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Social Exclusion and Inequalities in the United Kingdom


John Washington*
Ian Paylor**

*Department of Social Work
University of Central Lancashire
United Kingdom

**Department of Applied Social Science
Lancaster University
United Kingdom



Social Exclusion in the United Kingdom

        Social exclusion is a relatively new concept in the United Kingdom1. This is particularly so for academics studying in the area of social work and social policy analysis. Indeed, for some social scientists the emergence of the concept has been a challenge to ways of thinking about the analysis of society (Levitas 1996; Byrne 1997). Historically the United Kingdom has had a paradigm of social science that viewed social division with a distinctively different perspective from the current European usage of the concept of social exclusion. The nearest discourse to this in Anglo Saxon social science is the approach to the study of deprivation that focuses on poverty. Booth and Rowntree in the later part of the nineteenth and in the early part of the twentieth century established this tradition (Fraser 1973). Their works established a particular orientation to viewing deprived people in society from the perspective of poverty. The most significant component of poverty as they understood it was the lack of personal financial resources. Historically there has been an association of poverty studies with the academic study of social policy in the United Kingdom. In parallel the profession of social work has been informed by and is increasingly contributing to this analysis. In the last two decades of the twentieth century, however, alongside this analysis there has been a concern about stigmatisation and the problems of labelling people: there has been fierce debate in the UK about the use of terms such as 'the poor', 'the underclass', 'the excluded'. These words have been used to blame individuals. This has caused a certain amount of concern about the usage of such terms (see Rodger 1992). Social workers have been at the front line of intervention with people thus labelled. To a marked extent they have had the opprobrium of this labelling reflected on their profession.

        In spite of opprobrium related to poverty in the United Kingdom, the growing usage of the concept of social exclusion within the European Union has (somewhat reluctantly) pushed both academics and policy formulators to undertake a shift in thinking. Almost all of the social policy initiatives of the Union in the 1990's have included a dimension that is related to social exclusion and social integration. Debates regarding the nature and extent of poverty in the United Kingdom have now to acknowledge that the condition and process of social exclusion are a necessary part of the dialogue. The Labour Government elected in 1997 established a Social Exclusion Unit. In April 2000 this Unit published a Consultation Document on a National Strategy for neighbourhood Renewal which recognised that social exclusion had social and economic causes and that an integrated approach was required to combat these.

        The intention of this paper is to examine aspects of developments in the United Kingdom over the past decade or so with particular reference to the process of social exclusion and finally to consider the implications of this for social work. Initially however we intent to sketch the usage of the concept of social exclusion in the context of the European Union. In 1989, the then European Community had been involved in interventions in the social area for 15 years and had initiated two Poverty Programmes. Prior to the commencement of the Third Poverty Programme, which commenced in this year, the Council of the Community adopted a Charter (1989a) which eventually became the social policy annex to the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht. The Charter's concern was with people in employment and their rights. The discussion around the content of the Charter, however, went broader than work and employment included a concern about the properties of citizenship in the Community (Hantrais 1995). It moved the debate into the area of the rights of non-workers. High amongst those for whom the Community had an interest were those on the margins of society. Although there was not complete agreement about this, the interest became an issue for intervention at a European level. The issue involved both the shift in thinking from poverty to social exclusion but also the propriety of the then Community taking action above the level of Member States. The validity of this action was based on the powers contained the social policy annex from which the United Kingdom had opted out. This annex was eventually was incorporated into the Basic Treaty of the European Union in Amsterdam in 1997 and became binding on all Member States. It reflects an impetus from some of these Member States for a clear move by the Union into the social as well as economic arena. A major feature of this impetus has been the growing importance of social exclusion in the analysis of social and economic problems facing the Union in the 1990's.

        This shift in thinking from poverty to social exclusion was noted in a European Council Resolution on September 29th 1989 that emphasised social exclusion as:


not simply a matter of inadequate (resources), and that combating exclusion also involves access by individuals and families to decent living conditions by means of measures for social integration and integration into the labour market.

        The Community's interest was not only with the process of exclusion but also with the process of integrating marginalised people into society and the Council accordingly requested the Member States:

to implement or promote measures to enable everyone to have access to: education, by acquiring proficiency in basis skills, training, employment, housing, community services and medical care. (Council of Ministers of the European Community 1989b)

        The Resolution of the Council introduced The Third Poverty Programme which had a duration to 1994. The change in thinking of the Council was reflected in the title of the Programme:

Community programme for the economic and social integration of the least privileged groups in society. (Council of the European Community 1989c).

        The Poverty 3 Programme aimed at developing a multi-dimensional approach to social exclusion and focused on projects which had social as well as economic integration as their objective. To augment this, the Programme sought to gain the partnership of public and private institutions and to promote the active involvement of the governments of the Member States involved (Commission of the European Communities 1995). The Poverty 3 Programme was a major component of the Social Action Programme of 1989 to 1994. This Social Action Programme also involved the establishment of a group of experts in each Member State to report on the policies undertaken to alleviate the condition of social exclusion. These experts formed the Observatories on Policies for Combating Social Exclusion. They commenced their Reports in the early 1990's. The first Co-ordinator of the Observatories developed a definition to guide their work:


(Individuals) suffer social exclusion where they; a) they suffer generalised disadvantage in terms of education, training, employment, housing, financial resources, etc.: b) their chances of gaining access to the major social institutions which distribute these life chances are substantially less than those of the rest of the population; c) these persist over time (Room 1990)


        This definition of social exclusion draws on both the European intellectual influence and also from a variant of the United Kingdom perspective on people who are socially deprived. Peter Townsend has made a distinctive contribution to this aspect of the study of poverty. From the 1960's onwards he developed a definition of poverty different from the official government definition. He moved away from an income resource base for the measurement of poverty to a conceptualisation that examined poverty in relative terms. That is it related poverty to the resources that people possessed in relation to the expectation society had of 'normal living'. This measured the experience of poverty not just in terms of income resource but of access to other resources in society such as health, education, housing and the environment. It established marginalisation as well as deprivation as major components of the study of poverty. In using this approach as a basis for research Townsend (1970) concluded that in 1968/1969 some 22.9 % of the population were in a condition of poverty as compared to 6.1% measured by the state supplementary benefit standard. Clearly establishing that poverty was more extensive than had been previously assumed

        Townsend and colleagues (1985) specifically using multiple deprivation have undertaken further work in this area as a key conceptual tool in the study of poverty. This further study conducted in London confirmed that the marginalisation and deprivation of people was well beyond the threshold of the state income support level.

        This analysis of the United Kingdom will take poverty as an important variable in the understanding of social exclusion. The details of poverty measurement are not within the scope of this paper (see Abrahamson and Hansen 1996; Room 1996). They are complex and varied but they are clearly pertinent for estimating the extent of the condition. It is here that much work still needs to be undertaken within Europe. However, irrespective of methodologies, one aspect of the analysis of poverty is clear. In the United Kingdom it has increased in the past 18 years. Oppenheim and Harker for the Child Poverty Action Group (1996) using statistics from official government sources on Low Income Families and Households Below Average Income estimated that in 1992/1993 14.1 million people were living below 50% of the average income (after housing costs). That is 25% of the population. This compares with an estimate of 9% of the population at this level in 1979. In the 1990's a number of surveys were undertaken in the United Kingdom through the sponsorship of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. These surveys demonstrate an emerging duality in the use of poverty and social exclusion as tools in the analysis of deprivation in this country. They also reveal that deprivation is a condition experienced by a substantial number of people and neighbourhoods and that the endeavours of social policy and social services were not adequate to deal with this.

Inequalities in the United Kingdom

        The 1980s saw dramatic changes in social policy in the UK. Government responsibility for the maintenance of full employment was jettisoned early by the first Thatcher government and was replaced as a policy goal by the reduction of inflation. As a result of both ideological and fiscal concerns a restructuring of the welfare state occurred. That restructuring involved in part the privatisation of parts of the welfare state and the wish to privatise more.

        An outcome of that Conservative social policy has been the wish and sometimes the deed of rejecting Beveridgian2 ideas about the welfare state and replacing them with a sort of welfare pluralism. The argument for welfare pluralism, put crudely was that services provided as a result of competition between the state, voluntary and private welfare agencies would be more efficient, effective and accountable. This represents the then Conservative view. It is clearly enshrined in contemporary legislation and the assumption must be that it will be more fully implemented.

        In health this will involve continued encouragement of the growth of private health schemes and private provision. It is also certain to encompass the wholesale transformation of National Health Service hospitals and some other National Health Service services into National Health Service trusts. Encouragement yes but not compulsion. Compulsion is unlikely to be necessary - the penalties of remaining outside Trust status should be sufficient to ensure that hospitals fall in line with government thinking. In education, government is similarly using the carrot and the stick to encourage the removal of large numbers of schools from LEA control over the next three or four years.

        The impact of this shift in social policy is not entirely clear. One reading of the situation would see the introduction and widespread adoption of the opting out as a campaign of attrition, the result of which would be the creation of privatised health and education systems. This interpretation of events is strongly denied by the present government. They claim that these innovations are part of a political process to bring the control of hospitals and schools closer to the consumer. Time will tell.

        In personal social services, the notion of welfare pluralism is at the centre of the community care section of the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990. Local authority Social Services Departments remain responsible for ensuring services are provided to customers, provision of services is ensured by means of a mixed economy of welfare. Local authority departments have become the `strategic enablers' and purchasers of services. This purchaser/provider split is replicated in the National Health Service3.

        In this vision, a policy and service framework indebted to market theory replaces the monopoly of welfare services by welfare state agencies. Beveridge is replaced by what Harris (1990) calls `choice in welfare'.

        Beveridge must be turning in his grave. For him insurance against sickness, old age and unemployment was the keystone of Britain's post-war welfare state. The great virtue of collective insurance was its universality. Beveridge envisaged that contributions paid by people in work would guarantee benefits for them when out of work. But today, only three in 10 unemployed people receive National Insurance unemployment benefit, while the majority has to claim means tested income support. In addition, fewer than three in 10 women over the age of 60 today qualify for a full retirement pension through their own contributions.

        Beveridge's system was based on assumptions about economy and society that are no longer true. He believed Keynesian demand management would maintain full employment, while married women would maintain the nuclear family. Men would work for money, women for love. Today, new technologies and competition from the Pacific Rim mean that mass unemployment is our central economic and social problem. Changes in the organisation of work mean we all have to adapt to flexible and multi-skill working.

        Social change is no less dramatic. Beveridge did not anticipate the increase in female employment, never mind the rise in cohabitation, separation and divorce, or the consequential increase in lone parent families. Today, women are virtually half the British workforce: and half of them and a growing minority of men are employed in part-time, casual or short-term jobs. Combined with long term and youth unemployment, there are millions of people who do not satisfy the increasing strident contributions conditions for National Insurance benefits, and are left without protection. Two thirds of lone parents are dependent on means tested benefits.

        Inequality clearly grew in the 1980s4. In the latter part of the 1990s there is little reason to believe that the situation is improving. There has been a rise in the number of self-employed people in poverty, a rise in the number of economically inactive people in particular lone parents and long term sick. The increase in unemployment during the 1980's created a situation where large numbers of people became dependent on state provided social protection or social assistance schemes. This situation was made worse for those people on state supplied income in that the nature of the state income maintenance system changed during this period. The process of change involved a move from a welfare regime that was modern and state associated to one that was residual and was designed to have the state as the provider of last resort. One aspect of this process was the erosion of social benefits paid by the state. A component of this was the move to link benefit levels to prices rather than wages. A survey by Goodman and Webb (1994) shows the effect of this on benefits. Payments in 1979 at the then Supplementary Benefit level were never generous at 26% of full time male earnings for a married person. In 1993 this had reduced to 19%. Thus achieving the objective of making the prospect of being dependent on the State in the later part of twentieth century Britain a less desirable situation than previously.

        Poverty and unemployment are still two key dimensions of social exclusion. There is growing evidence that both these processes are contributors to the inequality in United Kingdom society. The recession in the United Kingdom in the early 1980's created a situation where large numbers of people became unemployed. In 1983 the number of people registered as unemployed had reached over 3 million. Although currently less than this the legacy of this process is still felt in the population. Many older people who were became in the 1980's and 1990's have now retired and receive pensions but experienced poverty and deprivation before taking these into retirement. The long-term unemployed numbered 1,106,00 people in 1994. Some of these people have been unemployed from the 1980's. Will Hutton (1996) offers a stark analysis of these findings. That of a growing trend to marginalise the unskilled labourer and household. The structural employment situation in the United Kingdom has moved to a position where full time occupation at median wages is reducing for male wage earners. Large numbers of people are faced with the problem of either having lost occupation and not being able to attain another or being school leavers being unable able to obtain a full time long term occupation. There is thus a situation where poor people in the United Kingdom are being marginalised and cannot by their own efforts move out of this. They are deprived of the resources to achieve a standard of living equal to the majority of people in society.

        To be unemployed in the United Kingdom today is not a temporary event and unemployment involves poverty. An analysis of the living standards of unemployed people showed that unemployment reduced the disposable income of families by 40% (Heady and Smyth 1990). This at a time when there has been a dramatic fall in household savings (Banks 1996). Poverty and unemployment in a welfare regime that seeks to limit the states' involvement brings with these conditions the threat to social solidarity.

        One analysis of the situation in the United Kingdom has had considerable recent impact. It is based on the assumption of a growing divide in United Kingdom society. Hutton (1996) speaks of the thirty, thirty, forty society which is 'dividing before our eyes'. There are a privileged 40% of people who constitute the in full time employed, the self employed who have held their jobs for over two years, the part-time employees who have held their jobs for five years or over. They have secure incomes though a substantial number (35%) earn less than 80% of the median wage. It is a privileged situation compared with the 60% who comprise the rest of the United Kingdom population. It is probable however that it is a declining group. The number of full time long-term jobs is reducing each year5.

        The second category are those who are marginalised and insecure. Their relation to the labour market defines their situation. It includes part time and casual workers. Wages in this group tend to be low and employment rights and entitlements are low. Hutton includes 5 million part time workers in this group, of whom 80% are women. The final group comprises the 30% of people in society who are disadvantaged. Hutton includes here around 4 million men who are unemployed men (some not receiving benefit). This is greater than the official government registered list that in March 1997 was 1,746,300. Huttons's list also includes those on Government sponsored training schemes and unemployed women who are not eligible to claim benefit.

        There are segments of young people drifting away into a marginal and uncertain future, disillusioned with, and despairing of, the conventional routes to social, economic and political participation. The rising numbers of young people who seem to be living on the margins of society in insecure and unsatisfactory accommodation, for example, is one dimension of more controversial claims regarding the re-emergence of mass poverty and growing social polarisation. The term `new homeless' is commonly used to denote a rather different set of circumstances from those that prevailed in previous decades. Again it refers to a view that progressive inclusion (e.g. the spread of good quality housing, secure jobs) has given way to exclusion and the divergence of the majority from the minority (Paylor 1995).

         There is much to recommend this view - emphasis on the wider structural processes behind the creation of a marginalised group in society seems a more plausible view than one which sees it as the product of its own fecklessness and criminality - but certain conceptual problems are evident. The concept of an underclass is of course a controversial one that is often used in an emotive rather than analytical manner by other commentators (e.g. Murray 1990)6. As a sociological concept, class implies some reproduction over time and some degree of common identity for its members (Marshall et al, 1988). The underclass thesis undoubtedly raises important questions with regard to recent developments in class structuration across Europe, but it is not clear whether such a distinct grouping can be said to empirically exist. The difficulties in defining the concept of underclass, and the different ways it has been used in the US and the UK, lead Robinson and Gregson (1992) to ponder on whether "the best thing to do is to avoid it altogether and abandon any use of the term"(p 47). They do however reject this notion, not least because the term is now widely used and to pretend otherwise would be foolish, and also, they argue, because we have a responsibility to enter the debate and not leave the right and the tabloid press to go unchallenged because of "our discomfort over terminology". It is also essential, they argue, to appreciate that powerful words can be used "effectively to present important and powerful messages". There is no doubt that a discriminating use of the term or concept underclass can be very compelling. It can serve to accentuate key problem areas such as the increasing polarisation of rich and poor; the entrapment of the poorest and most disadvantaged and the lack of routes for upward social mobility; and the increasing concentration of the poorest, the most disadvantaged, in a residualised rented housing sector (Robinson and Gregson, p 48-49)

        Whilst it might be dangerous to use the term `underclass' because of misinterpretation or misuse it can be used positively to highlight the changes taking place in the structure of our society. There are fears that the social cement is crumbling at the edges and that these processes of marginality may have dangerous and destructive consequences for the social fabric as a whole.

        Social exclusion can be seen as a potent concept for understanding United Kingdom society in the last decade of this century. There is much statistical information to support the Hutton analysis of increasing division and deprivation. It serves to show that Room's interpretation of social exclusion as broader than poverty is one that is well suited to an analysis of the United Kingdom. An analysis of multi-dimensional disadvantage needs to be set alongside that of income and expenditure. Social exclusion is a process that needs to be studied over a period of time and should be viewed as a dynamic process. A more accurate interpretation of social exclusion will be gained from examining the geography of poverty in conjunction with an analysis of individuals and households. In suggesting this broader conceptual approach to this study it ought not to be solely to be a matter of academic endeavour. If the analysis of Hutton is substantially correct then an application of knowledge to the exclusion and integration process may well serve essential for the continuing maintenance of society.

         Robbins for the European Commission (1993) suggests that there has been an emergence of a new combination of poverty, possibly even a new kind of poverty. A key question to ask here is to what extent has the United Kingdom experience been replicated in Europe? If it has not been so - will the United Kingdom experience be one that will be followed by other European countries in a headlong attempt to achieve monetary union? Whatever the answer inequality and marginalisation are now established as current features of United Kingdom society.

        This interpretation is supported by recent reports for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (Hills 1998; Kempson and Whyley 1999; Gregg et al 1999; Gordon et al 2000) indicating that income inequality in the United Kingdom in the mid 1990s was greater than at any time in the late 1940s. Previous reports for the Foundation, in particular the much publicised report of 1995 (Barclay 1995), had shown that whilst average incomes grew by 40 percent between 1979 and 1994/1995 the incomes of the richest tenth grew by 60 to 68 percent. The incomes of the poorest tenth grew by ten percent (a relative fall of eight percent). Although the poorest groups caught up a little in the period 1991 to 1994, the position in 1994/1995 highlighted some key characteristics of people in this low-income group:

  • about 80 percent of the population below half average income were non pensioners (compared to just over 50 percent in the late 1960s
  • pensioners were still disproportionately in the poorest half of the population
  • three quarters of lone parents and children were in the poorest 40 percent
  • two thirds of the poorest fifth derived no declared income from earnings
  • of those people in social housing three quarters were in the poorest 40 percent -this had increased from about a half in social housing in 1979 there was a discrepancy in poverty in two minority ethnic groups - 66 percent of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi population were in the poorest fifth compared with 25 percent of the Indian population

        These characteristics point clearly to structural inequalities in the United Kingdom which, if not redressed, will lead to a starker division in society. Income alone is not adequate as the sole measure of inequalities in society. There are social processes moving people to the margins of society through deprivation of adequate health, education, housing, employment and opportunity of human improvement.

        The report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation by The New Policy Institute in 1998 (Howarth et al 1998) established 50 indicators of poverty and social exclusion. These included not only income but social and health indicators on communities, children, young adults, adults aged between 25 and retirement and older people.

        The updating of this report (Howarth et al 1999) indicates that the number of people with incomes below half of the national average remained around 10.7 million and that this is likely to remain the same. Even more worrying as a trend is the indication that the number of people with incomes of less than 40 percent of average income has risen from 7 million to 8 million. However, the number of people wanting paid work is falling and job security is said to be falling off. Nevertheless, there is evidence of health inequalities continuing to worsen. The increase in premature deaths and winter deaths suggests that there are significant groups in society who are excluded from proper and appropriate health and social care.

        Current research is essentially inconclusive that that there has been a turn around in the marked growth in inequalities developed in the 1979 to 1992 period. Government policies on the Minimum Wage and New Deal may have impact on reducing income poverty. Yet the Prime Minister in a recent statement on television admitted that key spending in the area of health had not maintained parity with the Europe Union and current anecdotal evidence exists regarding problems of access to health services over the winter of 1999/2000. Clearly structural inequalities in the area of health exist in comparison with continental Europe. This is not unrecognised by the Labour Government. At its inception social exclusion was introduced as a concern posing a problem for United Kingdom governance. Peter Mandelson (1997) wrote that the success of the then newly elected Labour Government depended on their response to the biggest challenge facing them: -


the growing number of our fellow citizens who lack the means, material and otherwise, to participate in economic, social, cultural and political life in Britain today.

It is perhaps not the definition of the problem that is in dispute, as it was in the 1980's, but a problem of adopting an effective, appropriate and equitable means of intervening to reduce inequalities.


Implications for Social Work

        Social work practice although operating in the area of deprivation has not been successful in combating it. In particular in last decade of the twentieth century social work in the United Kingdom has become predominantly a process of rationing relatively scarce resources. As the current system of social insurance has moved from the ideals of Beveridge so modern social work practice as moved from the altruistic values first demonstrated in the later part of the nineteenth century. This was expressed as a concern for people who were least advantaged by poverty and social exclusion. This concern marked a high point in the 1960's when a government Royal Commission headed by Frederick Seebohm produced a report on Local Authority and Allied Services Personal Social Services (1968). The aspirations of the varied practitioners of social work at this time were for both a unified profession and for practice that would help clients who were perceived as being disadvantaged. The unification of the profession and the establishment of Social Services Departments have not brought with them a central concern for countering disadvantage and deprivation. On the contrary, there has been a dissonance between the growing evidence of a growth in poverty and exclusion and the movement of state sponsored social work to a form of administrative practice that leaves little space for interventions to combat poverty and exclusion. The move to joint commissioning proposed in the 2000 Plan for the National Health Service would suggest that the managerialism that has become the ideology of social work is now to partner the managerialism that has increasingly produced a health service circumscribed by bureaucracy. The forms of practice that are best seen to meet the needs of disadvantaged groups are now being undertaken in the third sector by voluntary organisations. But even here the restrictions of the commissioning process mitigate against effective social intervention practices which have a relatively high financial cost but never-the-less bring high social benefits to deprived people.

        The experience of activities promoted by the European Union are underpinned by different values (Abrahamson 1998). Human dignity is placed as a core value in working with groups who are least advantaged and social cohesion and integration as essential components of a society with a quality of life. The Project Report on The Human Dignity and Social Exclusion replicates the reports of the three Poverty Programmes. The experiences of these programmes indicated that community development approaches that involved disadvantaged and marginalised groups were the most effective in combating poverty and exclusion. There is a marked distinction between a strongly embedded continental European tendency to promote inclusion and an Anglo-American social policy that is based on a fear of a 'dependency culture'. This has created a distinct problem for United Kingdom social work practice. For in the United Kingdom as in continental Europe the thrust of many research findings show a growing inequality of income between groups in society, a rise in the number of people receiving income below national average, worsening health and education inequalities and increasing precarious employment situations with low remuneration. As the European Union develops a social dimension in its interventions in relation to these inequalities social workers and allied social professions are involved in promoting them. In contrast with the United Kingdom where social service professionals do not feature largely in the Labour Government's National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal. If this remains the case then social work practice will have no more than a controlling and rationing involvement in interventions for people and groups in poverty and social exclusion. The 2000 government document A Quality Strategy for Social Care although predominately concerned with the management of quality control does identify 'working with excluded people and restoring them to mainstream services' as a key contribution for future social work practitioners in modernising the United Kingdom. Given the failure of mainstream social work to impact on those excluded from society in last two decades a radical change in practice will be needed for practice to achieve this.

        The move to establish social integration and social exclusion as central to the purpose of social work will bring with it implications for practice. Integration will be unachievable without the participation of service users and the active involvement of communities in the process. Community development activities ought to take a more central role in the strategies of social work. Social work as conceived in localised, community-orientated policies will involve working with other professionals and non professionals creating a seamless association between public, private and voluntary workers. The evaluations of the three Poverty Programmes all point to this.



  1. This is not to say that academics and other professionals working in the social policy arena have not been aware of the concept. The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) [a UK pressure group formed in the 1960's] published a number of books in the mid 1980s (e.g. Walker and Walker, 1987; Golding, 1986) which sought to broaden the debate about poverty to include issues of exclusion.
  2. Beveridge's 1942 best seller, Social Insurance and Allied Services has been described as the Magna Carta of the welfare state, argues that social insurance was the most effective way to provide adequate benefits for all and that welfare state spending should be concentrated on the five giant evils identified by Beveridge ? disease, ignorance, idleness, want and squalor.
  3. Further privatisation of social services is proposed in the recently published Government White Paper, 'Social Service ? Achievement and Challenge'.
  4. Goodman and Webb 91996) conducted a detailed analysis of the living standard of 250,00 families over the past 30 years. Based on their calculations the period from the 1950s to the mid 1970s saw the number of people considered to be in poverty fall from 5 million to around 3 million. In 1991 they estimated 11 million people were in poverty. By 1996 it was estimated that there were 13 to 14 million people living in poverty in the United Kingdom. In 1992, 13.7 million people were living on or below income support level. That is 24% of the population compared with 14% at this level in 1979. During the same time the poorest tenth of the population had seen little improvement in their standard of living whilst the richest tenth were nearly twice as well off. Additionally, the majority of the population had seen their standard of living rise by 50% in the thirty-year period. Goodman and Webb's analysis was that the growth in poverty and inequality had occurred in the 1980s. (See also Oppenheim and Harker, 1996).
  5. This is clearly not just a UK phenomenon ? this 'culture of contentment' as Galbraith (1992) describes it has resonance's through the capitalist world. See also Therborn (1989).
  6. Cottingham (1982) lists the experiences shared by many people in the underclass and these recur in much of the literature of both the right and left: severe income deprivation; unstable employment; limited access to, or involvement with, education, social services, etc.; persistent poverty; spatial concentration; high incidence of physical and mental problems.



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