Helping people develop life skills is increasingly recognised as a successful way to tackle social exclusion. But attempts to ‘teach’ life skills are often based on a misunderstanding of how people actually learn. We all have life skills that enable us to deal with everyday social and workplace situations without thinking. Life skills enable us to plan our lives, negotiate compromises with others, control our tempers and project a sense of who we are.
Life skills are those skills that are not related to a particular intellectual or vocational discipline, but rather describe the foundation skills for maintaining an independent lifestyle. And we pick them up as we go along. People who are socially excluded either never learned all the necessarily life skills to survive the modern world, or else they have lost them. It is now recognise that the experience of being homeless can lead to a rapid decline in people’s everyday life skills.
Tackling homeless means more than providing people with shelter. It is vital that homeless people are also
re-equipped to survive everyday life. This is not a simple matter, and simply teaching life skills in a formal sense often does not work.
Successful attempts to rebuild the confidence of homeless and socially excluded people are based on the realisation that ‘teaching’ life skills isn’t really possible; people have to develop them through experience. For homeless people, the key is working out how their own experiences can translate into life skills that can be used in mainstream society.
Survival Skills investigates how the life skills concept has been successful used to tackle social exclusion, including an innovative facility called Skylight, which is run by the homeless charity, Crisis. The authors make recommendations for service providers and policy makers on how to develop the use of life skills.