Ground-Breaking U.K. Minister on Social Exclusion Calls for Social Justice as an Economic Necessity

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Urges Adler School of Professional Psychology audience to "seize the moment"

In her first visit to the United States since departing her post in the Cabinet of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, the United Kingdom's first Minister on Social Exclusion, Rt. Hon. Hilary Armstrong, M.P., addressed a capacity crowd on Friday about the economic and social benefits of government policies designed to help society's most vulnerable populations.

Drawing on her experience as a minister in Tony Blair's Cabinet, Armstrong urged audience members to consider both the social and economic consequences of systematically ignoring the poorest two percent of society. Her analysis revealed that those in the U.K. who most needed government services were not accessing them routinely. Instead they were using government services primarily in response to crisis situations when the cost to the state for those services was higher.

Armstrong advocated a holistic approach to social support systems based on five guiding principles enacted by the U.K.'s Social Exclusion Task Force, including:

  •     Early intervention
  •     Systematic identification of successful strategies
  •     Multi-agency collaboration
  •     Personalized services
  •     Incentives to support achievement and manage individual under-performance

Hosted by the Adler School of Professional Psychology's Institute on Social Exclusion (ISE), Armstrong delivered her remarks at the Spertus Institute in Chicago, focusing on system-wide actions to support transformation in education and health care.
The morning presentation kicked off on a somber note as Dana Starks, City of Chicago Commissioner of Human Relations, asked for a moment of silence in memory of fallen Chicago police officer Nathaniel Taylor Jr., before formally introducing Armstrong.

Armstrong was also joined by Lynn Todman, director of Adler's Institute on Social Exclusion, in calling for Americans to rethink the way they look at the disadvantaged. "We need a better balance between individual and social responsibility in addressing disadvantage - this flies in the face of our underlying American tenets," said Todman, alluding to the American tendency to blame the individual for his or her circumstances.

When asked by a forum participant how she would address potential reluctance to embrace this approach in the United States, Armstrong responded, "I would say to your officials, 'you need to get people to see this as an economic imperative as well as a social imperative.' If you can get people to see that the two go together, then it makes perfect sense."
She added, "I think you've got to seize the moment; it may just be your moment now."

Background on Hilary Armstrong, M.P.
Armstrong has spent 30 years, first as a social worker and later as a Member of Parliament (MP) in her native U.K., examining and shaping the role that government plays in breaking down the barriers that exclude individuals from enjoying the rights and privileges afforded to them by their society. She worked in Former Prime Minister Blair's government coordinating cross-departmental efforts to address social disadvantage and improve the life chances of British society's most vulnerable. Health and education were primary focuses of her Ministerial work, but her portfolio also included housing, transportation, employment, justice, and other areas.

The Adler Institute on Social Exclusion (ISE) was established in 2005 as the first of three planned Institutes for Social Change at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. The mission of the Institute is to pursue the Adler School's vision of social justice by directing attention to and addressing the structural origins of social disadvantage. To learn more, visit http://www.adler.edu.

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