Social inclusion refers to a policy designed to ensure that all people are able to participate in society regardless of their background or specific characteristics, which may include: race, language, culture, gender, disability, social status, age, and other factors. Compared to the general population, groups with such special characteristics are much more likely to face low education, unemployment, homelessness -- and resulting poverty and social exclusion.
A socially inclusive society is defined as one where all people feel valued, their differences are respected, and their basic needs are met so they can live in dignity. Social exclusion is the process of being shut out from the social, economic, political and cultural systems which contribute to the integration of a person into the community (Cappo 2002).
The goal of social inclusion is to give all people an equal chance for participation in society. In order to achieve this goal, the barriers to participation in all aspects of life, such as education, employment, leisure, and citizenship must be addressed. The barriers may be material, such as physical inaccessibility; but very often the barriers are intangible, for example, discrimination, which serves to exclude.
An inclusive society, by definition, is characterized by respect for identity of all and a reasonable balance between the rights and duties of all individuals and society as a whole.
Social inclusion, community inclusion, social connectedness, normalisation, social integration, social citizenship - all these are terms that relate to the importance of the links between the individual members of our society and the role of each person as a member of this group.
The values that underpin social inclusion:
Everyone Is Ready – None of us has to pass a test or meet a set of criteria before we can be included.
Everyone Can Learn – As human beings we all grow and change and make mistakes: and we are all capable of learning.
Everyone Needs Support - Sometimes some of us need more support than others.
Everyone Can Communicate – Not using words doesn’t mean we don’t have anything to say.
Everyone Can Contribute – We need to recognise, encourage and value each person’s contributions - including our own.
Together We Are Better – We are not dreaming of a world where everyone is like us - difference is our most important renewable resource.
(Developed by Scottish Human Services Trust, 2005)
Many states have developed specific social inclusion policies for the groups of population at risk of exclusion and poverty. In the European Union, countries work together through the open method of coordination. To read more about the EU social inclusion framework, please click here.
Further reading: Journal of Social Inclusion
Schneider J. and C.J. Bramley (2008). Towards social inclusion in mental health? Advances in Psychiatric Treatment (2008) 14
Useful links: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=750&langId=en last edited by Jean Pierre Wilken March 2013