Tackling Poverty and Exclusion Initiative
Although community development begins with identifying unmet needs, tackling poverty encapsulates a complex web of multidimensional social and economic challenges. These webs often have intersecting triggers and drivers of deprivation. Social exclusion corresponds with health disparities, socioeconomic destitution, and other forms of social injustices. Given that the degree of marginalisation is directly proportional to poverty, vulnerable groups are prone to severer effects of the ongoing 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The unprecedented nature of COVID-19 lockdowns may further complicate community development agendas, thus escalating poverty rates across global societies. Socioeconomic disruptions, health devastation, and uncertainties underscore the need for multi-stakeholder engagement to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable groups through the COVID-19 crisis.
The Trussell Trust is a British charity organisation with expensive networks of food banks across the country. Paddy and Carol Henderson first established the Trussell Trust around 1997 in Bulgaria (McKinney 2020 p.322). However, the charity began its operation in the U.K, focusing on food banks. It constitutes local and national charitable networks, which have been at the forefront of providing emergency food parcels across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. The charity's State of Hunger initiative calls for a comprehensive discourse about hunger, including the resultant effects on communities living in extreme poverty and low-income householders.
Over the years, the Trussell Trust has commissioned various studies to highlight the correlation between increasing pressure on food banks, inadequate income, benefits delays, and austerity effects on welfare programs (Loopstra and Lalor 2017). It envisions a British community less dependent on food banks due to socioeconomic prosperity. This model underpins the need for collective responsibility in policy advocacy, community-based transformations, and the alleviation of suffering among vulnerable groups in society (McKinney 2020). The primary goal is to uphold the dignity of vulnerable groups and low-income households by reconceptualising the term hunger and food security (Sosenko et al. 2021). In doing so, the organisation seeks to remove systemic barriers hindering community development.
As a policy framework, tackling poverty and exclusionary dimensions was first conceived in France, before spreading to other European and western nations in the 1980s (Tuparevska et al. 2020). The appeal to this model mainly stems from its conceptual flexibility, thus accommodating diverse political ideologies. While exclusion as a concept for social policy engenders concrete methods for uncovering processes and strata that link human welfare to environmental and societal conditions, its vagueness appeals for contentious political discourse (Pierson 2016). The multiplicity of exclusionary doctrine construes multiple interpretations and significances, complicating the ability to formulate and measure effective social welfare policies. Tuparevska et al. (2020) argue that individualistic nations like Britain and the United States have problematic welfare programmes because of modifying the problem of exclusion and marginalisation to specific groups (Pierson 2016). Such prejudice and individualism approach often hampers policymakers from addressing underlying structural factors perpetuating inequalities in society.
Consequently, the Trussell Trust incorporates social exclusion tenets by conceptualising hunger as a household food insecurity function, with both social and economic dimensions (Sosenko et al. 2021). Loopstra and Lalor (2017) postulate that hunger as a concept captures the degree of social exclusion from welfare programs, revealing comparative trends of accessibility to nutritionally sufficient diet. The hunger model further incorporates increasing demand for emergency food bank services as a poverty indicator, thus broadening the assessment of exclusion in welfare formulation (Sosenko et al. 2021). As established by Loopstra and Lalor (2017), most people are unable to afford nutritionally adequate food due to food prices, benefit limits and delays, low income, sanctions, mental illnesses, and debts. In essence, hunger focuses on broader social relations and the degree to which a person can participate in socioeconomic affairs and achieve sufficient power to influence decisions that affect their wellbeing (Caplan, 2020). This denotes hunger as a rational model that exhibits the correlation between composite social, economic, health, policy, and environmental factors influencing poverty and exclusion in diverse social environments.
Poverty, marginalisation, low income, and malnutrition are some of the key precursors for adverse life quality. Childhood malnutrition is associated with poor life experiences and minimal socioeconomic prospects. Inadequate access to nutritionally sufficient food diminishes physical and mental wellbeing, reducing the prospect of finding better employment opportunities (Jenkins et al. 2021). This might also reduce a person’s productivity and social capital. Increased financial pressures are linked to family and social problems such as homelessness, delinquency, homelessness, domestic abuse, and family disintegration, and child negligence (Savadogo et al. 2015; Sosenko et al. 2021). Given that hunger is a clear indicator of socioeconomic marginalisation, food banks can ameliorate financial constraints, unemployment, and eviction. Access to sufficient food also allows a person to invest in self-care, thus improving the overall wellbeing of vulnerable populations.
Conversely, the benefits of charity food systems traverse hunger and nutrition adequacy. These systems address health disparities and socioeconomic inequalities, thus reducing social and household problems. Access to emergency food support during the COVID-19 reduced financial pressure, thus lessening the risk of mental health problems and delinquency (Pierson 2016; Tuparevska et al. 2020). By reducing the burden of the cost of food, these parcels empower vulnerable communities to focus on other pressing financial and basic needs such as rent, thus reducing homelessness (Wetherill et al. 2019). Most importantly, the Trussell Trust’s food referral system engages a network of multiple stakeholders during referral, providing beneficiaries with a pool of resourceful advice and information on self-improvement and access to community or welfare assets. The contact also engenders a progressive framework for addressing diverse inequalities and policy issues in the U.K’s welfare policy and programmes.
Nonetheless, social work is an arduous and rigorous profession that demands diverse skills, competencies, and professional qualities (Pierson, 2016). Although experience accrues competence and professionalism, fundamental qualities for professionals working with food bank systems include empathy, communication, and cultural competence, and intellectual capabilities to work effectively with vulnerable groups in society (Healy 2011; Koprowska 2020). Empathy is an essential professional quality in social work that involves identifying and understanding other people's experiences and perspectives in life (Healy 2011). In the U.K, discourse about poverty attracts controversial ideologies and prejudicial language that may encapsulate homophobic, racist, sexist, nationalist, or racist language (Savadogo et al. 2015 p.9). These trends collate with the individualisation of social problems and marginalisation to specific problems and groups in society, often excluding a sizable proportion of low-income households in the U.K's social safety net discourse (Healy 2011; Pierson 2016; Tuparevska et al. 2020).
To this end, empathy ensures that these professionals conceptualise food security from a client's perspective and lived experiences. The goal is to reduce implicit prejudice and encourage openness around food security and the British safety net system. Thus, responsiveness ensures ameliorates prejudicial approaches, allowing social work professionals to build rapport with those in need (Lambie-Mumford 2019; Wetherill et al. 2019). Given that verbal and non-verbal cues predicates the degree of compassionate attributes, effective communication is an instrumental component in social work (Koprowska 2020). It constitutes the ability to communicate with diverse people and advocate for clients, notwithstanding disability or cultural, age, gender, and literacy differences. This requires food bank personnel and referral networks to communicate with colleagues, health providers, agencies, and social workers using appropriate and effective cues.
In addition, the Trussell Trust enlists research and advocacy as key attributes of a robust emergency food system. Cultural competence serves a crucial interacting role in social work and referral systems (Healy 2011). It requires professionals to exude respectful and sensitive perceptions of individual cultural beliefs and behaviours. It obligates the comprehension of individual identities, cultural backgrounds, and belief systems that influence socioeconomic experiences in various community or environmental settings (Loopstra and Lalor 2017; Power et al. 2020). Celebrating individualities and diversity with a sensitive, non-judgemental disposition empowers professionals to engage clients and deliver comprehensive nutritional, health, mental, or social support needed to revitalise their socioeconomic status.
To excel in these settings, intellectual capabilities such as critical thinking and organisational skills promote professionalism and interagency collaboration (Healy 2011; Koprowska 2020). Food banks personnel and referral networks have busy schedules, compound responsibilities, and multiple client systems, which require effective collaboration, documentation, commentary, and billing (Banks and Carpenter 2017; Barker and Russell 2020). Setting appropriate priorities, schedules, and interagency engagement warrants effective coordination abilities. Besides, critical thinking allows professionals to synthesis qualitative information through fair observations, interactions, and research, thus promoting effective, data-driven, and practical interventions (Healy 2011). It requires these professionals to actively listen, understand, identify, and make sense of the clients' needs. Such engagements can elicit trust and establish grounds for long-term relationships.
Drawing on the prevailing U.K's state of affairs in the U.K's food systems, life-long commitment to profession and advocacy obligations will have an essential role in transforming British welfare policy and programmes amid changing socioeconomic problems due to the COVID-19 crisis (McKinney 2020; Fitzpatrick et al. 2020). Further, community-based professionals promote social justice through individual and community empowerment, thus advocating for the general welfare of populations. Advocacy warrants lifelong commitment to professional growth and personal development. Such attainments are sustaining access to essential needs and drawing attention to intersecting social exclusions facing vulnerable, disenfranchised, and marginalised people. This trajectory further corresponds with the Trussell Trust’s vision to eliminate hunger and reduce dependence on emergency food banks across the nation.
According to the Trussell Trust, nearly 14 million in the U.K are prone to adverse life experiences due to poverty, among them 4.5 million children (Revie 2020 p.4). In 2020, emergency food banks recorded an increase of 84% in emergency food aid services compared to previous years (Sosenko et al. 2021). Agreeably, food banks are increasingly becoming essential in addressing emerging and persistent social issues. These assets support community development through the provision of emergency, non-perishable, and nutritionally adequate food parcels, including additional social support. In essence, unmet nutritional needs connote broader socioeconomic problems facing low-income households and vulnerable groups in the U.K (Savadogo et al. 2015). The Trussell Trust initiative is currently working on tracking poverty rates through food banks and validate that dealing with hunger transcends food shortage (Lambie-Mumford 2019; Loopstra and Lalor 2017; Power et al. 2020; Sosenko et al. 2021). In doing so, the charity aims to reconceptualise emergency food assistance as an effective tool for addressing marginalisation, austerity failures, exclusion, and destitution, thus improving the quality of life, health, and welfare in society.
Against this backdrop, the heavy reliance on quantitative indicators to inform austerity measures and welfare decisions within Britain is increasingly facing criticism, amid escalating socioeconomic challenges and marginalisation (Caplan, 2020; Pierson 2016; Tuparevska et al. 2020; Jenkins et al. 2021). In practice, preferences for quantitative measures for tracking poverty stems from empirical efficiency and policymaking conveniences (Banks and Carpenter 2017). Fitzpatrick et al. (2020) acknowledge that localism taken by successive Left and Right regimes designed to promote diversity and welfare efficiency engenders decentralisation of community development. Yet, benefit cuts have continued to marginalise socially disadvantaged groups across the country, often due to multidimensional socioeconomic triggers (Fitzpatrick et al. 2020). Localism and voluntary food provision further complicate the assessment of food banks systems and their impacts on communities (Barker and Russell 2020; Banks and Carpenter 2017). To overcome these issues, the Trussell Trust relies on qualitative information and trends to estimate the significance of food banks in the British welfare system.
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- Leonards Lilianah K. (Author), 2021, Tackling Poverty and Exclusion Initiative. A Short Essay, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1040650