Social inclusion

This is one of a number of pages/topics about the work of Just Space groups preparing positions and demands for what goes in the next London Plan. A list of the topics is here.

Scroll down to the red heading to find the workshop report of 4 February

Social inclusion covers the inclusion / exclusion of people from the process of planning their city and locality, and from the equal enjoyment of the city and its opportunities – ranging from housing to green space, accessibility, clean air, places to meet…  Issues covered by this working group will include systematic exclusions by virtue of ethnicity / gender / ability-disability / age / citizenship and so on.

Some of the materials from the July community conference will be relevant. This is the section of the vision statement which came out of the conference:

Social inclusion
For many Londoners, the day-to-day reality is feeling insecure about their future, isolated, not heard, their needs overlooked and marginalised. The current London Plan oversees the break up of communities, despite having a policy “ensuring equal life chances for all”.
From our experience, there is a serious lack of commitment to this policy coupled with a failure to implement. To decision makers, social inclusion and justice is a vague concept which is treated as a tick-box exercise. There is very little serious evidence being gathered about the circumstances of people from different communities, with their different needs and experiences. There is no adequate assessment of the impacts that the plan has on Londoners, sufficient to judge whether this policy approach has ever worked or whether it has contributed to the exact opposite of the stated goal.

Key issues are:
1. The London Plan to be based on evidence and impact assessments which take into full account the diversity of needs across London’s communities, particularly those usually marginalised and excluded. Through this approach, social justice will be at the heart of the London Plan and communities in London will contribute to its making.
2. Progressive standards for community consultation and involvement must be set through the London Plan, to be implemented by the GLA, development corporations, boroughs and developers. Making planning policy documents more accessible and relevant for communities is also essential to create meaningful and effective participation. To achieve true diversity in these processes, a variety of resources should be targeted at young and older people, disabled people, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people and indeed everyone.
3. To protect the spaces in the city which are available to Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups – whether this be community space (for example, the Ubele Initiative), residential space (as argued by London Gypsy and Traveller Unit) or business space (such as Latin Elephant).

Briefing for session at 4 Feb conference:

Social Inclusion and Valuing Spaces Essential for Diverse Groups Workshop

Introduction

Opportunity for everybody to introduce themselves and outline why they are interested in this workshop.

Opportunity to hear initial reasons for holding this workshop/what the aims are for this workshop.

Discussion Topic 1

  • What do we mean by the term social inclusion and why do we think it is important for this issue to be addressed within the London Plan?

Outcomes:

  • To tease out the central components of a definition of social inclusion.
  • Highlight the central reasons why we think social inclusion is an important issue to address within the London Plan.

Discussion Topic 2

What should a policy about social inclusion look like within the context of the London Plan?

Outcomes:

  • Identify what we would hope to achieve by developing a social inclusion policy within the London Plan.
  • Highlight what themes a social inclusion policy should focus on.

Discussion Topic 3

  • How can we measure the social value we attach to spaces and buildings in the city?
  • What kind of policy measures should be developed within the London Plan to support BME communities and other marginalised communities to protect and enhance the spaces and buildings of value to them?

Outcomes:

  • Identify potential ways to capture the social value of spaces and buildings that are important to communities.
  • Identify what planning tools are/should be made available for communities to make use of to protect and enhance the spaces and buildings of value to them.

Identify what support communities need to make use of these planning tools.

Proposed definition of Social Inclusion for London Plan

“Social inclusion recognises, values and gives voice to the diversity of needs across London’s communities, particularly the needs of those usually under-represented or completely excluded.. These include for instance young and older people, working class communities, disabled people, Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, LGBT communities and Gypsies and Travellers.

Social inclusion is an active and empowering term, concerned with processes that will enable usually under-represented or completely excluded groups to also play a powerful role in shaping development policies and plans within London. Through this process social inclusion aims to achieve outcomes that will make a difference to the lives of London’s diverse population.  This requires each policy in the London Plan to include mechanisms whereby social inclusion can be achieved.”

Community Assets and Impact Assessments – Policy Proposals

  1. The Mayor places a high importance on the protection of existing community infrastructure provision and will encourage initiatives that promote the resilience of community assets.
  2. Where re-provision of community infrastructure is required, this will include conditions enabling the existing users of the space to resume their use of the space on equivalent terms.
  3. Boroughs will have policy on valuing the ‘irreplaceability’ of some community assets, establishing a requirement on valuing ‘uniqueness’ Planning applications that do not enhance this ‘uniqueness’ of place will not be supported.
  4. Boroughs will support and work with community assets networks to empower community organisations and ensure the sustainability of their social infrastructure. These networks will, in alliance with research organisations, evaluate the socio-economic value of community assets ensuring the participation of members and users of community assets in the collection of information (example – mapping techniques for demonstrating community centres users statistics)
  5. Boroughs will publicise their corporate asset management strategy and lists of assets available for transfer to community groups including BAME groups.
  6. The Mayor will work with Boroughs and the Voluntary and Community Sector to develop consistent impact assessment criteria to be used in decision making processes, with the presumption to protect and enhance existing community assets that meet the needs of particular communities.

Localism Act 2011 – The Ubele Report

The Ubele report (by the Ubele Initiative) shows that so far very few BAME communities have benefited from tools like the community right to bid. Interviews with some London BAME community assets managers and users have shown that the applications they submitted to their local authorities to have their community assets designated as assets of community value, have been ignored or refused on grounds not entirely sound.

Just Space conference at City Hall 4 Feb 2016
Social Inclusion workshop: Summary of discussion

The workshop on social inclusion was attended by 40 people from a wide range of different civil society organisations, community groups and academia. It was facilitated by Yvonne Field (The Ubele Initiative) and Cecil Sagoe (UCL). This summary of the debate is meant to outline the main questions discussed and give a sense of the richness of the contributions received.

Firstly, we discussed whether ‘social inclusion’ as a concept is useful in order to tackle the lack of participation and engagement of under-represented and marginalised communities.

The definition elaborated so far, is the following:

“Social inclusion recognises, values and gives voice to the diversity of needs across London’s communities, particularly the needs of those usually under-represented or completely excluded. These include for instance young and older people, working class communities, disabled people, Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, LGBT communities and Gypsies and Travellers. Social inclusion is an active and empowering term, concerned with processes that will enable usually under-represented or completely excluded groups to also play a powerful role in shaping development policies and plans within London. Through this process social inclusion aims to achieve outcomes that will make a difference to the lives of London’s diverse population.  This requires each policy in the London Plan to include mechanisms whereby social inclusion can be achieved”

Some people argued that social exclusion is always linked with class and economic disadvantage, therefore any other differences regarding ethnicity, gender, sexuality or disabilities would only create a divide that is not helpful in creating a more inclusive London Plan.

Others argued that social exclusion is a complex problem and should be not flattened to class issues, because various types of disadvantages exist, which lead to marginalisation. These disadvantages intersect with class but they should be recognised as different layers of disadvantage in order to address different needs.

It was suggested that the Equality act 2010 has some implications for planning but its potential has not been widely explored in the planning context yet. Therefore, the concept of social inclusion, if underpinned by the Equality Act, could be a powerful tool in order to modify the planning process for the better by making it more participative. It was proposed that more work on the Equality Act and its implications for planning is needed.

Following from this, participants highlighted that the overall governance of the London plan should be modified, in order for community groups to be represented on the different planning boards of the GLA.

The issue of the invisibility of some of these communities was raised. For instance, migrant communities or people with disabilities are particularly invisible to the planning process. It was then suggested that the London plan should be written in an accessible language and also pictorially illustrated. Planning language tends to be full of jargon and not really accessible to ordinary Londoners, let alone to people who speak English as second language.

Some data from the GLA London DataStore were used to create some maps illustrating that most opportunity areas are located in London’s most deprived areas – therefore the people living in these areas are the most affected by planning (fig. 1). This is a good reason why an increased and better engagement of marginalised communities should be a priority of the London plan.

Map_1

From these first maps, some data on ethnicity was extracted and it was found that in the most deprived areas, the average percentage BAME population is 53% (fig. 2); whilst, in the least deprived areas, the average percentage BAME population is just below 19% (fig. 3).

Map_3

Map_4
It was suggested that if the recognition of different needs leads to higher participation, targeted interventions to include specific communities with specific needs should be proposed.

The second part of the discussion tackled the following question:
“How should social inclusion policies look in a community-led plan for London? And what place should they have in the overall structure?”

The debate was rich with a plethora of proposals and a general agreement was reached around the suggestion that instead of having a specific section on social inclusion, all policies should be tested through the lens of social inclusion. Therefore, social inclusion should be a guiding principle of a community-led plan for London – a principle that is visible throughout the plan.

However, in order to test every policy through the lens of social inclusion, we need precise mechanisms that make every policy socially inclusive. These mechanisms should be able to measure also the unintended consequences of any policy.

A few interesting ideas were advanced. It was proposed to put a monetary value on the costs of excluding specific communities. For instance, in the case of new housing developments that involve the demolition of existing council estates, the social and health costs of breaking up communities through displacement should be measured. The loss of important social networks, which residents of those estates have built up over many years, should also be considered.

Similarly, in the case of social infrastructure, the cost of losing benefits coming from the network of volunteers and the range of activities that this important infrastructure provides, should be measured. Therefore, planning decisions should also be based on the results coming from these mechanisms which are able to measure such costs.

It was broadly suggested that we need a social dimension to add to the economic dimension that dominates planning policy. More specifically, it was highlighted that there is a need for a long term vision, with the primary objective of building strong communities, instead of focusing merely on the short-term economic objectives.

In terms of sustainability, participants proposed to flip the current hierarchy whereby planning decisions are taken primarily on economic considerations, followed by social considerations and lastly environmental considerations. Instead we should establish that developments should first succeed environmentally, secondly are socially inclusive and beneficial for all those affected, and only then should economic benefits be considered.

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