Journal of Social Policy

Helping People To Help Themselves: Policy Lessons From a Study of Deprived Urban Neighbourhoods in Southampton 1

COLIN C. WILLIAMS Senior Lecturer in Economic Geography a1 and JAN WINDEBANK Senior Lecturer in French Studies and Associate Fellow a2
a1 Department of Geography, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH
a2 Political Economy Research Centre (PERC), University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN


The aim of this paper is draw out some policy lessons from a study of self-help activity amongst 200 households in deprived urban neighbourhoods of Southampton. Commencing with a critique of the popular prejudice that promoting self-help should be opposed in case it leads to a demise of formal welfare provision, the paper then interrogates the empirical evidence to understand and explain the nature and extent of such work in deprived neighbourhoods. Finding that self-help is a crucial component of household coping practices, but that no-earner households are unable to benefit from this work to the same extent as employed households, the paper proposes both bottom-up and top-down solutions to tackle the barriers to participation in self-help amongst unemployed households. In particular, it calls for a modification to Working Families Tax Credit and the creation of Community Enterprise so as to recognise and value much of the self-help activity that currently takes place but remains unrecognised and unvalued.


1 Acknowledgements The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has supported this project as part of its programme of research and innovative development projects, which it hopes will be of value to policy makers and practitioners. The facts presented and views expressed in this article, however, are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation. Gratitude is expressed by the authors to both the Joseph Rowntree Foundation for funding this project and to Stephen Hughes for providing the research assistance to bring it to fruition. We would also like to thank the two anonymous referees for their incisive and helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.