The phrase ‘neighbourhood renewal/regeneration’ relates to a series of programmes in place to ascertain local needs and develop ways to deal with poverty and deprivation in the United Kingdom which are known as Super Output Areas (SOA’s). Local area based initiatives have been a universal approach to the problems that deprived neighbourhoods have endured in Britain since the 1960’s. The majority of programmes at that time were very short term and tended to focus on single issues. In the late 1980’s an integrated approach was tried. (Imrie and Raco, 2003).
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Initiatives started to increase in the 1990’s and as a result of this, the number of ‘the governance of neighbourhood regeneration came to be characterised by a series of interlinked and spatially overlapping partnerships’ (Imrie and Raco, 2003: 85). Labour introduced the neighbourhood renewal strategy plan in 2001, this was a new approach to tackle social exclusion and poverty in the most poorest neighbourhoods in UK. Tony Blair talked about the purpose of The Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy in his speech to the nation:
“where no-one is seriously disadvantaged by where they live, where power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few. This action plan is a crucial step in creating one nation, not separated by class, race or where people live the purpose of the strategy was ‘to narrow the gap between outcomes in deprived areas and the rest’ (Social Exclusion Unit, 2001:1)
The main aims of local based anti-poverty and community development programmes are to tackle the issue of social exclusion in the more deprived areas of the country.
“In relation to British social policy, the term social exclusion is relatively new. The government has described social exclusion as a shorthand term for what can happen when people or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime, bad health and family breakdown. (www.socialexclusion.gov.uk).”
There are many different explanations for social exclusion, and many different factors which add to social exclusion, by examining the different factors programmes can be developed in order to address the problems and try to promote a more cohesive community. The individual can contribute to social exclusion by the nature of their race, gender, culture, beliefs, disability etc.
Lack of resources
Lack of opportunities to work
Disruption of family life.
Living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods (Haralambos and Holbron, 2004:253)
Anti-poverty and community development programmes are targeting these areas with improvements in social housing, re-developing existing social housing, increasing education opportunities (such as access to education and grant schemes for students), making health care more available, targeting the younger generation to educate on matters that will effect their future, raising the profile of neighbourhoods.
One of the projects I am more familiar with is the “Sure Start programme” (now known as “Children’s Centre’s”) and I am going to discuss the strengths and weakness of the centre’s.
In 2003, the Government published a green paper called Every Child Matters. This was published alongside the report into the death of Victoria Climbie. The Green Paper prompted discussions about current services for children, young people and families. There was a wide consultation with staff that worked in children’s services, and with parents, children and young people. Following the consultation, the Government published Every Child Matters: the Next Steps, and passed the Children Act 2004.
“The Act provides a legislative spine for the wider strategy for improving children’s lives. This covers the universal services which every child accesses, and more targeted services for those with additional needs Department of Education and Skills, Children Act 2004.” http://www.dfes.gov.uk/publications/childrenactreport
Indeed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown MP, speaking about child poverty at the Sure Start Conference on 7 July 1999, acknowledges that poverty is a many-sided problem which requires many-sided solutions:
“First, we must tackle child poverty at its source – the absence of work, in work poverty and providing increased financial support for families to tackle child poverty, so that by our actions we lift a million and more children out of poverty.
Second, what I want to concentrate on today, because improving public services – health visitors, nurseries, playgroups, childcare, learning support – in the poorest communities is vital to tackling child poverty, our Sure Start programme will invest in young children in areas of greatest need.
Third, we must mobilize not just government, local and national, but voluntary help and community action – and in the programmes we are introducing – not only in Sure Start but in the New Deal for Communities and our expansion of childcare provision – we must mobilize the forces of concern and compassion in new partnerships to tackle child poverty.
Fourth, as David Blunkett has said, we must make sure that all our schools are as good as our best. In the old economy it was possible to survive with the old inequalities – an education system that advanced only the ambitions of the few.” http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/633.htm
“Labour has undertaken the biggest expansion in early years education since 1945; investing £21 billion since 1997.
Every three and four year old has the right to a free nursery place, which we will extend from 12.5 hours a week to 15 hours by 2010.
Since 1997, the number of registered childcare places is up by around 644,000 from a place for one in eight children to one in four children.
Delivered nearly 3,000 Sure Start Children’s centre’s, reaching two million children and their families.
Labour has expanded nationally the Bookstart scheme which gives every one and two year old a satchel of books and every three and four year old a ‘treasure chest’ of books and crayons.” http://www.labour.org.uk/early_years
Sure Start was the Labour Government’s programme that aimed to deliver the best start in life for every child. They bring together early education, family support, childcare, health and welfare advice. It aims to develop services in some of the more disadvantaged areas (identified by the multiple of deprivation indices. In Sure Start there is a normally a central office where all the team work together to support children and families in the local areas. The sure start programme was initially a ten year programme but was abolished in favour of “children’s Centre’s”. The change from “Sure Start” has not really been noticed and is still referred to as “Sure Start”.
“Amid all the hullabaloo about the government’s 10-year childcare strategy, one quite momentous change has gone relatively unnoticed: the government’s much-lauded Sure Start programme has been abolished”. N. Glass, The Guardian, Wednesday January 5 2005
The Sure Start centre’s, provided integrated services including health services and family support services, as well as childcare. The different services that children centre’s provide for children and families contribute to the Every Child Matters outcomes. Local authorities lead in planning and implementing centres.
Some of the services I have seen implemented at RoseHill include, support that has been individually tailored to meet the families and their children’s needs such as, parenting assessment, working with families in the home or at the centre based on a one to one basis, providing parenting courses that aim to improve parental skills so improve the life and chances for children. There are also family workers at the centre that deal with over 11’s and their families and carers, this service aims to work through problems the family may have and keep the children at their homes with their parents. One big issue the centre faces in relation to families is that of extended families and the centre provides a much needed support framework and advice for children and families that are going through divorce and separation issues, given the families a safe environment to discuss issues and problems. Along side this are the other services normally associated with a “Children Centre”, education courses, healthy eating, reading and writing support, I.T. help, employment help such as C.V. writing and interview techniques, and childcare support.
Some of the members include:
Activities & Volunteer co-coordinators
Speech and language therapist
Child care advisors
Family Support (Social Services
One of the most important facts that impacted on the programme was that the Sure Start programme was not allowed to run its full ten years span, and little or no follow-up evidence was available for analysis, before expansion.
“With principal responsibility for Sure Start alongside my DfES colleagues, I had to argue against its immediate expansion on the grounds that it would be better to accumulate some experience of running it first. (By the October 1999, when I first discussed the scheme with the chancellor there were only two local projects actually running). My arguments did not win the day and in July 2000 the programme was extended to 550 local projects.” Norman Glass – Society Guardian, 2005:1
The Sure Start programme was very generously funded and when the programme was agreed to be spread around a further 3,500 centres, the money had to come from somewhere. This meant that the generous funding had to be more evenly distributed. This has meant that the centres had very limited funding and cuts had to be made.
Although the Sure Start programme did not continue for the full planned ten year term and lost most of the generous funding, many of the good practice is carried out in the Children Centre’s that followed the Sure Start initiatives one of which is PEEP.
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PEEP is an early learning intervention, which aims to contribute towards improving the life chances of children, particularly in disadvantaged areas. It concentrates on supporting parents/carers to develop three particular aspects of learning with their children:
literacy and numeracy
The PEEP Learning Together programme focuses on how to make the most of the learning opportunities in everyday life at home – listening, talking, playing, singing, sharing books – and having fun! PEEP supports parents and carers in their role as the first educators of their children. It works with adults about their children’s very early learning. http://www.peep.org.uk/section.asp?id=5
Another flaw of the Sure Start centres was that although Sure Start centres were based in deprived areas not all deprived children lived in these neighbourhoods.
“Because not all disadvantaged children live in deprived areas each small sure start programme could serve only a minority of disadvantaged children: those from adjacent areas could not could not participate and local authorities and health agencies were faced with relatively well-financed early year’s programmes in one part of their domain and much less well provided areas next door. This was very difficult to handle.” Norman Glass – Society Guardian, 2005:1
“We know that children who grow up in poor families are less likely to reach their full potential, less likely to stay on at school, or even attend school, more likely to fall into the dead end of unemployment and poverty as an adult, more likely to become unmarried teenage mothers, more likely to be in the worst jobs or no jobs at all, more likely to be trapped in a no win situation – poor when young, unemployed when older. “http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/633.htm
Another weakness of the centres is that it involves trying to motivate and empower the local community to identify their needs and participate in the management side of the day to day running. This requires community workers who have good community and social skills to encourage local community members to actively take part. The concerns were that after the ten years were up that the community centres would not have been taken on by the local members and the centres would eventually be closed down.
The “Children’s Centre” at Rosehill was formerly a Sure Start Centre and the differences are striking. The centre has lost a vast amount of staff members and the funding has been cut considerably. The workers continue to provide opportunities for the local parents and children so the principles of Sure Start are being maintained. Some of the local projects are working well such as the Reclaim your garden for food, Further education for parents, IT sessions, and one particular programme that I am involved with is “Without Walls”. Without Walls aims to network within the community to bring people together and try out new activities. It aims to break down barriers between people by organising little trips and coffee mornings with a view to a residential trip in the near future. The strengths of this project are that it encourages members of the community to mix with different groups within the community and to form a bond between them. Encouraging and empowering people to try different activities in a comfortable and safe environment. The only draw back is that Community Development takes time, patience and enthusiasm.
“Disadvantaged communities have to be persuaded to participate and their natural suspicious leads them to hang back until there is something to show.” Norman Glass – Society Guardian, 2005:1
The children’s centre network is still being expanded, and there will be up to 2,500 children’s centre throughout the country. Centers will be established to provide the most disadvantaged areas with links to local childcare networks and Job centre Plus. The ten-year strategy for childcare recommends that more local area based and to ensure that services are more accessible.
The Strengths of Local based and community development programs are:
The strengths of these projects are:-
Brings diversity to local areas
Raises education within the community
Builds social capital
Promotes a more healthy lifestyle
Facilitates more parents to be able to return to work
Develops individual social skills
Encourages participation of community members
Uses a bottom up approach as opposed to top down
Creates Job opportunities
Attracts other resources
Has local government involvement
The Limitations of Local based and community development programs are:
It doesn’t always reach those that vulnerable and excluded
Resources limited opportunities
Can cause discrimination over resources
Can be difficult to evaluate/target and identify objectives
Can have funding limitations
The project was aimed at parents to enable them to raise their children themselves, this in itself can prove difficult as many different cultures, races and societies have different views on what is considered successful parenting. Some of the more successful local projects seen at Rosehill/Littlemore Children’s Centre have been the parenting courses and Baby ‘G, a group set up specifically to target under 25’s with young children and childcare courses. This has brought a diverse group from the community together and is still successfully recruiting members that might not have attended the centre for various reasons. Again outreach work has enabled this to happen.
In conclusion, local based area projects are as successful so long as participation is encouraged and that the projects are based on the communities needs. Community workers must continue to empower local residents to take part and in part, own the projects themselves in order for it to be sustainable. The most important part of any project is to reach the more vulnerable members of the local population; this can be achieved by successful outreach work. The success of any local area based projects depends entirely on the community workers personal skills and support from local authorities, along with a good community based knowledge. To be able to continue with all the work at “Children’s Centres) I believe the projects need more funding to grow and sustain the important work carried out by these centres. Only with more government funding will they survive and be successful.
Bibliographies and Referencing
www.socialexclusion.gov.uk, 3rd November 2008
Haralambos and Holborn, 2004, Sociology, Themes and Perspective, Sixth Edition, HarperCollins Publishers Limited.
Brown, G., (1999) Speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown MP, at the Sure Start Conference, 7 Jul. 1999, London: HM Treasury (online). http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/633.htm November 3rd 2008
Glass, N., 2005 – “Surely some mistake?” – Society Guardian 5th January, pg1
Glass, N., The Guardian, Wednesday January 5 2005, pg 1
http://www.dfes.gov.uk/publications/childrenactreport 20th October 2008, 10.23am
http://www.labour.org.uk/early_years 21st October 2008, 10.39am
http://www.peep.org.uk/section.asp?id=5 20th October 2008, 10.13am
Imrie, R. and Raco, M. (2003), Urban Renaissance. New Labour, community and urban policy. Bristol, The Policy Press