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Walker: a neighbourhood in transition

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Ali Madanipour, Dr Mark Bevan

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Abstract

Social exclusion has entered the public agenda in Britain after the election of the new administration in 1997. Specific initiatives such as the establishment of a high level Social Exclusion Unit and the introduction of Health and Education Action Zones signify the ways in which the government intends to combat social exclusion. We have studied social exclusion in a particular socio-spatial context, the Walker neighbourhood in the city of Newcastle upon Tyne. Combining the statistical data and the phenomenological accounts of life in the neighbourhood has given us a detailed perspective into the processes and experiences of social exclusion. Investigating the measures that are needed or are in place has also provided a platform for identifying possible responses to the neighbourhood’s social exclusion problems. All indicators show that the neighbourhood is suffering from severe social problems. It suffers from losing population, poor education and health, high rates of housing vacancy, high crime rates, high unemployment and inadequate services. Statistical indicators, however, are unable of showing how the situation has emerged and how it is being experienced by the people of the area. With a combination of statistical and phenomenological knowledge, it will be shown, we can find a fine grained insight into the life of the neighbourhood and find ways of responding to these challenges. The main cause of the neighbourhood’s problems has been economic decline. It has suffered for its reliance on a few employers and on manual work in heavy industries. With the decline of this sector of the economy, the people of the neighbourhood have been hit hard. Disconnection from the world of work has coincided with a disintegration of social and family networks, which is in turn causing further difficulties. Walker has long been known as a respectable working class area, an image that is now changing into one of social decline and crime. The local people suffer from this stigmatization and emphasize that there is a spatial variation inside the neighbourhood in terms of its social difficulties and by no means is it a homogeneous place despite its relatively strong sense of community. The main path to poverty is through unemployment, which in turn has an adverse effect on social and cultural links of individuals and households. To find work, the respondents showed concern about a number of obstacles that they had to confront. Limited availability of jobs is one major obstacle. The experience of people is also of ill health, low wages, lack of childcare, lack of skills and confidence, and lack of opportunities. The area is strong in number of volunteers and the attachment of the local councillors to their area. However, most people are disengaged from the informal or formal governance processes, with which they do not identify. There is a strong sense of shared experiences that is inherited from a long history of attachment to work and to the place. But this is now under severe pressure of disintegration, especially as the fear of crime and lack of resources limit the spatial mobility of the population. Lack 5 of shopping facilities in the area is exacerbated by the cost of travelling to shopping centres elsewhere. Childcare and leisure facilities are not satisfactory and the relationships with the Council, on which many depend for their services, are not very positive. The main vehicle in pursuing these responses has been the establishment of a partnership, which draws on the involvement of the public, private and the voluntary sectors, and securing major funding from central government. The main responses to the problems of the neighbourhood can be classified as those dealing with removing obstacles to work and those dealing with improving access to services and facilities. These are valuable steps taken to combat social exclusion. But there are areas that are left unaddressed. While there are many new opportunities for the young people to develop their skills and enter the job market, the men who lost their industrial jobs are undermined and women suffer from a lack of childcare and other forms of support. Attention to improve the physical environment is a useful step in restoring confidence in the area and for people to feel positive towards future. The core response to the problem of social exclusion should be the recovery of hope in the minds and hearts of people. Without removing obstacles to their participation in governance, however, chances of progress can only be limited. The shared experiences of people are also under strain and without provision of arenas for cultural development, the social capital which had historically been accumulated in the neighbourhood will be spent without being replaced.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Madanipour A, Bevan M

Publication type: Report

Publication status: Unpublished

Series Title: Social exclusion in European neighbourhoods: processes, experiences, responses

Year: 1999

Institution: Newcastle University

Place Published: unpublished


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