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What this is about
What are social and financial exclusion and how do they impact on the gay community?
Social exclusion and financial exclusion are relatively recent political concepts. The official definition of social exclusion is: ‘Social Exclusion is a complex and multi-dimensional process. It involves the lack or denial of resources‚ rights‚ goods and services‚ and the inability to participate in the normal relationships and activities‚ available to the majority of people in a society‚ whether in economic‚ social‚ cultural or political arenas. It affects both the quality of life of individuals and the equity and cohesion of society as a whole.’
A definition of financial exclusion is “the inability, difficulty or reluctance to access appropriate, so-called mainstream, financial services” and it leads to social exclusion.
While they mainly affect older members of society, they also affect gay people at different times in their lives including their youth, and need to be considered by gay activists. The charities Age Concern and Shelter are commended for their pioneering work on this subject.
A large number of factors which lead to individual members of society feeling excluded from society have been identified. They are:
having too little money,
having poor mental and physical health,
living in a poor quality neighbourhood where there is a high risk of crime and a high fear of crime,
not receiving the appropriate care,
poor mobility and access to transport,
a lack of good social or support networks,
living alone without a family around them,
living with a family but isolated from the gay community,
not having the privacy of their own home,
poor or limited access to suitable local services,
low opportunities for civic participation and cultural activities,
not having a bank account,
limited use of basic financial services,
poor employment‚ learning and skills opportunities,
no opportunities to use digital technology,
lack of transport,
unsuitable‚ and poorly-maintained housing,
no access to suitable information‚ advice‚ advocacy and redress,
inability to afford and use common consumer goods,
inability to plan and save for the future.
The figures are frightening. 2.2 million households have a person over 60 who lives in unfit housing; 2.5 million people over 50 have little social or family contact, and 3.4 million people over 50 live in relative poverty.
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Gay activists realise that young gay people who feel unable to talk about sexuality or identify themselves as gay while living at home are also the victims of social exclusion, as are gay and transgender people at work who do not feel able to come out at work and fear that they may lose their job or status if they do so. Social exclusion also happens to people who find themselves going through traumatic experiences or changes in their life and lifestyle such as the death of a long term partner or other family tragedy, or an extended period of illness or unemployment.
Gay men who live on their own may not see themselves as ‘vulnerable’ but for decades they have been soft targets for opportunistic criminals who prey on them, gaining their confidence, then stealing from them or blackmailing them.
Gay men who live on their own and feel lonely have an increased risk of poor health, especially high blood pressure, and may also be more anxious than most people.
We also need to be aware that older gay people who find themselves living in sheltered accommodation or in apartment blocks may also be socially excluded even though they are theoretically surrounded by people. In particular, gay male couples may have been split up permanently when one or both of them had to go into a care home. Gay people living on their own, some of whom may have never had a partner, may fear domestic emergencies because they would be unable to cope with them and have nobody to help them, or be afraid of further deterioration of their health and strength forcing them to go into unsuitable or inappropriate care arrangements.
Businesses with social consciences are developing corporate responsibility plans. Good gay organisations will attempt the same.
Gay activists need to:
understand the causes of social and financial exclusion,
understand the effects of exclusion on people,
work with other local agencies to alleviate the condition,
inform gay people of the dangers of exclusion including the risk of being the victim of opportunistic crime so that they themselves are prepared for it and can deal with it when it happens to them,
design policies and activities which take account of and counter exclusion,
understand exclusion through the perceptions of people suffering from it,
help people to build support networks and circles of friends so they are not alone and vulnerable, and
encourage participation of all sections of gay society and gay people of all ages in the wider community.
Acts of Parliament
Sheffield Director of Public Health Report 2006: Discrimination, disadvantage and social exclusion are interrelated causes of significant health inequalities: How can we bring about the sustained level of change needed to ensure equality and equity of access becomes central to all that we do? (pdf)
CECC Australia, No Date: Coping with stigma: Coming out and living as lesbians and gay men in regional and rural areas in the context of problems of rural confidentiality and social exclusion (pdf)
Stonewall, No Date: Social Exclusion
The Atlantic, 21 Mar 2014: The Myth of Gay Affluence
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Updated 21 March 2014