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.
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