What does ‘social inclusion’ mean?
The answer to this can be influenced by a previous personal experience – an ‘inclusion’ or ‘exclusion’ moment affecting our feelings and reactions. What did we feel when we were included or welcomed in a meaningful way?
A quick survey recently revealed varied short responses to the meaning of ‘social inclusion’, among them: including people on the fringes, space for everyone, time for everyone, equal opportunity, welcome, no prejudice, no exclusion, unity, participation, kindness, friendliness, hospitality, helpfulness, invitation, being open minded, face-to-face encounter, really listening.
Can we picture a world where these things are the norm? How inclusive is Australia? How do our suburbs, neighbourhoods, streets and households measure up? How do we deal with exclusion prejudice, disadvantage and inequality?
The founder of Social Inclusion Week, Dr Jonathon Welch, has a long-standing passion for social justice and an overarching commitment to the community. His ‘Choir of Hard Knocks’ [now the Choir of Hope and Inspiration] is an example of a light in the community that can achieve transformation.
When we are tempted to be complacent or pessimistic about change, let’s look to positive examples and see the power of the dream – that, in places of inequality & disadvantage, each person who is noticed, supported, included and empowered is part of a community that is changing, and taking steps in a positive direction.
Jonathon says: “Let's work together to make a difference, take a stand to fight loneliness and isolation. Let's put Australia on the map as the country that cares.
We want to touch the lives of even more people, and return to the values of a community that truly cares for each other and takes responsibility for supporting those who need a helping hand. Just a simple smile can make a world of difference in someone's life.”
The 4th annual Social inclusion week has a website with events and suggestions for involvement.
Collaborate, Connect and Celebrate in your part of Australia during Social Inclusion Week 2012! http://www.socialinclusionweek.com.au/
Personal challenge: Develop a habit that takes you beyond this week to all of life -consciously notice and think about the ‘other’, be alert to the ‘other’, reach out and be pro-active toward the ‘other in your relationships and connections.
Territorial Social Justice Secretary
Read on for an in-depth look into social inclusion.
'...by the mid-1980s “social exclusion” had not only made its appearance in European Union documents but had also appeared in academic discourse emanating from the so-called “less-industrialised” world (Rodgers et al. 1995). It has been used even more frequently since the 1990s. The concept of “social exclusion” has become a core concept in the European Union and a foundational policy concept in Tony Blair’s New Labour Government in the UK. It has surfaced briefly (though not persuasively) in Australia in 1999 as an umbrella concept for a large social policy conference, and most recently has appeared in Aotearoa/New Zealand as part of the project of rethinking the direction of social policy. There is, however, no clear record of how the term came into use in English-language policy contexts. My own version of this history, however, and one that is backed up by a number of scholars, suggests that the concept of social exclusion, as a policy term, made its English-language debut in the European Union Poverty Programmes in the 1980s.'
From 'Christians for an ethical society', circa 2008/2009:
Among the innovations of the new Federal Labor Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, was the appointment of a Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion, Senator Ursula Stephens. The concept is important to our Government and we may expect to hear a lot about it in the next few years but most Australians have never heard the term. What is social inclusion and why is it important to Christians?
The meaning of social inclusion, or overcoming social exclusion, is multifaceted. Its modern use probably began in France in the 1970s when those who slipped through the social security net were called (socially) excluded. Conservative governments took up the term to describe efforts to reduce poverty without having to admit its existence; however, social inclusion is a much richer term than poverty reduction. For example, while poverty is a very widespread cause of inability to participate in society, it may be a symptom of social exclusion rather than the underlying cause which, for example, could be the inability to participate fully in the labour market due to poor English skills. The use of the term ‘social inclusion’ encourages attention on the causes of exclusion and encourages interest in the interaction of the various causes.
An Aussie reference, in a penal context from 2009:
The community can be viewed as a safety net, one which, prevents its members from being harmed in any way.
Ex-offenders are seen as a threat, and therefore they are excluded on purpose from joining the community.
Significant developments in exclusion/inclusion theory have permeated much social thinking in Europe and the
UK over the past 5 years...
A nice definition discussion from the Oz Govt's Institute of Family Studies:
What is social inclusion? What is social exclusion?
In the Australian policy context, social inclusion is conceptualised as four key domains of opportunity—the opportunity to:
..participate in society through employment and access to services;
..connect with family, friends and the local community;
..deal with personal crises (e.g., ill health); and
..be heard (Australian Government, 2010).
Social exclusion, on the other hand, is defined as the “restriction of access to opportunities and [a] limitation of the capabilities required to capitalise on these [opportunities]” (Hayes, Gray, & Edwards, 2008, p. 6). Social exclusion is not the equivalent of poverty (i.e., inadequate economic resources) or deprivation (i.e., an enforced lack of social perceived necessities) (Saunders, Naidoo, Griffiths, & 2007; Hayes et al., 2008). Rather, social exclusion is fundamentally about a lack of connectedness and participation.
Social exclusion is a useful concept because it can enrich our understanding of social disadvantage, highlighting, for example, the way in which the experience of disadvantage may not only involve financially difficulties but also extend to a sense of disconnection from the broader community. Social inclusion, when viewed as a series of opportunities, provides a framework for enhancing participation and connectedness and, as such, can be seen as a goal to work towards; a way of raising the bar and understanding where we want to be and how to get there (Friendly & Lero, 2002).
Although other countries’ understandings of the terms social inclusion and social exclusion may differ from the dominant Australian definition (outlined above), international resources on these topics can provide further insight into the meaning of the concepts...