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Community development

Community development

A Community can be defined as a group of people who don’t just live in the same area, but also share the same interests, experiences and often concerns about the area in which they live. Often when individuals have lived in a street or area for a while they become familiar with each other and the issues surrounding them. Children often attend the same schools and in many cases grow up together, again sharing the similar experiences. In some instances adults may work together, and quite commonly all community members will share the same doctors, dentists, hospitals, health visitors and other public services and facilities.

Frequently however, issues arise amongst a community that need attention. In this essay I will outline and discuss some of these issues and the interventions, projects or programmes designed and used to tackle and combat them. The three models of intervention or, ‘Community Development’, I will discuss in this essay, ‘Social Planning’, ‘Community Development’, and. ‘Social/Community Action’, all have the same aim regardless of how it is accomplished and this is to improve and maintain the conditions which affect the lives of the community.

‘Social Planning’, is a model of development which can be described as, ‘Doing For’, the community. If it is perceived by government bodies that a community has sunk so low that is unable to be resolved by using alternative methods, (some of which will be discussed later in this essay), the government will intervene with methods deemed necessary. Initially a profile of a community will be drawn up using research methods, surveys and statistics that will highlight the issues faced by the community. Then a plan to tackle these issues will be decided upon and put into action.

‘SureStart’, is a Social Planning initiative, which came into force as a government reaction to the levels of deprivation in Cornwall. Of the six districts in the County Penwith came the highest, of the 60,000 population, 26,000 are aged 4 and under, 13% of households are lone parent households and 19% of the 201 lone parents are unemployed.

The ‘Treneere’, area of Penzance showing as the highest area of deprivation, 13% are unemployed, 46% are in receipt of income support and 16.8% of adults are illiterate. During 1998 there were a total of 235 children referred to social services 98 of which were aged 0-4 years old. With regard to education, of the children attending the infant and primary schools in the area 33.4% are entitled to free school meals, the average in the county being 15.4%. 54% of the pupils between the two schools are registered with special educational needs. Of the 244 primary schools in Cornwall the two schools ranked 1s and 4th in the deprivation rank. Along with these figures strong evidence shows high levels of violence, high levels of riotism, high levels of drug abuse and a complete absence of community facilities.

Figures taken from the ‘SureStart Trailblazer’, proposal

As with all Social Planning the government specifies a time limit to achieve the projects aims, goals and ultimately to improve living conditions. The ‘SureStart’, project has a specified time limit of 2 years, in this time limit the project aims to achieve the following: -

- Improve social and emotional development

- Reduce the number of primary school exclusions

- Cut by 10% the number of children on the child abuse register

- Reduce the number of post-natal depression

- 5% reduction in the number of low weight birth babies

- 10% reduction in children admitted to hospital with gastroenteritis, respiratory problems and severe injuries

- 90% of children to reach normal speech and language milestones by 18 months and 3 years

- 100% under 4’s are to have good quality play and learning facilities

- 75% of families are to report they have had an improvement in the services provided by 2002

- Parent representation on the local board

- Juveniles are to have less contact with the criminal justice system

- Drug related crime on the decrease

- 16 ­ 19 year olds involved with economic activity i.e. Training or work

- Decrease in young people smoking

- Decrease in teenage pregnancies

- Finally long term outcomes.

Although the project was initiated by the government agencies the problems were identified by government agencies, police and the Treneere residents and Community Association the project has tried to look at the problems and the aims from the point of view of the residents. The delivery of the projects intentions will com from local representatives, voluntary organisations, church representatives, health care providers, social services, education officials, the police, the district council and housing association, the probation service and the youth service most importantly the input of the community itself.

‘Although immediate developments will focus on the needs of children under the age of four and their immediate families they clearly cannot be considered in isolation; through the umbrella of ‘Family Support’ a wide range of services will be developed which will provide healthcare, education, advice and support for a much wider population. In this way it is anticipated that the project will have an almost immediate impact on the lives of some of the local residents, as well as the longer term benefits anticipated from early intervention and support for very young children.’

Cited in the Surestart Trailblazer proposal.

Community development aims to improve a community’s living conditions by encouraging the community members to help themselves, ‘Doing With’, and subsequently the community in which they live. Active Citizenship is an essential part of community development initiatives, creating committees, voluntary and charitable organisations, discussing problems, needs and ideas with neighbours, joining local councils and going to public meetings encourages empowerment and enables community members to have an active role in the conditions and factors which affect their lives individually and collectively as a community.

Initially the government can provide some funding to help with start-up of community initiatives and programmes, after that is up to the community to provide their own funding which can be raised in a number of ways, fundraising events, charities and voluntary organisations. The main emphasis of this model is on self-help, mutual support, (helping each other), building neighbourhood integration, developing the communities capacity to problem solve and represent themselves and promoting action as a collective increasing the attention of political decision makers. Community Development is concerned with Social and Economic development.

Five years ago, ‘The Beacon’, and, ‘Old Hill’, estate in Falmouth were viewed by the police as an ‘Open Prison’, where families warred over drugs, mothers fought each other outside schools, pets were beaten and children as young as 6 years old were found drunk in parks and streets. A study by Bristol University found that a population of 6,000 were living in 1,500 homes and 8-10 men were unemployed. The Penwerris electrel ward showed that compared to the 132 electrel wards in the South West the Beacon had the highest rate of poor households, the highest rate of childr

n living in poor households and the 2nd highest number of lone parents. More than 50& of homes lacked central heating; colds, asthma and other respiratory problems were high in children.

Figures obtained from

‘The estate was sinking into ghetto status. The place was a virtual no go area for the police. Social services cutbacks meant there was no hands-on help for people. The number of child protection referrals just kept increasing. More and more people were suffering from mental health problems, there was lots of domestic violence and lots of crime and harassment. My colleague and I felt if we did not try and reverse the spiral, we would have another Toxeth on our hands’.

Hazel Stutley, health Visitor, Cited in The Society Guardian November 15, 2000

What happened next were a series of events instigated by a handful of residents, 2 health visitors, local teachers, police and housing officers who saw something needed to be done: -

1. A meeting was held between Hazel Stutley, Philip Trenoweth, (Health Visitors), local police, education officials and representatives from Carrick Council.

2. Coffee mornings were set up and attended by council officials and police to encourage enemies to confront each other in a civilised manner and sort out their differences.

3. The Penwerris Tenants and Residents Association was formed.

4. A successful bid for £2.2 million of government funding was put in for central heating and energy efficiency measures throughout the estate.

5. The Beacon Community Regeneration Partnership was set up, a multi-agency group fronted by residents on the estate.

As a result of the efforts of tenants and with the assistance and encouragement of health Visitors, Police, School Teachers, Council Members and some government funding, the estate has been transformed into a thriving community. Houses and low-rise blocks have been renovated changing the estates appearance from of dark depression to a bright and cheerful sight. Energy conservation measures have been carried out on 900 homes, 300 of which are now centrally heated. Vandalism has been dramatically reduced with the installation of increased security street lighting. A neighbourhood watch scheme is in force with continued and regular liaison with the police. An empty shop has been converted into Beacon Energy Action Office, offering advice and displaying job vacancies, the office doubles up as a neighbourhood meeting room. Another shop has been converted into Beacon Care where residents over 65 can receive health checks, there are sessions for physiotherapy and advice on contraception and breast-feeding.

Since 1995 the crime rate on the street has halved with 87% of the community saying they feel safe, children on the child protection register has fallen from 23-4 in 1999 along with post natal depression falling from 18-4. 10-11 year old boys exam results have doubled. Childhood accidents have fallen by 50%.

The regeneration project became part of the NHS ‘Beacon’ network for it’s innovation and practice, and those behind it have been awarded the government Nye Bevan award for excellence.

Social/Community Action ‘Done By’, this is commonly known as the conflict model. It can be described as the community’s reaction to community work being carried out, state decisions which are deemed to be unnecessary by the community, companies forcing ideas, buildings and changes which are unwelcome and many such like factors influence a communities decision to act. Social action itself can be demonstrated by, campaigns, protests, sit-ins, petitions, Raleigh’s, letter campaigns, crowds appearing at hearings, phone calls anything which generation and to a large extent hindrance. The intention of social action is to generate power and the winner will inevitably be the side with most power. The other point to make here that usually the side to which the social action group are opposing often have legalities on their side which is the greatest power.

Several recent protests, campaigns and petitions in Falmouth have been aimed at a mobile phone company to erect a phone mast next to a junior school. The argument against this proposal is the damage it could do to the children at the school and the surrounding dense housing estate. The land is owned by the council and a lot of money will be gained which is the argument by the council for the proposal, more money more improvements in the area. Parents, teachers, local traders and residents have marched through Falmouth with placards, gathered in large crowds outside the Town Hall and sent petitions to the council and the mobile phone company. While this has generated a lot of attention it has also caused some violent out breaks when a number of individuals tried to cause a riot at the Town Hall.

Another example on a larger scale can be seen in recent petrol strikes and convoys, while it generated a lot of attention at the time the long-term effects appear non-existent.

The advantages of Social Action can include: -

- Showing a large group of interest and power can gain interest and support of those in power i.e. Politicians

- Embarrassment and humiliation can sway a decision to be changed or made

- Shows that communities are strong and will not be walked over again influencing ideas

- Lets people in power no exactly what a community wants

However the disadvantages can include: -

- Can be threatening in a way that instigates violence

- Petitions may not always be read and there is no way of proving this

- It is possible that all the facts are not taken into consideration

- It isn’t always possible to get everyone in a community involved

- Time consuming

Quite often social action projects are instigated by community members who feel they are not being heard or feel that more drastic measures need to be taken to gain attention in some cases community workers may get involved either to assist with things such as facts and possibly a mediator or simply to ensure things don’t get out of hand although with the large size of some groups this isn’t always possible or sensible.

In conclusion it is possible to see how all three of these models have the best interests of the community in mind. However with the Social Planning model although it is the intention to improve the conditions in which the community live, it doesn’t appear very empowering in fact it appears rather patronising making decisions for the community almost telling them what and how to do things also creating dependency on the government in many ways something the government is aiming to stop.

‘The Government places great importance on involving local people in regeneration.................’

‘It is important to the success of regeneration programmes to involve as many people in the community as possible, in order to establish priorities fro action and effective solutions to problems.’

Cited in Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions. Regeneration Research Summary 1999.

The fact that most social planning projects are set a period of time to achieve their goals it doesn’t appear to make any provision for long term measures it also doesn’t appear to give any indication of what will be done if the goals of the project are not attained leaving a very tokenistik impression. The aims and goals of the SureStart project appear wonderful the intentions are great but through all my research I found it easier to find outlines of intentions than hard facts of what had already been achieved.

‘if improvements in housing investment and the quality and availability of public services are not forthcoming,........families could start leaving troubled estate, compounding the problems faced by those involved in regeneration efforts’.

‘...this study found that resources were not getting through to provide the scale and quality of services required o tackle social exclusion. The government’s national strategy for neighbourhood renewal is a move in the right direction, but there is clearly still a long way to’.

Cited in regeneration Policies are not Working

Community development is it appears the more productive model, encouraging and assisting community members to become actively involved to attain what they need and want together as a community. It’s strengthening the community by doing with rather than weakening it by doing for. Community development creates independence and an ability for a community to stand up and control, to an extent the factors that affect the lives, exactly what the intentions were in the first place.

Social/Community Action while this appears affective in some instances it can become out of control and altogether unproductive. It is probably the most empowering model yet at the same time the most confusing if the aims, objectives and facts are unclear.

Through the study of each of these models it is apparent that the best form of community development embraces all three Social Planning, Community development and Social/Community Action, and quite often community workers and practitioners do. Taking a piece from each model and using it at the appropriate time will be much more beneficial than using one single model.

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