violence etc. Their IQ has been shown to be lowered by the effects of social deprivation. And yet to what extent is early education on the political agenda? To what extent are we changing the education system so that these children can at least try to catch up? Instead, we wait till they are adults and expect the same level of participation within the work-force as everyone else. To what extent are we as an Army really focused on improving the structures that hinder children from their potential? To what extent are we prepared to really advocate for children?
Anyway, enjoy Connections and its ripple effect. I have some good topics coming up so stay tuned!