Unhealthy communities

Initially, what constitutes an unhealthy community will be considered, from the evidence presented in K100, we will examine how social housing became what it is today and the reasons behind this environment being perceived as the unhealthy community, and in contrast we will explore what would be the ideal healthy community. Secondly, we will look at what is meant by social exclusion (Unit 12, pp. 115-120) and discuss how the government have tackled this issue.

We will then consider the regeneration of unhealthy communities by illustrating the effectiveness of campaigns such as Sure Start and the Barnardos. In the 1940’s, the post war welfare state was one of universal benefit for all irrespective of their own personal means, which constructed a society of passive receivers of welfare. By the time of the Thatcherite government it was clear that this financial welfare system could not be sustained relentlessly. To recover the nation’s economy the Thatcherite government promoted self responsibility, private enterprise and home ownership.

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Huge numbers of council houses were sold to their tenants, and the profits generated served to alleviate the massive budget deficit at the time. With social housing being sold to those that could afford to buy, those who could not afford to buy, the poor, the uneducated, the young, the unemployed, migrants and the very old were marginalised in the most inferior housing stock, generally located within run down housing estates and high rise blocks of flats.

Within these communities there would often be a lack of facilities, such as parks, sports facilities or private and public services and in particular health and education. The lack of amenities generally exacerbates the already poor quality of life of those living in these areas. It could be fair to say that within these communities, crime and anti-social behaviour go hand in hand with the lack of amenities, education and employment, underpinning these areas of social housing as less attractive places to live, thus promoting social exclusion.

In contrast to the previous example of an unhealthy community, the King’s Fund report Healthy Neighbourhoods (2001) reported how healthy communities can be developed and achieved. Characteristically, a healthy neighbourhood would be a place that is safe and clean with lots of amenities such as sports and leisure facilities, schools and workplaces, assets and capacities that can be developed with both public and private services including voluntary bodies (King’s Fund, 2001) (Unit 12, p. 115).

It could be fair to say the King’s Fund report has presented an ideological example of what would constitute a healthy neighbourhood, and whilst the majority of these characteristics may be found in some communities, there may be some villages and small communities where only one or two of these may be found. Therefore it should be considered whether those small communities with only one or two characteristics would be measured as either healthy or unhealthy. Social exclusion can occur due to the amalgamation of problems such as unemployment; poor education; low income; substandard housing; high crime and poor health.

It can also be about ethnicity; religion; gender; age and disability. It is a severe result of what can happen when people don’t get adequate chances throughout their lives, and this life style can be passed from one generation to the next. The Social Exclusion Unit was set up in 1997 within the Cabinet Office to specifically deal with the issue of social exclusion. During the first five years the Social Exclusion Unit worked on a range if issues and produced cross-departmental publications on: Truancy and School Exclusion(1998); Rough Sleeping (1998); Teenage Pregnancy (1999); (Unit 12, pp. 17, 118).

Today, the Social Exclusion Unit has been renamed the Social Exclusion Task Force, and a Social Exclusion Action Plan was published in September 2006 which claims to have made some significant achievements across government. The latest news on the Cabinet Office website describes the latest programme ‘Think Family’ which aims to ensure that both adults’ and children’s services join up to respond to the needs of families as a whole (www. cabinetoffice. gov. uk).

The longevity of this Task Force and information on the Cabinet Office website suggests that the government are aware the problem social exclusion can have on future societies. Regeneration or improvements to unhealthy communities have existed in society for many years, for example Barnardos is an organisation that has existed in this country since 1870 and they are still providing young people with help today. They work directly with over 115,000 children, young people and families every year, running counselling for children who’ve been abused, fostering and adoption services, vocational training and disability inclusion groups.

In the late 1800’s Dr Barnardo opened his first home for destitute boys. By the early 1900’s he had opened almost 100 homes. After the second world war, and the Children’s Act 1948, the Barnardos charity worked on a closer level with families, awarding grants to those on low incomes. During the 1960’s legislation and an acceptance of single parent families meant many of the homes where closed down. Barnardos have moved from an institutional care charity and now focus on working with families and communities (www. barnardos. org. uk).

When we contrast the Barnardos of today to Barnardos of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, this exemplifies the regeneration and improvement of unhealthy communities across the United Kingdom. Regeneration and improvement of unhealthy communities can also be seen in the government programme Sure Start. They aim to achieve better outcomes for children, parents and communities and cover needs of children from conception thought to the age of 14, and up to 16 for children with special educational needs and or disabilities. Sure Start aim to provide greater access to child care as well as helping set up and maintain childcare standards.

They provide support programmes to provide information and advice on health and finances to parents. The services from Sure Start are free for everyone and are governed by a set of shared principles (www. surestart. gov. uk). It could be fair to say, as a programme, Sure Start have taken the approach of helping children prior to birth by educating their families in child care and other matters and this would suggest they are striving to improve unhealthy communities and their populace to ensure future citizens have a better chance in life.

In conclusion, an unhealthy community could be defined not only by a lack of facilities and amenities in an area, but also by the attitude and knowledge of those living in the community. On the reverse of this, the ideological or healthy neighbourhood could contain a wealth of facilities and amenities along with hard working individuals, although there could possibly be exceptions to these extreme examples.

Social exclusion can occur due to one or many problems that may be faced as part of an unhealthy community and governments have put in place a task force to address societies which generate social exclusion. Regeneration and improvements to unhealthy communities have existed in society for many years and currently both government and private programmes are striving to assist children at a young age and prior to birth and their families. Therefore, it could be fair to conclude that community-based projects can contribute to the development of healthy communities and also future generations.