The drive for social justice

This month, our website and journal Working Brief look different. That's because they have become the products of a new organisation - the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion - formed by the merger of the Unemployment Unit & Youthaid with the Centre for Social Inclusion.

Inclusion brings together the substantial information resources, skilled staff teams and the established contacts and influence built up by these organisations. We inherit a rich legacy - spanning almost 25 years - of expertise and credibility supported by a strong and loyal base of supporters, users and customers.

The launch of our new organisation has been timed to coincide with the start of the Labour Government's second term - an administration that, in the Prime Minister's words, must "keep the focus relentlessly on delivery".

The new Government has committed itself to full employment with social justice. But, to achieve this, policy must now be aimed at effective delivery of social inclusion strategies - based on partnerships around common goals between public services, community organisations, charities and business.

In his Downing Street speech on June 8th, Tony Blair's clearly signalled the Government's core values. The Government will tackle disadvantage and "create a society which is genuinely open and meritocratic". But fulfilling each individual's potential however needs Government to concentrate on 4 main priorities: economic stability, welfare reform, adapting to a skills-led economy and reducing crime and social distress.

We have formed Inclusion precisely in order to shape the new agenda and to help business, public, private and voluntary agencies meet these goals. We aim to help 4 types of people and institutions:

In forming Inclusion we realised that single-issue pressure groups and niche think tanks make little sense in the "joined-up" world of public policy. But we also identified that, whilst a sizeable industry of social inclusion experts has grown up during the last 4 years, few of these researchers, academics and think tanks have adequately addressed economic and social policy simultaneously. Too much thinking has concentrated on fixing the symptoms of social disadvantage without identifying the economic dynamics that underpin this sorts of problems. In particular, few really understand how to link labour market strategy with social policy - essential in an environment where Government, rightly, argues that work is plainly the most effective route out of poverty for a majority of working age people.

However, we recognise the danger that non-working poverty can too easily be substituted by in-work poverty - a growing anxiety amongst policy makers in North America. Britain's strategy has to be more than relying on crude economic mechanisms.

So, we want social inclusion to capture more than just tackling poverty and low income. It needs to address the wider causes and consequences of poverty and what happens when individuals or communities face a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, precarious work, low skills, poor housing, high crime, bad health and family breakdown.

The most important characteristic of this systemic exclusion is that these problems are linked and mutually reinforcing, and can combine to create a complex and fast-moving vicious cycle. But equally, we believe that re-engagement with the labour market is the most effective intervention that breaks these kinds of vicious cycles - in combination with efforts to boost jobs in areas of low employment and measures to smooth out the many complex barriers to employment that so many people in disadvantaged circumstances face. Some of these barriers are geographic. Many are man-made - employer discrimination, failing schools, inadequate public services, or an inflexible tax and benefits system.

This journal - along with our events programme, research, technical assistance projects, consultancy, website and other information services - will be dedicated to helping individuals and organisations reach for solutions that are right for their circumstances.

Over the coming months, at Inclusion, we intend to shape policy and help practitioners to fully understand the processes of exclusion and devise strategies that comprehensively drive towards social justice.