Not a Solution at All? Communities and Social Policy by ProQuest


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									Not a Solution at All?
Communities and Social Policy

 Bryson and Mowbray wrote about the uncritical use of the term community
 by governments in 1981 and ways in which ‘evidence‑based policy’ in relation
 to communities became little more than a ‘catchphrase’ in 2005. Both articles
 appeared in the Australian Journal of Social Issues. This paper reports
 research that utilised qualitative methods to gather data on subjective,
 practical meanings of community in one local government area of South
 Australia to assess the goodness of fit with the language of community
 contained in social policy. It is argued that in 2009, community, as it is
 applied by social policy makers, has little resonance with the large body of
 research around this topic or the current situation of individuals and families
 and this results in a poor match between the intentions and outcomes of
 social policies aimed at communities.
 Keywords: Community, Evidence‑based Policy

Not	a	Solution	at	All?	Communities	and	Social	Policy

                Australian governments develop social policies as a political response to social
                issues that affect society generally, such as health and education, with the
                intention they will benefit all citizens. Other policies target specific groups of
                people including individuals who are unemployed, families who rely on welfare
                payments and communities where disadvantage is present, aiming to reduce
                poverty and inequality, build social capital and address social issues.
                Currently, individuals who are unemployed are required to meet certain
                responsibilities under mutual obligation policies through activities around
                seeking and securing paid employment. It is proposed that employed people
                have the capacity to build social and economic capital that will act as a resource
                that will benefit them, their families and the ‘communities’ in which they live
                while also acting as a remedy for social problems. Family groups are expected
                to be supportive of individuals (McClure, 2000:39) and also strive to become
                self‑reliant. Thus communities are described as tangible entities that can support
                and nurture individuals and families whilst being the target of specific programs
                and projects aimed at improving them. Communities are also expected to take
                responsibility for their own well‑being (McClure, 2000:39). Clearly, not all
                individuals are capable of gaining and keeping employment with only minimal
                support. Not all families are supportive and where there is family violence,
                neglect or abuse, families can be a source of stress and anguish rather than
                support. As an abstract entity that means different things to different people,
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