This case study intends to examine the demographic factors that are likely to have an impact on social exclusion, and in this case with regard to elderly people in contemporary society. It is crucial to examine changes within the British housing policy since 1979 in order to assess the current situation that elderly people are faced with. Over the past few decades housing problems have affected ethnic minorities, mentally ill individuals and women; however this case study will focus solely on the studies representing such claims in relation to elderly citizens.
However, one of the consequences of introducing the term ‘social exclusion’ was that it led some people to assume that low income and alienation were essentially unconnected and that each could be considered separately when developing policy. This, in turn, led to the tendency in some circles to downgrade the importance of addressing issues of low income, on the grounds that its effect was simply to limit the material goods that a household could acquire rather than having any wider social impact. In order to address sociologically the implications that the British Housing Act has had on the elderly in relation to housing and social exclusion it is crucial to review the policy itself to address the structures and therefore any repercussions; ‘at the turn of the millennium there were more people living in or on the margins of poverty that at any time in British history. According to this most rigorous survey of poverty and social exclusion ever undertaken, by the end of 1999 approximately 14 million people in Britain, or 25% of the population were objectively living in poverty.’ (Pantaziz, p1)
Furthermore, thinking sociologically the issue of social exclusion must be addressed as it is a key sociological debate in modern times. The older generations in our societies are subject to social exclusion in many ways, for example; ‘not surprisingly poorer pensioners, particularly older pensioner couples are generally more likely to report being too old, ill, sick or disabled to participate in social activities.’ (Pantaziz, p451) Thus an association can be made between housing problems and social exclusion as they both come under the umbrella of poverty. It is apparent that if older members of society cannot afford to partake in common social activities they will become isolated from society. Furthermore, a survey carried out by The Age concern in 2002 found that ‘one in three older people felt that fear of crime affected their quality of life and made them feel lonely and isolated.’ (Pantaziz, p451) Therefore, one can assume a link between the quality of housing for older citizens and where their dwelling is situated, often in subordinate parts of communities, where the risk off crime is increased. Consequently poverty is clearly a major cause of pensioner exclusion; ‘it is associated with restricted utility service use, increased debts, inability to access elderly services, inability to participate in common social activities and increased confinement, social isolation and lack of social support.’ (Pantaziz, p451) In addition, the type of housing elderly residents live in are often extremely old properties with old fittings and are in poor repair, yet they do not have the funds to modernise or make such repairs and are therefore viewed as living below the poverty line due to the condition of their properties.
The statistics below from The Office for National Statistics 2006 depict how the quality of life does fall with age and this can be linked to the type of housing an individual lives in.
Quality of life of people aged 50 and over by age measured by CASP-19 scores, England, 2006
For women, the overall quality of life increases between the age groups of 50-54 and 55-59 but thereafter decreases with age. For men there is a similar pattern but it occurs slightly later. The overall quality of life increases between the age groups of 55-59 and 60-64 but then decreases with age. In other words, for both women and men, the quality of life scores decrease from state pension age onwards with the fastest decline occurring after the age of 70. (National Statistics Online 2006) This could then mean that regardless of the housing and financial situation elderly citizens may find themselves in, they will always tend to lose their quality of life with age as a natural deterioration.
In order to comprehend the effect of The British Housing Policy since 1979 had on the elderly with regard to housing and social exclusion, it is also important to recognise that ‘welfare regimes play an important role in decreasing the risks of poverty and poverty related social vulnerability among elderly people.’ (Avramor, p.36) Nonetheless, ‘the two main planks of the housing policy since have been, first, the drive to extend owner occupation as far as possible and, second, to retrench severely expenditure on council housing by raising rents, privatisation and cuts in bricks and mortar subsides and investment. Housing policy has thus played a direct role in the growth of both homelessness and tenure population by marginalising tenants and limiting the supply of social rented housing.’ (Laybourn, p46)
The work of Ray Forrest and Alan Murie has reviewed the widespread provision of public housing and notes how the important changes since 1979 include the sale of council housing and other steps leading to the privitisation of housing have in fact had affects on the housing of the elderly. (Van Vliet, p97) It can therefore be acclaimed that the election in 1979 has had a significant impact on housing in this country, for example; ‘the reduction in the size of public housing sector has become part of a general strategy to restructure and reduce state provision across the whole range of welfare sources, including education, health and housing. Therefore with this ethos ‘the proportion of elderly households in income precarious conditions would stand at 30 percent were it not for the benefits that supplement pensions and inadequate incomes from work and private sources. But once social benefits are included, income precariousness among the elderly falls to 22 percent.’ (Avramor, p.36) Furthermore ‘while the supplementary benefits system is quite effective in relative terms in the UK, the proportion of elderly who remain in income precariousness conditions affects as many as three out of 10 elderly households.’ (Avramor, p.36)
It is of interest to research the effects that face not only elderly people but also minority ethnic older people. After researching this topic it has become apparent that; ‘it is possible that the presence of older relatives within the larger household is symptomatic of a lack of housing for minority ethnic older people.’ (Somerville, p54) In addition there has been an increasing body of work that has examined the housing needs of minority ethnic older people. Blakemore and Boneham 1994 and Bright 1996 have studied the minority older people who are living in sheltered accommodation; ‘it may be, however, that a greater priority for many households is the provision of accommodation that would allow older people to live with their families if they so wish. In these cases, it would be more appropriate to assist the households to extend existing accommodation and to provide appropriate social services support for older people within a household, rather than to provide specialist accommodation, separated from families.’ (Somerville, p55)
Although despite considerable achievements in poverty relief, the elderly are over represented among low income and poor households. Regarding the disadvantages experienced in respect of housing and households durables, we can observe both age and generational-based changes in the perception of needs and expectations, with the elderly generally being more satisfied even when they own visible less than younger people. In developed countries, social exclusion housing problems generally concern their relative poor who are to a large extent socially disadvantaged non-working or welfare dependent. The social exclusion housing problems especially concern large affordable housing renting estates where tenants are largely confined in their own excluded sub-society and this seems to be where a majority of elderly citizens live; consequently providing a link between poverty, social exclusion and housing problems for the elderly. This case study outlines how elderly citizens face and continue to face a poor quality of housing and a sense of isolation and exclusion in contemporary society.
Avramov, D. (2002) ‘People, demography and social exclusion.’ Council of Europe.
Fulcher,J& Scott,J.(2007) ‘Sociology, Oxford.’ Oxford University Press.
Glennerster, H. (2004) ‘One hundred years of poverty and policy.’ Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Laybourn, K. (2003) ‘Modern Britain since 1979: a reader.’ IB Tauris.
Pantaziz, C. (2006) ‘Poverty and Social exclusion in Britain: the millennium survey.’ The Policy press.
Somerville, P. (2002) ‘Race, housing and social exclusion.’ Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Somerville, P. (1998) ‘Explanations of social exclusion: where does housing fit in?’ Housing Studies, vol 13, no 4: 761-780.
Vliet Van, W. (1985) ‘Housing needs and policy approaches: trends in thirteen countries.’ Duke University Press.
Office for National Statistics (2006) ‘Focus On Older People’; http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_compendia/foop05/OlderPeopleOverview.pdf and
Office for National Statistics (2001) http://www.statistics.gov.uk/focuson/ethnicity/
A Case Study representing the housing problems encountered by black and ethnic minority groups and backgrounds with reference to relevant elements of British Hosing Policy since 1979. This Case Study will also demonstrate a clear understanding of the concept of Social Exclusion experienced by the people within these groups,
This case study intends to analyse the housing problems that black and ethnic minority individuals are faced with in contemporary society. ‘Ethnic minority workers were discriminated against in housing, education and social policy, and underrepresented in trade unions and political life.’ (Laybourn, p.245) Furthermore; ‘While Britain in 1979 benefited from a richly diverse society, methods of combating the racism, discrimination and disadvantage that affected ethnic grouping has not yet been developed.’ (Laybourn, p245) The case study intends to discuss the political and social aspects of the housing situation for black and ethnic minorities. Social aspects will focus upon social exclusion and discrimination including both theories and statistics to expose sociological issues.
The sociologist John Rex suggested that in housing, employment, education and urban planning immigrant minorities from Asia, Africa and the West Indies have suffered disadvantage due to racial discrimination. Furthermore Rex and Robert Moore (1967), in their well known study on race relations in Birmingham unearthed how black and ethnic minorities do in fact face social exclusion with regard to housing. The sociologists examined the role of urban gatekeepers, such as landlords, building society managers and housing officials, in the distribution of accommodation. It is apparent that the local authority’s procedures for allocating council housing were particularly critical in determining which groups occupied which housing in which areas; ‘eligibility for council houses depended first on being a resident for five years and then on the number of points accumulated, which took account of such matters as existing housing conditions, health and war service. (Fulcher&Scott, p505)
Moreover Rex and Moore suggested how such criteria inevitably disadvantaged the ethnic minorities, who were forced into lodging houses by the five years residence rule. Furthermore, when they had met this requirement and had accumulated enough points to make them eligible for council housing, they generally found that they were allocated poor quality housing in slum areas. ‘Rex and Moore noted that the criteria used by the Housing Visitor, who allocated Council Housing, were not made public, and there was plenty of scope here for discrimination on racial grounds.’ (Fulcher&Scott, p505)
The study does demonstrate the limitations in understanding ethnic competition for areas. Such competition has occurred but within a framework of local authority regulation and a structure of ethnic relationships. (Fulcher&Scott 2007) However, the criterion previously used by local authorities has since changed, yet this can give rise to a set of different problems. Housing is now supplied and allocated on a basis of need, but when locals have been waiting and are overtaken by an immigrants it causes much controversy within a community. Within the United Kingdom, immigration has been a key political issue in recent years for a number of reasons such as illegal immigration, unemployment, crime and race relation issues. With reference to this study it is notable that housing is another key issue that has arisen within the topic of immigration.
It is necessary to view national statistics on housing and ethnic minorities to gauge the problems of social exclusion that they may be faced with and to discover how their populations may affect the type of quality of housing that they inhabit. The diagram below depicts which ethnic group has the largest households. Size of households can be related to housing type and standard and therefore social exclusion as larger families that are living below the poverty line find themselves subject to discrimination.
Average household size: by ethnic group of household reference person, April 2001, GB
The data portrays how Asian households are larger than any other ethnic groups. Households headed by a Bangladeshi person were the largest of all with an average size of 4.5 people in April 2001, followed by Pakistani households (4.1 people) and Indian households (3.3 people). (Office for National Statistics 2001) Furthermore the smallest households were found among the White Irish (average size 2.1 people). Black Caribbean and White British households were the next smallest, both with an average size of 2.3 people. All these groups have an older age structure than other ethnic groups, and contain a higher proportion of one-person households. Thirty-eight per cent of Black Caribbean households, 37 per cent of White Irish households and 31 per cent of White British households contained only one person. Only 9 per cent of Bangladeshi households contained just one person. (Office for National Statistics 2001) Somerville emphasises the statistics; ‘the housing position of minorities results from a variety of external forces, mainly to do with the discriminatory behaviour of individuals and the actions/policies of housing market institutions and exchange professionals. Thus structural constraints take theoretical primacy over individual choices.’ (Somerville, p29)
Thinking sociologically, in order to discuss how housing problems may socially exclude ethnic minorities, statistics showing the different types of house ownership amongst such minorities allows one to distinguish the current situation in contemporary society and establish any trends.
Home ownership: by ethnic group, April 2001 – GB
Black African, Other Black and Bangladeshi households were the least likely to own their own homes. Around a quarter of Black African households (26 per cent) and less than two-fifths of Other Black and Bangladeshi households (36 per cent and 37 per cent) were home-owners in 2001. Black African and Bangladeshi households were most likely to be living in socially rented accommodation. In 2001, around a half of Black African households (50 per cent) and Bangladeshi households (48 per cent) lived in socially rented accommodation. Between 1991 and 2001 home ownership rates fell for Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black African households. During that period home ownership decreased from 82 per cent to 76 per cent for Indian households, from 76 per cent to 67 per cent for Pakistani households, from 44 per cent to 37 per cent for Bangladeshi households and from 28 per cent to 26 per cent for Black African households. (National Statistics Online 2001) It is apparent that ‘the social rented sector plays an important role in the housing of ethnic minority households. This is particularly true for African Caribbean households; 45 per cent of whom are housed by local authorities or housing associates according to the 1991 Census compared with 24 per cent of white households.’ (Somerville, p77)
Social exclusion faces many ethnic minorities within the UK today; this case study has proved such issues. A study by Patterson (1963) depicts how Brixton in central Lambeth had significant levels of immigration from the West Indies that began in 1948. ‘Poor economic opportunities in the area among the black and white populations led those who felt themselves to be ‘different’ from one another to come into conflict over economic resources.’ The main area of competition and conflict between black and white residents was housing. As a result of wartime destruction, there was a general shortage of housing in the area. As a result, African Caribbean migrants were concentrated in the worst and relatively expensive housing. Therefore, ‘housing segregation and the differing experiences of those in the black and white communities has a basis for serious cultural misunderstanding and provided fertile ground for the growth of hostility and conflict.’ (Fulcher&Scott, p219) This therefore reiterates the social exclusions that ethnic minorities face in contemporary society and how housing situations heightens such exclusion.
This case study outlines a few key issues that face ethnic minorities within Great Britain today. It has been established that as a social group they face stigmitisation in society, in particular where housing is concerned. The Labour government elected in 1997, did not explicitly deny the existence of poverty as its conservative predecessors had done, it recongised the existences of significant deprivation in income, assets and living conditions. (Fulcher&Scott 2007) This deprivation has not, however, been seen as a result of inequality as such. Rather it is seen as reflecting processes of social exclusion, a social process that minoritie still face today.
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