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Contemporary Policy & Society What is Poverty and why does it exist in Contemporary Contemporary Policy & Society What is Poverty and why does it exist in Contemporary Britain? What role does social work and public health have in helping to combat poverty? Does Social Work and the welfare state merely control an underclass? 1

What is Poverty? : Concepts and Measurement There are two obvious & contrasting ways What is Poverty? : Concepts and Measurement There are two obvious & contrasting ways of understanding and measuring what poverty is: • The Absolute – or subsistence - Approach & • The Relative Approach The latter developed from dealing with the short -comings of the first 2

The Absolute Approach • Initially used by Rowntree, and Booth in the late 19 The Absolute Approach • Initially used by Rowntree, and Booth in the late 19 th/early 20 th century • Surveys carried out because of clear evidence of people suffering from deprivation • Rowntree’s 1901 study – a man needed 3 s 7 d; woman 2 s 9 d & children between 2 s 7 d & 2 s 1 d for food to survive • Couple with 3 children would need 2 s 3 d for clothing; 1 s 10 d for food and 10 d for other items • 1, 465 families or 7, 230 persons – 15. 46% of population • Precise measurement of what a person/family needs to subsist on – seemingly objective • Often used by social workers to target clients – Charity Organisation Society - but only if they were ‘deserving’ poor • Rowntree’s research the basis for setting levels of benefits in the Beveridge Report • Therefore such absolute poverty did disappear after 1948 3

Relative Approach : Reaction to Absolute HOWEVER: • It was clear by the late Relative Approach : Reaction to Absolute HOWEVER: • It was clear by the late 1950 s that WANT had not been eradicated • Many in poverty despite being on supplementary benefits - levels set too low; low pay and older people had not built up enough contributions • BUT formally – official figures – claimed that poverty was a thing of the past - been eradicated • New researchers in the 1960 s – notably Peter Townsend – brought a new, relative approach 4 to research - & re-discovered poverty

What is the Relative Approach? • They adopted a relative approach to the study What is the Relative Approach? • They adopted a relative approach to the study and researching of poverty • Relative poverty is the problem of poverty in an affluent but unequal society • Basic needs may be met, but for those at the bottom many other conventional social expectations cannot be met • This results potentially in the notion of social exclusion – more about later 5

Welfare State Never Got Rid of Poverty • These relativists argued that supplementary benefit Welfare State Never Got Rid of Poverty • These relativists argued that supplementary benefit levels were set too low • % points above sup benefit levels were used by many researchers - below 2/3 s of average earnings • Abel Smith & Townsend in The Poor and the Poorest (1963) used a measure of below 120% of supplementary benefit level • They found that the poor were a third pensioners and another third were in low paid jobs 6

By the mid 1970 s various relativist researchers argued that the poor were many By the mid 1970 s various relativist researchers argued that the poor were many & made up of: • On supplementary benefits – 2, 890, 000 • Of which 1, 739, 000 were living on state pensions & despite sup benefits still poor • 1, 463, 500 were unemployed and in poverty • 300, 000 one parent families – 890, 000 – were poor • 30% of the poor were children and their number 2, 225, 000 was 17% of the total child population • 225, 000 sick and disabled people • Low wage earners – 270, 000 families dependent on wages below the set poverty line These are not exclusive categories some overlap 7

This is familiar territory – for social workers and those working with disadvantaged people This is familiar territory – for social workers and those working with disadvantaged people • So according to these researchers the welfare state had not eradicated poverty • It was also a situation that after the election of the Thatcher government in 1979 got considerably worse! • This government defended the absolute definition – & indeed argued there was no real poverty in Britain So: "The last government let poverty re-gain its hold in Britain, to an extent unseen since before the last War. . To put that right we now face a task of reconstruction as intense as the one that faced the post war Labour government and that’s why we need an anti-poverty strategy of the same ambition and breadth. " 8 Tony Blair, January 1998

Just how much worse…. ? 1979 11, 570. 000 (22% of popn) 140% of Just how much worse…. ? 1979 11, 570. 000 (22% of popn) 140% of SB or below 1987 15, 360, 000 (28% of popn) 6, 070, 000 (12% popn) on SB or below 10, 200, 000 (19% of popn) 2, 090, 000 (4% popn) Below SB 2, 890, 000 (5% of popn) 9

Who are the poor? : Breadline Britain Rowntree Foundation (Gordon et al 2000) estimated Who are the poor? : Breadline Britain Rowntree Foundation (Gordon et al 2000) estimated 26% 14. 5 millions – are poor Based on what people regard as essential : interesting relativist approach – the ‘consensual’ or ‘perceived deprivation’ approach • 9. 5 m cannot afford adequate housing • 8 m cannot afford 1 or more essential household good • 7. 5 m are too poor to engage in activities considered necessary by UK majority • 2 m children go without at least 2 things regarded as essential • 6. 5 m adults go without adequate clothing • 4 m not properly fed by today’s standards • 10. 5 m suffer from financial insecurities AND WHAT ARE THEIR CHARACTERISTICS? 10

Characteristics of the Poor • Poor people do behave differently – lack opportunities; proper Characteristics of the Poor • Poor people do behave differently – lack opportunities; proper diets; amenities – cuts down peoples’ social participation – but not good practice to explain poverty behaviourally – see below • Combination of linked problems – yes – but these people are not cut off from society…quite the reverse e. g. of Sheffield disco • Poor areas – very difficult to target policy in areas – explain • Social Problems – particularly disintegration of families…. yes when or where high unemployment exists • High teenage pregnancy rates • Poverty and Race - highest rates of unemployment in Leicester (mid 1980 s) in a 93% white ward – 12. 3%. One with 67% Asian popn. – 6. 7%. Not a race issue – maybe some correlation with discrimination in labour market • Discrimination may make minority ethnic groups vulnerable to 11 poverty – but race does not cause deprivation

How can we explain poverty? Fourfold : • Individual – personal characteristics – people How can we explain poverty? Fourfold : • Individual – personal characteristics – people are lazy, choose to be poor • Familial – cycle of deprivation; inter-generational – families choose to be poor…. . children have no choice? • Socio-cultural – behaviour produced by circumstance not choice – culture of poverty or underclass – Wilson (1987) argues that economic marginality of men in ghettos in US means that women do not commit – one parent families • Structural – inequalities someone at the bottom Please note that these positions ‘mirror’ the welfare ideologies – see last week’s lecture – week 3 Also note that it is easy to see/appreciate why some 12 people blame the poor for their own situation

Permanent Poor/Underclass Issue • Many on the New Right suggest that to fully comprehend Permanent Poor/Underclass Issue • Many on the New Right suggest that to fully comprehend poverty one has to understand the choices people make when confronted by social security policies • The most famous is of course that of Charles Murray (1984). He suggests that welfare policies for the poor actually operate to encourage poor people to seek welfare dependency rather than self sufficiency • This underclass argument suggests that such welfare measures should be withdrawn and the poor left to fend for themselves • Thatcher and Reagan attracted politically but never went the whole hog…politically unacceptable…but many cuts…hence 13 increases in poverty

What do you think of Murray’s permanent underclass argument? (1) • It is factually What do you think of Murray’s permanent underclass argument? (1) • It is factually inaccurate – there is not a permanent underclass – trapped inter-generationally in poverty – nor any agreed definition • See this in Murray’s work – refers to “a type of poverty not a cause of poverty” – it is a behaviourally driven concern – focus on undesirable behaviour – illegitimacy (single parents); crime; failure to hold down job – and support children; truancy; drug taking; casual violence • It is a classic example of an individualistic explanation of poverty & social problems • One advantage – attractive to media – simple explanation of complex problem - Murray and The Sunday Times serialisation…. . does therefore provoke discussion of poverty 14

What do you think of Murray’s permanent underclass argument? (2) • These realities do What do you think of Murray’s permanent underclass argument? (2) • These realities do make for ‘juicy’ media treatment! Frank Field played media at own game by also describing these groups as an underclass – see Field F (1989) Losing Out: the Emergence of Britain’s Underclass, Blackwell • In the recent years the largest categories of people vulnerable to poverty are young single people not working; families with young children; female single parents; people with disabilities and older pensioners Anybody choosing the Underclass as a topic must read Charles Murray & the Underclass : the Developing Debate – available free at www. civitas. org. pdf/cw 33. pdf Additional bibliography on Underclass will be made available 15

In fact, Poverty can be a Temporary Phenomenon for many…. . • Few groups In fact, Poverty can be a Temporary Phenomenon for many…. . • Few groups are entirely immune to poverty – but some have greater access to sources of credit • Most of the population is likely to have been on a low income at some point in their life • Unemployment affects many but at present not many long term; lone parenthood on average in UK lasts 3. 5 years with many then finding new partners & many working whilst lone parents • But there are many who are also not vulnerable to poverty – should we call them an overclass? • Between 1979 and 1996 the incomes of the Britain’s richest 10% grew by 68% - whilst those of the poorest fell by 12% • Whatever poverty is – it is clearly connected to its opposite! 16

Example : In and Out of Poverty 17 Example : In and Out of Poverty 17

Length of time in poverty What Murray and the New Right might have a Length of time in poverty What Murray and the New Right might have a point about is the length of time that a person or family stays in poverty. How long one is living on a low income is crucial to the type of problems one will face. As Kempson (1996, 47) states: “People’s experiences change the longer they live on a low income – from acute worry initially, through a period when they feel they are coping with the situation, and finally to chronic despair when they can see no light at the end of the tunnel. ” She draws an analogy with swimmers 18

Permanent Poor/Underclass? 1 Another insight of the underclass thesis is that long term dependency Permanent Poor/Underclass? 1 Another insight of the underclass thesis is that long term dependency on cash benefits is problematic Elwood in his book Poor Support (1988 p 237) agreed that “long term cashbased welfare for the healthy is inherently flawed. ” 19

Permanent Poor/Underclass? 2 Elwood writes (1988, p 7): “People are not poor because they Permanent Poor/Underclass? 2 Elwood writes (1988, p 7): “People are not poor because they lack money. They are poor because they do not have a job, because their wages are too low, because they are trying to raise a child single-handedly, or because they are undergoing some crisis. ” But where Murray is absolutely wrong is in suggesting we should remove benefits!! Don’t remove welfare – reform it/add to it to recognise people’s choices – and remember my example of Keynes and the accelerator in reverse – i. e. the Depression 20

Triggers to Poverty • Elwood focussed on which ‘triggers’ preceded individual moves in & Triggers to Poverty • Elwood focussed on which ‘triggers’ preceded individual moves in & out of welfare dependency • Conclusion was that people needed opportunities and incentives • Subsidisation of poor wages and training opportunities • New Labour has taken this type of academic advice very seriously – see next week on social exclusion 21

Is the welfare state in its traditional form too costly? (1) Problem of Social Is the welfare state in its traditional form too costly? (1) Problem of Social Security? The underclass debate – and much controversy about poverty is, of course, really a debate about the costs of social security NOT education or the NHS It is the size of the social security budgets that are targeted by the likes of Murray & Keith Joseph 22

Is the welfare state in its traditional form too costly? (2) Who Benefits from Is the welfare state in its traditional form too costly? (2) Who Benefits from Social Security? Social security expenditure in 1998 -99 was approximately £ 100 billions People are living longer Pensions alone accounted for 48% Largest category 2 nd largest – Disability – 25% Children – 8% Sick Pay and Widows – 4% The targets of the tabloid press – single parents and the unemployed – 15% combined! 23

Is the welfare state in its traditional form too costly? (3) Comparisons Comparing expenditure Is the welfare state in its traditional form too costly? (3) Comparisons Comparing expenditure on pensions; disability; and pensions between US, UK, Sweden; NL; Germany; Belgium; Denmark & Italy UK is second lowest to US on pensions and unemployment. Sweden 12% more expenditure on pensions UK 2 nd highest after NL on disability – but this is a very recent phenomenon 24

Well – how well is New Labour Doing? • You can all see this Well – how well is New Labour Doing? • You can all see this in the handout entitled Monitoring Poverty & Social Exclusion 2007. These are annual reports if we take one from 2005 based on a report entitled Poverty in Britain: the Impact of Government Policies since 1997 by & Sutherland H, Piachaud D & Sefton T, JRF, 2005, we can see that: • Relative poverty fell largely due to employment rates and some benefit changes • Limit to employment strategies as a way of combating poverty • Great success in reducing child poverty but further reductions will be increasingly hard to achieve • Low pay remains a problem – see last 2 slides • More redistributivist policies required – or else relative poverty will get worse – as the better off get better off • Such redistributive policies would be unpopular. • YOU ALL HAVE THE SUMMARY OF THE 2007 REPORT 25

Low Pay as Source of Poverty 1 26 Low Pay as Source of Poverty 1 26

Low Pay as a Source of Poverty 2 For just over half of all Low Pay as a Source of Poverty 2 For just over half of all employees their own market income is sufficient to enable their households to avoid poverty. This market income is almost entirely earnings, but also includes self-employment and investment income. Another 21 per cent avoid poverty by means of partner's market income. Benefits and tax credits play a relatively minor role in taking these households out of poverty, less so than income from other household members 27

So where does social work fit into tacking poverty? In a basic sense there So where does social work fit into tacking poverty? In a basic sense there are three obvious & opposing answers to this. Social work is concerned centrally with: • Managing the worst aspects & effects of poverty • Trying to eradicate poverty • Reinforcing people in poverty Maybe we need to think about different aspects of social work We will start next week’s lecture on social exclusion with a similar inventory Let’s examine a recent text that looks at these options 28

Social Work under New Labour : Social Work as Tough Love In a most Social Work under New Labour : Social Work as Tough Love In a most intriguing text Bill Jordan & his brother Charlie – entitled Social Work and the Third Way : Tough Love as Social Policy (Sage 2000) - have produced a most useful analysis of where contemporary social work is heading. Bill Jordan has also summarised their arguments in an article entitled Tough Love : Social Work, Social Exclusion and the Third Way, British Journal of Social Work, Vol. 31, pp 527 -546, 2001 Just what are their arguments? 29

The Jordans’ arguments with regard to contemporary social work: • New Labour has marginalised The Jordans’ arguments with regard to contemporary social work: • New Labour has marginalised local authority based social work to a limited role in assessing & managing risks – more specifically a limited range of tasks to do with child protection, adult care & youth justice • New Labour appears to have no faith in social work as a vehicle for combating social exclusion & poverty • Preferring to create a range of new agencies – Sure Start, Single Regeneration Budget, Social Exclusion Unit, Connexions & many other local agencies that have explicit roles in combating social exclusion and enforcing tough love – enforcing work discipline • Ironically many of these agencies appear to draw on many past social work methods and traditions • These new expanding agencies, however, do not appear to identify with the social work profession in any way – and do not want to be trained on social 30 work courses

Social Work has become……. • Cut off from the roots of the communities it Social Work has become……. • Cut off from the roots of the communities it is supposed to serve & from new progressive developments in welfare provision that are explicitly concerned with trying to combat poverty & social deprivation • Social work is trapped in its own narrow professional ambitions to be seen as legitimate profession like medicine and law • Concentrating on implementing centrally drawn up targets and regulations 31

Additionally, the Jordans’ see fundamental flaws in New Labour’s Approach to Social Deprivation generally Additionally, the Jordans’ see fundamental flaws in New Labour’s Approach to Social Deprivation generally • • • As we have seen New Labour’s main approach to social exclusion is INCLUSION through employment Yet the forms of employment offered in welfare programmes are almost always necessarily in low paid work – placing people in continued deprivation and positional disadvantage New Labour’s social exclusion programme promises better welfare services in return for citizens being self responsible and hard working Tough love welfare regimes – ensuring self responsibility - end up marginalising more people who then come into the orbit of SSDs as being at risk! Better off households will inevitably continue to pursue strategies of positional advantage – living in the best neighbourhoods, using the better schools, etc In this sense social exclusion is as much the result of the activities of the better off as it is of anything else! Is there anything that can be done? 32

A Broader Conception of Social Work? Social work could be part of a set A Broader Conception of Social Work? Social work could be part of a set of strategies that explicitly recognised the problems in the type of strategies that New Labour is employing to combat social exclusion. This would involve a much broader, more community development view of social work Shifting cultural patterns through accessing real community networks…. and engaging whole communities…not through ministerial dictat Parton and O’Byrne ( 2000) describe this style of work as constructive social work in a book of the same name I would encourage students to read the final chapter (Chp 9) of the Jordans book and Chp 9 of J Pierson’s Tackling Social Exclusion 33

Some Examples (1) : Skills • Advocacy – act in clients best interests, help Some Examples (1) : Skills • Advocacy – act in clients best interests, help liaise with potential sources of problems/help; being dogged and assertive • Community Work – seeking out informal community leaders, creating links/alliances; recognising that unequal power/resource distribution is a political issue that, in some instances, needs challenging, etc • Welfare Rights – promotion of the rights of all users at all times with regard to entitlements • Building relevant partnerships – trying overcome deep cultural and organisational differences that ‘trap’ problems in between their various expertises • Promotion of user participation – going beyond participation of users to actually delegate power – and allow user control where feasible 34

Some Examples (2) : Practices • Credit Unions • Maximising income - take up Some Examples (2) : Practices • Credit Unions • Maximising income - take up campaigns for means tested benefits, etc • SWAP schemes • Bulk buy cooperative schemes • Promotion of funding for local Family Centres – or Community Centres • Building up community links • Local participation in planning – visioning • Capacity building in individuals, families and neighbourhoods • Providing resources for skills development – individual support and informal education All of these are discussed in detail in J Pierson’s Tackling Social Exclusion – see reading for this week 35