New Labor and Social Exclusion Essay
New Labour and Social Exclusion Did New Labour end social exclusion or did they make matters worse? New Labour did try to do their bit to end social exclusion, or they forced people into unsuitable roles in a bid to end social exclusion, or they failed to end social exclusion, depending on whom you talk to and what side of the fence they sit on. It could be said that prior to 1997 the term ‘social exclusion’ was rarely, if ever, used when discussing social policy in the UK.
Under the lead of Tony Blair the ‘New Labour’ government implemented a range of new policies which at the time fell into line with a number of social democratic ideals. The new measures introduced were aimed at ending what they termed as social exclusion; in order to implement change they introduced a number of policies which included Education, Housing and ‘welfare’ two of their biggest ideas of the time being ‘Sure Start’, and of course ‘New Deal’ for lone parents. The Sure Start venture had similarities to projects being run in both Canada and Australia, which were both seen as rather successful.
Sure Start was of course a venture set up to help low income and single parent families across the UK. Within a few short months of New Labour gaining power, Sure start centres sprung up across the country, they offered child care (at reasonable rates) for some low income families to encourage mothers to go out to work, free and greatly reduced child care was offered to ‘lone parents’ as part of the back to work deal being crafted by the government to help lower unemployment stats.
Sure start offered a range of services including parenting classes, after school clubs and so forth. However the actual take up of these services from lone parents (the targeted user) was not what had been expected. Many places went to middle class families who used the service because it offered reduced rates of childcare. This in turn led to a shortfall of places needed by single parent families often without the childcare needed to get back into work.
Sure start towards the end of the New Labour rule came in for a hard time, this being from both the press, the conservative party and of course some of New Labours own disillusioned members. Edward Melhuish, executive director of the National Evaluation of Sure Start referred to research based on local Sure Start centres claimed that staff had no drive, that the care was diluted due to the lack of adequately trained staff. He later went on to say that his job role had become an administrative chore.
Iram-Siraj Blatchford, professor of early childhood education at the Institute of Education, claimed that research showed that disadvantaged children benefited from mixing with children from more affluent backgrounds, but went on to state that training and leadership courses on how to look at both impact and evaluation were poor. Barry Sheerman later called Blatchfords remarks on Sure Start ‘damning’. Margy Whalley the director of the Pen Green early excellence centre’s research later went on record claiming that the programme needed ‘enormous investment’ in staff training if it were to make any actual difference.
The introduction of Sure Start local in 1999 was based upon the legislation ‘Every Child Matters’. Sure Start local was opened across the country in stages stage one starting in 1999 and the last stage, stage 6 in 2003. Evidence which claimed to prove effectiveness of SSL (Sure Start Local) was seen as increased positive child behaviour, improved parent/child interaction, a set of clear expectations and applied consistent consequences for problem behaviour.
Early on at the beginning or introduction of Sure Start the University of Durham suggested that Sure Start was ineffective at improving results in early schooling, however recent research from the National Evaluation of Sure Start claims otherwise. Even so there will always be someone who disagrees with research findings. In 2005 Norman Glass wrote an article praising the increased government focus on early years, but went on to criticise cuts in funding and the change from the focus on child development to child care and getting mothers into work.
The other big issue which was to be called the New Deal was in a way an excuse to try and cut unemployment, especially amongst lone parents (mainly women). The New Deal was introduced in eight areas across the UK as a prototype in July and August 1997, introduced nationally for new and repeat +claimants in April 1998, it was supposed to be a voluntary programme designed to help lone parents aged 16 or over who were not in work but who wanted to be.
The New Deal was supposed to offer assistance to individuals requiring help with; job searches and interview skills, 13 week vocational training courses designed to update and develop new occupational skills, the opportunity to go back into education, gain work experience by participating in the New Deal for 18 to 24 years old or New Deal 25+; advice for individuals interested in creating their own business and contributions to the cost of child care. The New Deal offered to many single parents at job centres across the UK, was in a way a good idea.
Single parents were offered things such as training, childcare and extra benefits if they went back to work or education instead of staying on benefits such as income support. However in reality the New Deal was not a voluntary programme, all lone parents with children aged 7 and above were expected to attend appointments and were threatened with loss of benefits if they missed appointments provided by their advisor. Many individuals saw their ‘adviser’s once every year, with no follow up, no basic offers of help and unless the individual asked for help none was offered.
Advisers used by the job centres were often under-trained and did not necessarily advise their clients. Many after all had been signing on officers and had only been given new job titles not training. Many lone parents with children over 7 years were later refused the benefit income support and were instead forced to claim job seekers allowance (JSA) thus meaning if the lone parent wanted to take up the offer of education they would not be able to claim benefits, as to claim JSA you have to be actively looking for work.
Therefore in one way yes you can claim New Labour helped with lowering unemployment amongst the single parent population, with its New Deal, in another way you could also claim that the New Labour government bullied vulnerable women into going out to work in unsuitable and often gendered, low paid jobs. It could be claimed on the subject of Sure Start, yes it has helped families come together, low income families and single parents have benefited from counsellors and advice on child care, you could even state that families from both sides (i. e. iddle class families, low income families and single parent families) have benefited from the childcare and before/after school clubs offered. In another way though you could claim that Sure Start is stigmatised, and in some areas Sure Start has a bad name for example: your children go to the Sure Start centres due to the fact that you as a parent can’t cope, or you don’t have the resources or the ability to manage your own family. So, did New Labour end social exclusion…..? Short answer has to be NO! They did however try, and in some places they were successful.
But due to government cuts and shortfalls this venture didn’t as I see it get off the ground properly. In a way as with all rushed and quickly implemented ventures it was doomed to fail, if a little more thought and planning were put into these programmes they may have had better overall results.
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