Children Young People and Families & Practising Equality

What do you understand by the term ‘social exclusion’? Discuss how particular groups of children / young people can become socially excluded in Britain today. Illustrate, with reference to one or two specific groups of such children / young people, how social workers can best promote their welfare and social inclusion. This assignment aims to discuss social exclusion and inequalities in today’s British society. Social exclusion is defined in a number of different ways however according to Age Concern (2008) social exclusion means being unable to access the things in life that most of society takes for granted.

For example this might include someone who has a disability that makes it difficult for them to access public transport. Social exclusion can result in a poor quality of life for individuals but can also have wider effects on society as a result of inequality which can lead to a lack of social cohesion. This assignment will go on to demonstrate how social exclusion can impact on oppressed groups such as women and black people. By discussing how current services meet the requirements of legislation and policy, it will demonstrate how the needs of children and young people, with drug misusing parents, are being met.

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It will also explore the effectiveness accessibility and availability of these services. Focus will be given to the problems that may arise for children and young people of this particular group, and will look at how Bowlby’s (1969) attachment theory can influence a child’s behaviour. Children who experience social exclusion, poverty and deprivation are often subject to stigmatisation, discrimination and marginalisation. People may be socially excluded because of age, gender, race and class or as a result of poor housing, ill health or poverty for example.

In addition to this children may become excluded because of the lifestyle of their parents. For example, a child with drug misusing parents may be excluded from other children’s parties. This could be because other parents may not want their children playing with that child because of the stigma that surrounds drug misuse. The Cabinet Office (2008) suggests that social exclusion is still a problem by highlighting: “Even today a child’s prospects are strongly affected by the background, health and education of their parents.

Tackling social exclusion is paramount and a key Government priority and this has lead to the formation of the Social Exclusion Task Force. The role of the Task Force is to: “Coordinate the Governments drive against social exclusion………. ensuring that the cross-departmental approach delivers for those most in need. ” Cabinet Office, 2008). In addition to the Task Force there are a variety of organisations working to alleviate social exclusion and inequality.

These include charities such as Barnardo’s who work with children and Age Concern who work with older people; there are also para governmental organisations such as the Low Pay Commission as well as local Government social services departments that work with both children and adults. Therefore if too many services are involved a coordinated approach to tackle social exclusion may be difficult. In today’s society there are boundaries, divisions, groupings and categories for everyone thus causing a social division.

Payne (2000, P. 8) suggests that society is characterised by differentiation and people are put into these categories according to class, gender, sexuality, race, disabilities etc and poverty can relate to all categories. He also acknowledges that: “Social divisions are not `natural`: they are the outcomes of previous social interactions, events, decisions and struggles. They are socially constructed, so that while there are always social divisions, their precise form varies from society to society. ” Therefore social workers need to be aware of different social divisions and work towards breaking down barriers.

A social division has at least two categories and one category is usually better positioned than the other in the eyes of society at that time. This can be demonstrated by using gender as an example. Until fairly recently men were considered superior to women. Men being paid more than women, even if they both had similar roles in the work place, reflected this. This meant that men were viewed as having more power therefore women were oppressed in the work place. “Radical feminists argue that gender inequality is one of the most significant forms of inequality. ” (Abercrombie et al, 2000, P. 195)

It was not until 1970 when the Equal Pay Act was introduced that women had a right to the same contractual pay and benefits as men when doing work rated as equivalent or work that was proved to be of equal value (Abercrombie et al, 2000, P. 195). However, Particular jobs are often still considered more suitable for men or women. For example women face the expectation that they are responsible for the care of children and sick relatives or are best suited to secretarial roles in the work place whereas there is the assumption that men are suited more too manual occupations such as builders or mechanics.

It is suggested adopt a more caring role in society because of their capacity to bear children (Abercrombie et al, 2000, P. 193). Another example regarding divisions is race. Previous to the abolition of slavery white people used black people as slaves or servants. This was because white people regarded themselves as being the superior race possibly because black people were a minority giving white people more power and dominance. Since black people, in Britain, were a minority they were often socially excluded as a result because they did not always have the same opportunities as a white person.

For example, previous to new legislation, if a black and a white person applied for the same job the white person would be most likely to get it because of their colour. However since the Race Relations Act was introduced in 1976 it is unlawful to treat a person less favourably than another on racial grounds and include race, colour and nationality. Winant (1994, P. 2) argues that race is a key dividing line and is a fundamental and constitutive social division of many contemporary societies and despite legislation there are almost daily reports of racial tension in the United Kingdom.

These divisions in society can lead to some people becoming socially excluded. “Social exclusion occurs when people or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems including unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high-crime environments, bad health and family breakdown. It involves exclusion from essential services or aspects of everyday life that most others take for granted” (Our Health, Our Care, Our Say, 2006, P. 220) Therefore social exclusion can have an effect on a personal, social and cultural level.

However, suffering from the circumstances mentioned above does not automatically equate with being socially excluded. They are factors which may or may not lead to social exclusion. For example someone who is on a low income may not necessarily become or be socially excluded as a result. According to Levitas (1998) there are three strands of social exclusion. They are the redistributionist discourse (RED), the moral underclass discourse (MUD) and the social integrationist discourse (SID). These approaches each offer a different perspective on social exclusion.

RED has a prime concern in relation to people who are living in poverty and the social factors that contribute to their situation such as unemployment. Those holding the view of RED believe that only by spreading out wealth across the whole of society through taxation, benefits and services will poverty and inequality be eliminated in Britain. The second approach is MUD this view concentrates on individual misbehaviour and fails in attitudes and morality. In other words it is a judgemental approach and if a person or community is excluded from society then they have to accept a proportion of the blame.

An example of this could be a person who has a drug dependency and to support their habit they may shoplift which subsequently ends up with that person going to prison or being labelled by society as a criminal. Those holding the view of MUD would believe that by engaging in this kind of behaviour the individuals have excluded themselves from society. Lastly the third approach to social exclusion is SID where the leading focus is on paid work and about giving people incentives to return back to work thus maximising their opportunities.

The Labour Government mostly influences this approach and by following this they would aim to tackle exclusion in their policies. However social exclusion is interpreted differently depending on different political points of view. There is the view that social exclusion should focus on the poverty and disadvantages that people experience in the midst of a fairly wealthy society. This is because social exclusion can be a cause of poverty, as well as often being a consequence of poverty. However social exclusion can affect people who are also financially secure.

For example if a child is taking out of mainstream education by their parents to receive private tuition in their own home. They are ultimately excluded from mixing with other children during school hours thus also depriving them of their school experiences and possibly making friends. However poverty is one of the main problems the socially disadvantaged face worldwide and it affects all aspects of people’s lives including their health, social development, education, future employment and housing.

Poverty is a term used to describe whether someone has their basic materialistic needs met such as clothing, food, shelter and warmth. However, Oppenheim and Harker (1996, P. 329) argue that: “Poverty is not only about shortage of money. It is about rights and relationships; about how people are treated and how they regard themselves; about powerlessness, exclusion and loss of dignity. Yet the lack of an adequate income is at heart” The RED approach argues that only by making the United Kingdom more equal in wealth and resources will exclusion be overcome.

This means that measures aimed at meeting social needs through benefits could reduce all aspects of poverty. However this approach may not be the most realistic and could be interpreted as a communist approach. Those in favour of SID argue that welfare should openly reward good behaviour and it should be used to improve those roles which the country values. For example incentives such as vouchers could be given to people who return to work after long time unemployment.

With respect to children with drug misusing parent’s social exclusion can be a result of a number of reasons including homelessness, poverty, ill- health, poor housing or the stigma attached to parental drug misuse. The Cabinet Office (2006) identifies that: “Children and young people are especially vulnerable to the effects of social exclusion. ” There are many groups of children and young people who may experience social exclusion. Mainly along the same divisions as adults examples of these groups include young carers, disabled children, and children from the travelling community.

Black and ethnic minority children can be also excluded from society merely because of their race, colour or religion. This may be because white people are often still viewed by society as the dominant race. The HM Government (2006, P. 203) comment that these children are likely to have experienced harassment, racial discrimination and institutional racism. As a result of race or colour there are often other disadvantages which can also affect this particular group of children. This can include poor housing conditions.

Deem et al (2002, P. 251) lends support to this by saying: The quality of housing occupied by minority ethnic groups is generally lower than that occupied by whites. Properties are older and more likely to be terraced housed or flats; they have fewer rooms but more people per room; and they are less likely to have a garden. ” Therefore as a result black and ethnic minority children often appear by the measures of society to be unequal to white children. This may result in them becoming victims of bullying at school or in their community because of issues surrounding language, religious beliefs or colour.

In addition to this poor quality housing is often situated in run down communities therefore access to resources such as youth clubs, community centres may be limited. Giddens (2001, P. 327) agrees by stating: “Low demand neighbourhoods tend to have fewer basic services such as banks, food shops and post offices than more desirable areas. Community spaces such as parks, sports grounds and libraries may also be limited. ” Thus, excluding children in that particular area from benefiting from resources and activities other children may receive in more established communities.

Other oppressed groups within society can include gay lesbian, transgender and bi-sexual young people. Walker and Thurston (2006, P. 116) highlight that: “Evidence suggests that young people feel socially excluded in a culture where heterosexuality is portrayed as the norm. ” In addition to this young people may be subject to bullying because of their sexuality. Stonewall (2008) claims that within a heterosexist society: “Many people in Britain are subject to hatred and verbal and physical violence or live in fear because of their sexual orientation. Therefore as a result it is sometimes difficult for this group of young people to express themselves freely. For example public displays of affection may lead to verbal or physical abuse. This could be because heterosexism has social and institutional power (DiAngelo, 1997, P. 108) and is portrayed as the norm. Therefore anything outside this can sometimes be viewed as negative or unnatural. However one of the main provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998 is the freedom of expression regardless of age, gender or sexuality.

The Government’s aim for children and young people, whatever their background or circumstances, is to have the support they need in life to: be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic well-being. This means that all organisations that provide services to children, such as police, children’s services, schools and hospitals, should be aspiring to meet these overarching aims by communication and sharing information to help protect children and young people from harm and to help them achieve what they want from life.

In addition to this The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (ratified in the U. K 1991) sets out the wider basic human rights of all children and young people, without discrimination. These rights include protection of all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation and the right to education and health. In June 2003 the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) published its report Hidden Harm – Responding to the needs of children of problem drug users. This report estimated that there are between 250,000 and 350,000 children of problem drug users in the United Kingdom.

According to this report parental problem drug use can and does cause serious harm to children at every age from conception to adulthood. Harbin and Murphy (2000, P. 3) also recognise that where drug misuse is problematic children and families are often socially excluded. They go on to say that: “Heavy-end substance misuse is woven into social exclusion. ” Therefore drug misuse is not always separate issue to social exclusion. Parental drug use could impact on a child’s health, education, relationships, emotional and behavioural development and their living conditions.

All of which could lead to the child becoming socially excluded. Harbin and Murphy (2003, P. 82) highlight that: “children who live with drug using parents are exposed to societies view on drug use. ” Therefore as a result other children within the community might be told by their parents to exclude them from group activities such as birthday parties. This could impact on the child’s ability to integrate with other children at school or within the community possibly resulting in the child having no friends. This could affect the child’s self esteem making them feel like they have done something to be ashamed of.

On the other hand if the child does have friends and their parent’s drug misuse is unknown to the community they may be unwilling to take them home for the fear of exposing their family life. In addition to this parental misuse could lead to school problems. For example truancy, poor attendance due to parents not taking their child to school or difficulty concentrating in class due to what is happening at home. This could ultimately lead to a lack of educational achievements which may result in fewer job prospects to pursue in later life.

Daly et al (2006, P. 44) explains that: “Children who are exposed to both long and short term stressful situations are taken over by a survival instinct and their ability to learn productively is greatly reduced. ” However it is recognised that parental drug use may not always affect the parent’s capacity to look after their children well. The British Medical Association (1997, P. 88) highlights that: “Drug use itself by parents need not constitute a risk”. In contrast to this view Hidden Harm (2003. P. 30) finds that where drug use has become heavy and dependency has developed, life for the user and those around them is often chaotic and unpredictable.

As a consequence if a drug misusing parent was faced with buying drugs they were dependent on or purchasing food, new clothes or shoes for their child they may not necessarily be capable of making a rational decision. Cleaver et al (1999, P. 245) lends support to this by stating: “Family income may be used to satisfy parental needs. Purchasing food and clothing or paying essential household bills may be sacrificed. ” Therefore problem parental drug misuse may contribute to child neglect for example lack of nutrition and inadequate clothing.

If a child was malnourished or was always wearing old or dirty clothes it may impact on their sense of worth and could possibly result in the child becoming a victim of bullying. Children may also miss out on general life experiences such as picnics in the park or being read bed time stories because their parents drug use occupies most of their time. Since drug misusing parents often lead chaotic lifestyles secure attachment between parent and child may have failed to form. “Attachment is defined as a long-term, meaningful and emotional link to a particular individual” (Schaffer, 2005, P. 127).

Bowlby’s (1969) attachment theory is extremely helpful for social workers when working with children as it highlights their essential human needs that adults should provide. Children need adults to be reliable and to provide consistent parenting. As a consequence of poor parenting the child may fail to develop positive outcomes of a good attachment with parents which may result in low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence. If social workers are aware of the attachment theory interventions such as parenting classes could be used to help address areas of concern.

According to Jaudes and Ekwoand (1995, P. 9) parental drug misuse can also result in physical, psychological or sexual abuse of children. Therefore “It is essential that children whose welfare maybe at risk as a result of their parental problematic substance misuse are identified in order that appropriate services can be identified or action taken to safeguard them. ” (Nottinghamshire and Nottingham City ACPC’s, 2004, P. 2) Local authorities, health services, housing agencies, police and other agencies in contact with families have a range of responsibilities for promoting the welfare of children and protecting them from danger.

The main legislation describing these responsibilities is set out in the Children Act 1989. Under section 47 of this Act a social worker must make enquiries if it is thought that a child may be at risk of significant harm. If the child is considered ‘in need’, for example their health or development is significantly impaired, the local authority have an obligation to intervene under section 17 of this Act. An assessment of the child’s needs would be carried out and should this lead to a decision that the child can remain at home, the social worker would be required to mobilise support for the family in order to safeguard the child.

To mobile relevant the social worker would need to evaluate the parent’s parenting capacity, the child’s developmental needs and family and environmental factors. This would include assessing whether the child’s basic needs are being met for example do they have regular meals; whether the child has been attending school regularly and any housing and income issues. Intervention should be carried out as far as possible in partnership with the family, identifying areas of strength as well as those that raise concern. This would hopefully highlight any risks to the child, for example where drug paraphernalia is stored.

The social worker would be required to work in an anti-oppressive practice manor by promoting choice and by providing information to the family. The Children Act 1989 find that children are best brought up with their own families. Therefore the social worker would work in partnership with other agencies such as schools to try to prevent family breakdown. Social workers would work holistically this means that services would be mobilised for issues including drug misuse, housing and social inclusion for example. However services would need to be properly co-ordinated to avoid any confusion and progress would need to be monitored.

Since parental substance use can cause children and families to become isolated within a community it may mean that they are less likely to make use of the support services which are available to all families. This may be because of the stigma attached to drug misuse. They may also be worried that their children might be taken into care. “Parents/ carers may believe that they will be stigmatised, that their children will inevitably be removed from their care, that they and their children will be treated differently or given a lesser service. ” (Nottinghamshire and Nottingham City ACPC’s, 2004, P. 4)

In compliance with the Social Care Workers Codes of Practice (2002, P. 14) social workers must not discriminate unlawfully or unjustifiably against service users. Social work practice that does not take into account oppression and discrimination is not viewed as good practice as Horner (2006, P. 265) highlights: “Although social work values have been expressed at different time in a variety of ways, at the core they involve showing respect for persons, honouring the diverse and distinctive organisations and communities that make up contemporary society and combating processes that lead to discrimination, marginalisation and social exclusion. In the past the traditional response to parental substance misuse was placing children of misusers into care.

However, since then, services have been developed to provide support to children and young people whose parents are drug misusers so they can remain at home with their families Policy Research Bureau (2007). Services include local Government such as drug action teams and children’s services, charities such as Barnardo’s and SureStart. Services aim to promote inclusion, independence and empowerment. Parents may need to attend parenting classes and if appropriate social workers may refer the parents or young children to counselling.

Counselling could possibly help build self-esteem and provides a safe place to express suppressed emotions. A referral would probably be made to the parent’s local drug action teams, if they were not already on contact with them, who could offer advice and support regarding harm reduction and substitute prescribing. In addition to this referrals may also be made to other agencies such as SureStart, Homestart, Addaction and Barnardo’s for example. SureStart is a Government programme which provides support for families and parents in disadvantaged areas.

Support includes child care, outreach and home visiting and also primary and community health care. However this service is only available for families who have children under five years old. SureStart could promote inclusion for children under five years old allowing them to socialise and have fun with other children their own age. Since SureStart run programmes in disadvantaged areas some families may be excluded since not all drug misusing parents are from disadvantages areas and may find transport an issue to get to the nearest SureStart. In addition to this it is unclear if families in rural areas would qualify for home visits.

Homestart UK is a national charity that offers free support to young families and children. Volunteers visit families in their own homes and provide regular support, friendship and practical help to families in their own home. Practical support could include helping children to get ready for school therefore making sure their school attendance is regular. However some schemes are limited to how far they can travel to support families therefore families living in rural areas may not receive help from this agency. Addaction is the largest specialist drug and alcohol treatment agency and is UK based.

This agency offers help and advice to anyone affected by substance misuse and helps parents to become substance free or stabilised. Hidden Harm (2003) suggests that: “Effective treatment of the parent can have major benefits for the child. ” Therefore if a parent was dependent on heroin and decided to go onto a substitute drug such as methadone it could have a stabilising effect which might improve family functioning. “Patients receiving methadone maintenance treatment rapidly show substantial increases in the time spent with their family and in time spent attending to the home. (British Medical Journal, 2007, P. 297) The social worker would also look at other factors that may be affecting the family for example accommodation and financial issues.

If there were any issues the social worker could contact Supporting People. Supporting People provides housing support to vulnerable individuals living independently in their own home, and includes people with drug problems. Services which Supporting People could provide include assisting with claiming benefits, dealing with neighbours, budgeting and money management.

Therefore benefits could possibly be maximised making sure that the service user is in receipt of all the benefits they are entitled to. However if the family are in receipt of all their benefits but are experiencing financial difficulties the social worker may recommend applying for either a community care grant, budgeting loan or crisis loan. Since a community care grant does not have to be paid back this may be the best option. This grant could help with pressures that the individual and their family may be facing such as eviction due to rent arrears.

Supporting people promotes empowerment and inclusion by helping vulnerable individuals and their families remain in their own homes thus possibly preventing family breakdown. Under the Children Act 1989 Social workers have a legal obligation to listen to children. The voice of children is central to the concept of children’s rights and is the core of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is good practice for social workers to be aware of the UNCRC as they can make children aware of their rights under the Convention.

If social work practice is to be anti-oppressive the views of children must be listened to. Depending on the age of the child concerned social workers might ask children the ‘miracle question’ this is on the lines of “suppose that one night while you were asleep, there was a miracle……… what would be different? ” (de Shazer,1988, P. 5). The child’s answer may identify what they think the main problem is. Thus helping the social worker to meet the child’s needs better and hopefully put support in to address the problem.

For example if the child answered this question by saying they would no longer be responsible for looking after their younger sister the social worker would have identified that the child was possibly taking on adult responsibilities by caring for their sibling. If this was the case the child could be referred to a young carers group. This would promote inclusion by allowing the child to meet up with other young carers, regularly, to have some fun. Other interventions that could be considered include group work which is offered through charities such as Barnardo’s.

Group work would allow a child to discuss their feelings in a group setting. There are many advantages in providing services through a group work method. Group attendance can provide access to the experiences of other group members” (Harbin and Murphy, 2003, P. 83). However this type of intervention would only be appropriate if the child felt comfortable discussing their feelings and home life in a group setting. From the knowledge that others in the group may have had similar experiences feelings of exclusion may be reduced. Since parents who misuse substances often lead chaotic lives they may forget appointments resulting in the child missing out on their group meetings.

Therefore social workers may need may need to remind parents about appointments or arrange transport for the child if parents are too chaotic. This could be a member of their extended family. However group work may not be appropriate for all children therefore social workers may use props to engage with younger children as this may help to encourage a child to talk about their feelings or home life for example. This may make it easier for the social worker to mobilise appropriate services to meet the child’s needs.

Children may find it easier to discuss their feelings by illustrating or demonstrating them rather than just using words, for example through re-enacting events with figures, dolls or puppets. Similarly a house jigsaw could be used as a tool to talk about the child’s family. This could be a useful lead to questions such as “who lives in your house? ” Using play to communicate may help by reducing anxiety and raising self-esteem, behaviour may also change thus improving relationships with family and friends (British Association of Play Therapists, 2004).

However consideration needs to given as play techniques may upset the child by refreshing memories of painful events although this may be a useful as work can then be carried out to address these feelings. When working with children techniques should be tailored to the child’s age, ability level and interests and should not be made to feel interrogated or threatened. (McLeod, 2008). Social workers aim to promote inclusion to vulnerable individuals by supporting them to take control of their lives. This can be done by providing information to help service users make informed choices.

In addition to this social workers should be aware of different interventions, theories and current services which may help to meet the needs of children, young people and families. Conclusion Social exclusion is a process that deprives individuals, families, groups and communities from accessing resources in order to participate in social, economic and political activity amongst other members of society. People may be socially excluded because of age, gender, race and class or as a result of poor housing, ill health or poverty for example.

Resources aimed at the prevention of social exclusion are not only material but also relate to the quality of social interaction between individuals and services. There are different perspectives relating to social exclusion and different people interpret social exclusion differently. These views are the categorisations of RED, MUD and SID defined by Levitas (1998). The three strands incorporate that poverty is a prime concern linking to social exclusion, that people’s actions lead to them becoming socially excluded and also that people should be iven incentives to gain employment. However whatever individual views are held by the social worker the service user should not be discriminated against.

There is rarely one aspect which causes social exclusion, it is usually a combination of many factors which can include unemployment, inadequate housing, low income, lack of transport to access services and drug misuse. Evidence suggests that heavy drug misuse is woven into social exclusion and affects children in many ways.

Although Parental substance misuse does not necessarily equate to bad parenting available evidence demonstrates that parental problem drug misuse can and does cause serious harm to children. Therefore if a child of a substance misusing parent is considered in need social workers have a legal obligation under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to intervene. Social workers should be aware of different interventions available for children and families such as group work and counselling. In addition to this social workers should have good communication skills and be aware of relevant theories such as attachment theory.

Children who are most at risk of social exclusion will need coordinated help from health, education, voluntary and statutory agencies. Services available to provide support for children and families who are affected by substance misuse include SureStart, Homestart, Supporting People and Barnardo’s. These services are designed to meet the needs of children, young people and families with a particular emphasis on promoting social inclusion. Although these services are beneficial many do not take into consideration families living in rural areas.

Therefore this may limit the effectiveness resulting in some families not receiving the support they need. Social exclusion presents a number of interlinked problems for social workers to deal with for substance misuse. Social work is seen as a potentially important link to working towards social inclusion and social workers aim to work towards promoting social inclusion by maximising income and securing basic resources, promoting anti oppressive practice, strengthening social supports and networks and by working in partnership with agencies and local organisations.