Fighting social exclusion in rural areas
[ Summary ]
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
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 .
- 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
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
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
2.3.2 Reviewing the way in which the fight against social exclusion
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
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
- 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.
 Amouroux, op. cit., p. 77.