Commission on Social Justice: Minimum wage warning for Labour as party urged to adopt student loans: Evidence of model 'home-grown' project

Children playing in a wrecked car in Easterhouse, an area of housing estates six miles east of Glasgow. The commission singled out its 'home-grown' projects as a model of how local people can create 'the institutions and relationships of a thriving civil society' on which 'moral and social reconstruction depends', writes John Arlidge.

Easterhouse is one of Britain's poorest areas. When Glaswegians abandoned inner-city slums and moved into the new estates in the 1950s, most men found work in the shipyards on the Clyde or in the coal mines and steel mills of Lanarkshire.

Today, unemployment among the 35,000-strong population is at 50 per cent, four in ten households live on income support, 66 per cent of children receive free school meals and 71 per cent of qualify for a clothing grant.

At first glance, Easterhouse appears no different from any other run-down area of Strathclyde. Teenagers wait by boarded-up houses, for local drugs dealers, thin children play on wasteground and on the potholed streets residents queue to buy food from colour-coded vans - blue for Protestants, green for Catholics.

But in disused warehouses, school buildings and bingo halls, residents have begun what amounts to a social revolution. Block by block, district by district they have established their own public services. Local credit unions, where people deposit savings and apply for loans at nominal rates of interest, provide an alternative to loan sharks. Food co-ops, which buy in bulk, offer cheap groceries. A Salvation Army-run warehouse provides second-hand furniture at knock- down prices.

The Safe Easterhouse Project has helped residents install home security locks which has reduced housebreaking by around 10 per cent in the past two years. Organisers say such community-based initiatives address specific local needs and create employment and wealth.

(Photograph omitted)