Conflicting Policies

Just as nature takes millions of years to regain diversity after a mass extinction, so neighbourhoods take years, even decades, to build up informal support networks broken by forced removal.

Just as DLA is the means that allows people to work, so informal support is what allows people to work.

The government isn’t even identifying the problems, let alone finding solutions.

Forcing people to move to other areas means making them join another waiting list after spending years on one for their current home.

Forcing people to move means taking them away from the doctors and teachers and welfare advisers and support workers whose knowledge of their history means they understand what support is needed.

Forcing people to change home means breaking the family, friendly and neighbourly support networks that share the care for children, elderly, or sick when the primary carer is out working or getting the groceries or attending medical appointments or handing out CVs to increasingly far away job sources.

Forcing people to live in a different community means destroying the very community upon which Cameron wants to build a Big Society.

The acquisition of social housing was certainly viewed by participants, especially in the higher value, tighter housing markets (West Kensington and, to a lesser extent, Oxgangs), as a priceless asset, and to that extent it reinforced the desire for many to stay put. However, it was one factor among many; only in rare cases did it appear to act as an inhibitor on mobility out of the area in order to improve access to economic opportunities elsewhere.

The paradox of neighbourhood change is this: the level of attachment and tenacity of social networks, and evidence of informal reciprocity favoured by the Big Society agenda, were generally more prominent in those case study areas suffering from sustained economic decline that also had a higher proportion of social housing. This applies to Hillside, for example, but not to West Marsh, which has a much larger private rented sector (Crisp and Robinson, 2010). This is partly because the extent of migration has been less here than elsewhere, so longer-standing linkages have developed as a result. The perceived social and personal costs of moving elsewhere are thus likely to be higher. Yet these areas would be precisely those most affected by plans to enhance labour market and housing mobility.

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