They also suggested that previous efforts and funds had been wasted due to lack of co-ordination both locally and centrally (Batty 2002). Since its formation in 1997 the SEU has been working hard in tandem with the Government to address social exclusion and it’s associated social problems. A report in December 2003 by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showed that income poverty in Britain was on a steady downward trend and has fallen to levels similar to those at the end of the 1980’s.
At the time education progress, which had been increasing ceased and remained level for more than a three year period. This indicated that a quarter of young people aged 11, 16 and 19 were failing to reach a basic level of attainment. (Palmer, North, Carr and Kenway, 2003) The formulation of the Social Exclusion Unit indicates the Government had a clear understanding of social exclusion and an insight into the measures needed to be put in place to target the people most acutely affected by exclusion and reintergrating them back into society.
Tragic cases such as Victoria Climbie in 2000 brought the plight of disadvantaged children, who didn’t appear to have a ‘voice’, in to the media spotlight. The inquiry into Victoria’s death prompted a government Green Paper Every Child Matters (ECM): The Next Steps 2003 which led to the Children Act 2004 providing a legislative spine for developing more effective and accessible services focused around the needs of children, young people and families.
The vision was to radically improve the opportunities and outcomes for children, driven by a whole-system reform of the delivery of children’s services from 0 -19 years.
The Act’s intentions was to bring about a systematic change to the support offered to children and their families, develop the workforce by integration, changing culture and practice.
From April 2005 a ‘duty to co-operate’ was implemented to improve the well-being of children and young people and the act named Local Authorities (LA), Primary Care Trusts (PCT), Strategic Health Authorities, Connexions Services, Youth Offending Services (YOS), the Police Force, the Probation Service, and the Learning and Skills Council as organisations under this duty. The five key outcomes from the ECM Framework: being healthy; stay safe; enjoy and achieve; achieve economic well-being; make a positive contribution; are at the heart of the agenda.
These outcomes together with the more than 40 substansive rights detailed in the The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)(Appendix 1), which Britain ratified to in December 1991, are a postive step in ensuring all children and young people are represented, protected and given a voice. The conventions’ rights apply to all children and young people without discrimination and safeguard their basic needs and entitlements irrelvant of their culture, ability and nationality.
ECM aims to integrate services for children from 0 to 19 with agencies working across professional boundaries to co-ordinate support for those children and young people in need, with a focus on early intervention and providing better support to parents and families. The introduction of ContactPoint, the online directory for authorised staff ( as defined in regulations made unders section 12 of the Children Act 2004), and the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) have made strides in securing better outcomes for those it serves.
The CAF is designed for practitioners to be able to gather and record information about a child or young person with additional needs in a more holistic and systematic way, and achieve more consistant assessments that can be shared and understood by other agencies thus encouraging cross-agency working. This process is child-centred and aims to empower the child by asking them the miracle question; what would make a difference? and intends to ensure parity for all children. Consent is an integral part of the CAF and must be sort prior to the start of discussions and delivery.
Although this aims to be an empowering and joint process the CAF cannot guarentee service provision, it is essentially a tool to highlight the needs of a child/young person and how those needs can be met. By listening to the child and making him/her the centre of the process the CAF appears to be upholding the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice 2002 which was more emphatic in its aim than its preceeding 1994 Code as it states ‘ the views of the child should be sought and taken into account’.
The Connexions service was established in 2001 with the aim of providing a comprehensive service to meet young people’s needs for information, advice and support. Through multi-agency working, in conjunction with the CAF, Connexions provides high quality, impartial information, advice and guidance ( including careers advice), together with access to personal development opportunites to help remove barriers to learning and progression and ensure young people make a smooth transition to adulthood and working life.
The service is designed to help all young people aged 13 to 19 regardless of need, and those up to 24 with a learning difficulty or disability. There is a particular focus on those at risk of not being in education, employment or training (NEET), or of being socially excluded. Organisations such as AimHigher, Windsor Project and Connexions are aiming to listen to the voices of youngsters, especially those considered at risk and support them through their transisitions within education as well as at home.
The Lietch report highlighted, at the time, that 20% of adults did not have sufficient adult literacy skills and the Government were keen to take steps to eradicate this deficiency and encourage youngsters to participate in their own education, take ownership and responsibility for their lives, be part of important decision making and empower them to embrace ‘life long learning’ and plan for their futures. In its action plan on social exclusion (August 2006) the Government set out the next steps in its drive to tackle the root causes of deep-seated disadvantaged and excluded groups.
It stated its priority as reaching the one million people at risk of persistent social exclusion, who have not yet benefited from opportunities that the majority of people can now take for granted. It stated the Government’s intention of tackling deep-seated social exclusion with the help of five guiding principles: Better identification and early intervention; Systematic identification of what works; Better multi-agency working; Personalisation, and rights and responsibilities where appropriate; Supporting achievement and managing under performance.
The Government re-emphasised its commitment to tackle social exclusion through partnership when it published its Public Service Agreement (PSA) 16 last autumn. It identifies four areas of focus: Care leavers; Adult offenders under probation supervision; Adult community mental health service users; Adults with learning disabilities. The PSA stated that these were government priorities, but there will be no national targets and each council would negotiate its own “suitably ambitious” targets.
Twelve out of the thirty Public Service Agreements focus on reducing poverty and disadvantage – an indication of how seriously this government takes the task of creating a fairer and equal society. The Government has had success in improving lives for the most disadvantaged groups, and the Cabinet Office recently launched “Think Family: Improving the Life Chances of Families at Risk” (January 2008), which set out a vision for a local system that aims to improve the life chances of families at risk and helps to break the cycle of disadvantagement.
Due to the sheer complexity and scale of social exclusion, the Government targeted this group because they run a high risk of slipping though the net of uncoordinated service provision; they are disproportionately likely to be jobless, potentially consigning them to a lifetime of exclusion, at high human cost to them and their families, as well as being a huge financial cost to society. There remain many challenges in reaching those hard to reach groups, caught in a cycle of disadvantage and we must ask is enough being done?
Some voluntary groups and organisations offer excluded groups an areana in which to air their views and opinions such groups include MENCAP a registered charity who present Themselves as the voice of learning disability. They work with people with learning disabilities to change laws and services, challenge prejudice and directly support thousands of people so they are able to live their lives as they choose. MENCAP advocate publications such as ‘Every Disabled Child Matters – support the campaign’. (Appendix 2) A leaflet which is designed by disabled youngsters entitled “If I could change one thing …
” Lots of the disabled children and youngsters who contricbuted to the leaflet said they want to: * Live their lives they way they want * Be listened to * Be included in their communities So it seems that however much interevention the Government believes is in place for these excluded groups society still needs to find ways of hearing what others have to say. According to Conger and Kanunigo, 1998 empowerment is the process which enables people who are excluded or discriminated against to gain power, authority and influence over others institutions and society.
Hogg, 2000 suggests that empowerment is very different to advocacy, he states that is where someone is acting on behalf of someone else in order to influence the decisions of another. In an ideal world, the excluded and marginalised groups would be able to speak up for themselves, they need to self advocate and have control over their recourses. If they were able to take more control over their own lives they may feel more empowered Appendices Appendix 1 UNICEF Children’s Rights and Responsibilites Appendix 2 Every Disabled Child Matters Publication Reference List Barnes, C. Mercer, G. Shakespeare, T.
(1999), ‘Exploring Disability: A Sociological Introduction’. Cambridge: Polity Press Barnes, C. and Mercer, G. (2003) ‘Disability’, Cambridge: Polity Press Barnes, C. (1991). ‘Disability and Employment’ (July 1992) [online] [accessed 20/12/08] Available at:
Burchardt, T. Le Grand, J. & Piachaud, D. (1999) ‘Social Exclusion in Britain 1991 -1995. Social Policy and Administration’. Vol. 33, No. 3, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Conger, J. A. and Kanungo, R. N. , (1998) ‘Charismatic Leadership in Organizations’. [online] [accessed 10/12/08] Available at:
sussex. ac. uk/Units/SPT/journal/archive/pdf/issue2-2. pdf> DfES ‘Removing Barriers to Achievement: The Government Strategy for SEN Executive Summary’ (2004) [online] [accessed 18/12/08] Available at:
Simmons, K. (2004) ‘ Inclusive Education: Diverse Perspectives’. Oxford: Fulton Oliver, M. (1990). ‘The Individual and Social Models of Disability’ (23/07/90) [online] [accessed on 20/12/08] Available at:
(no date) [online] [accessed on 20/12/08] Available at:
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