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Fighting social exclusion in rural areas

[ Summary ]


Chapter 2:
Diagnosis and strategies to fight
social exclusion in rural areas


2.3 Determining and narrowing the gap
between needs and available help


Diagnosing social exclusion (determining the needs) and taking stock of existing interventions (available help) in the area in question show the gap that exists between unsatisfied social needs and the help offered by the state or private bodies.

This gap is not easy to assess when there are many different interventions and when one way or another the state guarantees a certain level of assistance. For example, families in most cases receive income support if they are eligible, and families or people in difficulty rarely escape the watchful eye of social welfare services.

It is by observing the local processes of exclusion with a view to devising a coherent inclusion strategy that gaps, generally relating to quality, appear. To clearly determine how wide these gaps are, it is important first to have a good diagnosis of the existing needs and services, taking full account of the human and social factors, the most difficult to identify. A diagnosis that has been properly done shows how to rethink the approaches, attitudes, forms of intervention adopted, and even the way in which the fight against social exclusion is designed.


2.3.1 Rethinking attitudes and forms of intervention

It is first of all in the attitudes and forms of intervention of the people and institutions involved in the fight against exclusion that the gap appears between real needs and the actual actions of the corresponding services. Below are a few examples.

  • More flexibility and a certain adaptability are needed to counter the rigidness, multiplication and discontinuity of programmes, laws, functions and specialisations.

      If a strictly administrative logic is applied for granting them, unemployment benefits, income support and other forms of financial assistance can have detrimental effects by inhibiting the initiative. The race for subsidies, maintained by the discontinuity of funding and the absence of one single agent, forces the beneficiaries to “navigate” within complex administrative systems, which does not encourage the elaboration of projects. The interventions then have to be departitioned at the local level and the local partners have to be persuaded to negotiate the allocation and use of part of the public subsidies for projects [23].

  • Standardised processing has to be offset by more personalised forms of processing for data and applications.

      State unemployment agencies often just process job applications and vacancies in a standardised manner. Yet a personalised service is essential, especially in the case of the long-term unemployed.

      In the province of Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain), some municipalities have introduced personalised services for the long- term unemployed, and particularly for skilled workers over 50 years old whom they help regain confidence by finding new ways to use their untapped capacities.

  • To counterbalance the coldness of certain government agencies, more humane contacts need to be established with the beneficiaries to develop social links and partnerships.

      The administrative surveys used to identify people in difficulty, for example, are often extremely impersonal and only emphasise the negative aspects of the situation of the targeted groups.

      However, forms of collective animation can instead be used to create an environment favourable to the expression of the capacities of people in difficulty. This gives a better idea of what these people can do and at the same time encourages the development of forms of solidarity and renewed self-confidence. This can also lead to forms of representation enabling the beneficiaries to participate in negotiations within the bodies where anti-exclusion policies are decided. In other words, attitudes have to be developed that encourage new social links and equal partnerships.


2.3.2 Reviewing the way in which the fight against social exclusion is conceived

From handouts to real assistance

When it comes to attitudes and forms of intervention, it is often the very way in which the fight against social exclusion is conceived that is in question. Instead of receiving charity, people can benefit from genuine support that makes use of know-how and favours the emergence of new social actors.

The fight against exclusion can no longer remain the exclusive domain of specialised services where people in difficulty have to meet with someone different for each problem they have (housing, employment, etc.) and where there is a different regulatory framework for each field. Other forms of assistance are needed where the person’s whole identity is taken into consideration. To achieve the stabilisation being sought, the assistance must also be organised in a collective manner, combining the many forms of know- how, be they institutional or part of the participatory action.

In County Tipperary (Ireland), the LEADER group helped the Centre for Independent Living of Thurles with a training project for travellers (people accustomed to living in a closed and in a so to speak protected environment) to enable them to find salaried work. To help these people become stabilised, the group supported the setting up of the Tipperary Community Workshop by facilitating the creation of a joint venture between several structures, practices and know-how that would make the intervention effective.

From a curative approach to a preventive approach

Forward-looking, preventive approaches often appear more appropriate than curative approaches which implement standardised responses.

When there is chronic unemployment, treating the problem with anonymous systems to help people find work, for example, is no longer sufficient. Other forward-looking or preventive steps have to be taken such as the creation of jobs, vocational retraining or job sharing. These approaches imply new capacities, and in particular:

  • the capacity to look for new sources of employment, including in sectors normally considered not very dynamic (the WISE Group noticed, for example, that in English-speaking countries, the demand for home aerobic instructors rose sharply in 1999). Helping unemployed people retrain for potential jobs requires a certain psychological knowledge and an excellent capacity to establish personalised human relations.

  • a collective capacity to look for business activities to create, which implies the development of collective strategies to start up businesses.

  • the capacity to encourage and to help young people with the creation of businesses, which implies the organisation of local networks and the adaptation of institutional assistance to the situation on the ground. A good example of this is the system of “loans on trust” in Italy which helps young people start up businesses and which has had a great ratchet effect.

Other preventive approaches also exist at an earlier stage, the aim being to identify those people at risk likely to enter a process of social exclusion and to help them create the conditions that will avoid the triggering of this process.


[23] Amouroux, op. cit., p. 77.

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