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National and European policies to combat poverty and social exclusion

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National and European policies to combat poverty and social exclusion

    european anti-poverty network

    réseau européen des associations de lutte contre la pauvreté et l'exclusion sociale

    National and European policies

    to combat poverty and

    social exclusion

    Helsinki, 8-9 November 1999

    Conference hosted by the European

    Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN)

    Rapporteur: Xavier Dutrenit

    April 2000

    rue du Congrès 37/41 - Bte 2 B-1000 Bruxelles

    tel: 32.2.230.44.55 fax: 32.2.230.97.33 Email:eapn@euronet.be

    EAPN is supported by the European Commission

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    CONTENTS

    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY/CONCLUSIONS ...................................................................................... 3

    I - Opening plenary session ............................................................................................................... 9

    II - Round table discussion ............................................................................................................... 16 Policies to combat poverty and social exclusion: current trends .......................................

    III - Reports from the workshops ................................................................................................... 22

    IV - Workshops....................................................................................................................................... 32 How to articulate policies and actions at the local, national and at the European

    level? ..............................................................................................................................................................

    V Round table discussion ............................................................................................................. 40 How can the EU support policies to fight against poverty and social exclusion? .......

    VI - Closing Session ............................................................................................................................ 45

    APPENDICES .......................................................................................................................................... 48 Appendix 1 - Statistical data ..................................................................................................................... 48 Appendix 2 - Programme of the conference ............................................................................................. 52 Appendix 3 - Bio notes of the speakers and chairs of the conference ....................................................... 55

    Acknowledgements ............................................................................................................................. 58

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    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY/CONCLUSIONS

    There are at least 65 million people living in situation of poverty and social exclusion on the European Union’s territory. They are carrying the burden but not sharing in the benefits of a globalised and growing economy. This is a tremendous challenge to the cohesion of our European societies and it is time to genuinely attack the causes of this phenomenon. This was the overall message of the conference organised by EAPN in Helsinki at the time of the Finnish presidency on national and European polices to combat poverty and social exclusion.

    The conference was prepared by EAPN in partnership with representatives from European and national NGOs, from the Trade Unions and the business community, from local and national governments, academics and experts in social issues from different national and international agencies and organisations. The conference eventually gathered more than 150 participants from all Member States of the European Union. It was a major opportunity to have a thorough exchange of views on current trends and policies related to poverty and social exclusion at a time where the European Union enters a critical phase of its development.

A wide exchange of views on polices to combat poverty and social exclusion

The welcoming address by the Finnish Social and Health Affairs Minister, Ms PERHO, gave a

    ringing endorsement to more far-reaching action on social exclusion by the EU in line with the new pledges given in the Amsterdam Treaty (article 137). Investment in social protection systems is particularly important because they help people cope with the hazards of life that society in general cannot guard against. She hoped the Member States would step up cooperation in this area on this basis.

The same concern was also central to the talk by Ms. Katherine DUFFY, principal lecturer at De

    Montfort University (UK), whose daunting task was to outline the main trends in poverty and social exclusion in Europe to kick off the debate. Her task was made harder by the dearth of reliable national or European data which were hard to get and did not accurately reflect the underlying causes of social exclusion. Nevertheless, with the information available, Ms Duffy showed that recent trends painted a bleak scenario of entrenched inequalities in GDP and unemployment within the EU (and within Member States), and widening income gaps, especially in the Northern countries which had taken an Anglo-American approach to social protection.

    Ms Duffy said the political responses to that were worrying in several respects: increasingly area-based anti-poverty measures raised real questions about democratic accountability and the real impact on people in situation of exclusion; trends in social protection varied between EU member countries, but there was a real risk of the worst-off slipping through a purely “safety net”

    approach and bearing the full brunt of budget cuts; active measures to improve employability were based on an unconvincing analysis of labour market problems and, worse still, set the stage for a purely work-centred, tunnel-vision view of citizenship which ran counter to the European tradition of political and social citizenship.

Hugues FELTESSE, President of EAPN France offered a more upbeat assessment, singling out

    instances of progress in different Member States, which were capable of informing Union-wide policies against exclusion. His arguments were drawn from the document written by 9 EAPN national networks for the Conference. The fight against poverty and social exclusion had worked its way to the top of the national agenda in Portugal, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Finland, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy. Widening access to fundamental rights by introducing a right to a minimum income and inclusion, and developing programmatic rights (the right to housing or education) sometimes becomes a reality and is not always left to sweeping international declarations.

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    Developing multi-dimensional, integrated policies by setting up structures that cut across government, regular evaluation and proposal meetings with the economic and social players concerned, publishing national reports on poverty and social exclusion, and sets of indicators, can give serious leverage to action on the structural causes of exclusion. The promotion of partnership and participation can then be taken beyond words and given shape through specific institutional machinery for systematic consultation with users of social services and self-advocacy groups of the poor.

Responding to these talks, Stefano MARTINELLI of UNICE said that action on poverty and social

    exclusion had to be through a European strategy for employment growth underpinned by all the elements of the Luxembourg strategy and the Cardiff process (goods, services, labour and capital market reforms), and reform of work-related training to make people more employable. Henri

    LOURDELLE, for the ETUC, said the European Treaties must recognise that the right to work and the right to social protection were two paramount fundamental rights and the cornerstones of any action on the root causes of social exclusion to return people to full participation in society. Finally, Kath READE for the Local Government Association (UK) argued for a radical assessment of the

    current state of affairs and asked participants to examine the effects of current restructuring and regeneration policies before the necessary integrated policies were put in place, especially at local level.

    The general discussion and dialogue were carried on into a series of thematic workshops addressing such big issues as what is meant by integrated and multi-dimensional policies; the impact of employment policies on poverty; social protection and the implementation of fundamental human rights; promoting partnership and participation with the players engaged in the fight against poverty and social exclusion.

    The Conference also dwelt at length on the linkages between poverty and exclusion measures at different levels of governance. Pierre CALAME, Director of the Fondation pour le progrès de

    l’Homme made a stirring call for action at local level to take forward the search for alternatives to the present model of development and a new vision of globalisation from a standpoint of “shared responsibility” rather than “burden sharing”. He thought that the European employment strategy was mapping the outlines of an active subsidiarity, reflecting a balance between diversity and unity, which should be a template for future EU social policies.

    The avenues for discussion opened up by Pierre Calame’s speech were explored further in parallel workshops, reported back on by Isabelle DUSSUTOUR of the Council of European Municipalities

    and Regions (ECMR), and cross-fertilised by the panel discussion on the EU’s role in supporting poverty and social exclusion policies. Jean TONGLET, Executive Secretary of the International

    Movement ATD-Fourth World, said there was an urgent need for far-reaching action to achieve a new, people-centred, humanising development which would counteract the “social Darwinism”

    mindset into which our societies were locked. Chiara SARACENO, Chair of the Italian Commission

    on Social Exclusion, argued for a radical poverty-proofing of current European economic and social policies from two standpoints: do they generate poverty and social exclusion? Do they contribute to the fight against poverty and social exclusion? To facilitate this audit exercise, the Union should make it a priority to develop performance indicators and evaluation systems. Finally, Hugh FRAZER, Director of the Combat Poverty Agency in Ireland, showed how the Union can give

    essential political leadership to strengthen national policies by acting on at least 7 fronts, and called on all players to see that the Lisbon Summit (March 2000) did not become a missed opportunity.

Rounding off the debates for the European Parliament, Ms. Marie-Hélène GILLIG MEP, member of

    the Social Affairs and Employment Committee, came down firmly in favour of far-reaching action by the EU to combat poverty and exclusion by publishing separate guidelines from the employment guidelines and major changes to the European Treaties to give substance to a real “Social Treaty”. Ms. Gabrielle CLOTUCHE, Director with the European Commission’s Directorate General for

    Employment and Social Affairs, outlined the 5 key policy strands which the European Commission

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    would be pursuing to combat poverty and social exclusion: European employment strategy; Structural Funds; Community EQUAL and URBAN Initiatives; integrating social inclusion into the strategy to modernise social protection; publishing an ambitious but realistic programme based on article 137.

Summing up, EAPN President Fintan FARRELL said that the challenges to make action on poverty

    and social exclusion an EU priority were supremely political ones. He called on all the participants to gear up for the Lisbon European Council in March 2000 and the Copenhagen plus five process.

Main points arising from the conference

Current trends in poverty and social exclusion in the European Union

    Though sound national and European data on poverty and social exclusion are difficult to find, one can highlight the following trends:

     There are considerable inter and intra regional inequalities in GDP across the EU. In 1996,

    21% of the EU population lived in the 46 regions having a GDP below EU average. Despite

    Structural Funds’ intervention, the ranking of areas by GDP has changed little over time. The

    spatial levels of aggregation often conceal poverty amidst wealth and there are wide variations

    within nations.

     While unemployment is now falling in most regions and among most groups, certain areas and

    groups are more at risk. The widespread view that high youth unemployment is caused by low

    skills is not entirely supported by facts. Low qualifications raise any individual’s risk of

    unemployment, but the demand for labour, the structure of industries and occupations and the

    nature of integration structures between school and work also matter.

     Though governments have often pointed out that inequality is not poverty in absolute terms,

    the subjective experience of poverty is, according to surveys, greatest in countries with

    relatively high inequality and this must have implications for people’s ability to participate in

    normal life and consequently for social cohesion.

     Social exclusion is a process, which goes beyond mere lack of sufficient income. It relates to

    the more general system of an individual’s relationships to his/her environment. For example,

    lone parenthood is not a cause in itself of poverty and child poverty. If lone parents families are

    poor it is because of the way the social system (formal and informal) either protects and

    supports them or leaves them exposed to greater risks of severe deprivation.

The Conference gave wide support for EAPN’s proposals for an ambitious European

    strategy

    EAPN argues that the new article 137 of the Amsterdam Treaty should enable ambitious action to be taken. It should include framing and implementing a European Strategy to combat social exclusion (modelled on the European employment strategy) which sets common objectives for the Community and Member States, puts in place national plans to combat exclusion and verification procedures. The guidelines should be based on 3 pillars:

     promoting the exercise of fundamental rights for all;

     an integrated multidimensional action at local, national and European level;

     partnership between the different players and participation by the groups concerned

    and their advocacy organisations.

    This proposal was seen as a good starting point for discussion by most of the participants of the conference and particularly by Ms PERHO, Finnish Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Mr 1MELKERT, former Dutch Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, Ms GILLIG, Member of the

    Employment Social Affairs Committee in the European Parliament.

    It was further enriched by the debates and remarks made in the plenary sessions and the different workshops.

     1 The full text of Mr Melkert’s speech is available (in English only) from the EAPN secretariat.

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    Promoting the effective exercise of fundamental rights for all

    As highlighted in the preparatory conference document on national strategies to combat poverty and social exclusion which gives an analysis of polices to combat poverty and social exclusion in 9 European Union countries, access to fundamental rights for all is becoming a key feature in some new approaches (e.g. France). However, whereas some new rights are enacted, there are still huge efforts needed to ensure their implementation.

    At the same time, trends in social protection coverage raise some concern. In particular in those countries which aimed for universality and had already the most comprehensive system there is a tendency to tightening of eligibility and to targeting, time-limiting and means testing of benefits. Actions to cut labour costs, tying minimum income entitlements to activation measures, compulsory activation, restrictions in services for out-groups and non-labour market groups, focus on employability to make people more attractive to employers, represent a threat of a shift towards “work-based citizenship” (citizenship rights related to employment) which is at odds with the “European social model” and the European concept of citizenship based on the indivisibility of fundamental human rights.

Main conclusions arising from the debates

     The EU should assert and promote the contribution that a rights based approach can

    make to national policies and develop guidelines accordingly.

     The right to work and the right to social protection should be enshrined in the next EU

    treaty and instruments to monitor their effective implementation be agreed upon. The EU should “constitutionnalise” the European social Model by adopting a binding

    “Charter on Fundamental Human Rights”, which would be part of the Treaties.

    An integrated and multidimensional action at local, national and European level

    Social exclusion is a multidimensional process, which requires integrated answers as to both, the content of polices and the spatial levels at which they are undertaken. What is at stake is more than achieving a balance between economic and social development but striking a proper conciliation between the two to lead the way to a “sustainable social development model” based on the needs of individuals. Hard questions should be asked: Have current programmes of regeneration achieved tangible results? When jobs have been created, what kind of jobs are they, who gets them and who does not?

    Public services and agencies should develop a “can do” attitude to challenges and needs expressed by local people.

    The local level is a key layer in the development and implementation of policies to tackle social exclusion for several reasons. Yet its full significance can only arise in the context of renewed relationships and articulations between the different layers of governance. The method used for the European employment strategy is promising in that respect since it sets common objectives and targets to be implemented at the national and local level.

Main conclusions arising from the debates

     There is a need for a radical analysis of current national and European economic and

    social policies: are they creating poverty and social exclusion? Are they contributing to

    the fight against poverty and social exclusion?

     There is a need to develop sound and appropriate data on social exclusion in

    collaboration with NGOs. Likewise, there is a need to develop evaluation tools,

    monitoring mechanisms and social impact assessment (poverty proofing) methods on

    a European and international level. An independent European observatory on social

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    exclusion should be set up.

     Ensure that EU Structural Funds and Community Initiatives prioritise actions to tackle

    poverty and social exclusion, including investment on social infrastructure. Continuing

    problems of unemployment require greater resources including financial resources. Set EU targets on the basis of agreed indicators and a clear time scale for the reduction

    of poverty across the EU (alongside clear targets on employment and social protection

    issues).

     Produce annual reports on the situation regarding poverty and social exclusion in the

    EU Member States to the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament, the Economic

    and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions.

     Promoting “active subsidiarity” i.e. the emergence of a new model of governance

    between the different layers (world-wide, European, national, local) through, for

    example, the development of local employment pacts and local social pacts to

    implement objectives and targets defined at a higher level.

    Promoting participation and partnership

    Experiences analysed during the conference (Ireland, Belgium, Portugal and the Netherlands) show that participation and partnership are essential for the development and implementation of effective strategies against social exclusion.

    Participation of those who are living in poverty is both an end in itself (right to participate in the decisions that affect one’s life) and a means to an end: it helps empowering people to take control over their lives; it leads to better policies and laws; it contributes to a more effective planning and delivery of services as it ensures information exchange and feedback and a better targeting of measures to combat poverty and social exclusion; it helps to ensure the sustainability of initiatives both in terms of the individual and of the local community.

Partnership is more than consultation. It involves sharing power in decision making and working

    collectively to solve problems. It is not an end in itself but a means to an end. It helps to encourage more holistic and multi-dimensional responses to poverty and social exclusion that encompass social, cultural and economic dimensions; it helps to increase resources for tackling poverty by mobilising a wider range of actors; it provides a means of balancing the different interests or viewpoints of different actors and leads to the development of a more strategic approach to public policy making. Partnership arrangements often challenge the very centralised, compartmentalised and bureaucratic ways in which public agencies can operate and encourages them to become more open, more responsive and less hierarchical.

    Yet, partnership and participation are not a panacea for all problems and, if misapplied, they can actually make things worse.

Main conclusions arising from the debates

    There are many ways to strengthen participation and partnership at all levels: Build and resource a strong infrastructure or network of community and voluntary

    organisations representing those who are living in situations of poverty and social

    exclusion. Such networks, which are accountable to their constituency, can help to

    ensure that public authorities do not just handpick people to consult with. Recognise and resource participation and partnership arrangements: time must be

    allowed for all key players to take part and where appropriate this should be

    acknowledged in contracts and work programmes. Participants should also have

    access to training in the skills and methodologies necessary to make partnership and

    collaboration work.

     Educate and persuade politicians of the complementary nature of participatory and

    representative democracy. Partnership should not be seen as a substitute for the

    failings of existing democratic structures.

     Public services as large bureaucracies must move from a service model to a

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    partnership mode. To do this they need guidelines and examples of good practice and

    they need champions for change from within their own systems.

     A clear legal framework or at least a clearly defined status for participation and

    partnership at EU, national and local levels would strengthen all actors’ commitments.

     A culture of participation needs to be built up through supporting and resourcing

    community development projects, community education initiatives and community arts

    projects.

     Neutral or independent chairpersons can play a key role in facilitating the involvement

    of different actors in partnerships.

Final conclusions arising from the debates

    The EU can reinforce and support national policies to combat poverty and social exclusion by providing political and institutional leadership through:

     Adoption of a common declaration by the President of the Commission and the Council

    of Ministers that tackling poverty and social exclusion is a priority policy goal across

    the EU;

     Institutionalisation of a Committee for Social inclusion composed of senior officials to

    develop specific proposals for the Commission. NGOs should be closely involved in

    the work of the Committee;

     Drafting of a Commission paper in view of the special summit in Lisbon “Economic

    reforms, Employment, Social Cohesion” (March 2000). This paper should make clear

    that social cohesion shall have equal status with economic and employment issues

    and that there is a need for an ambitious European strategy based on common

    objectives and targets, regular monitoring and reporting mechanisms.

    National governments are still to be convinced of the need to adopt a European wide strategy to tackle poverty and social exclusion. The campaign for a European strategy for social inclusion should as well be seen as a key objective in view of the June 2000 Geneva follow-up to the 1995 World Summit on Social Development.

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    I - Opening plenary session

I.1 - Welcoming address, Fintan Farrell, President of EAPN

    It is high time for a political focus on action against poverty and social exclusion on at least 3 counts:

    - There are at least 65 million people living in poverty and social exclusion in the

    European Union;

    - In the process to ratify the Amsterdam Treaty and the June 1999 European elections

    campaign, policy-makers vowed to create a Europe for all. These pledges must now

    be put into practice;

    - The Copenhagen World Summit in 1995 gave a fresh impetus to the fight against

    poverty and social exclusion: it has become a national priority for several states;

    integrated, multi-dimensional approaches have been taken to poverty and social

    exclusion; participation and partnership with people living in poverty and exclusion

    have begun to develop.

    EAPN believes these are important developments that must be discussed and debated. But we must also go further. At European level, the new article 137 is an opportunity to bring in a far-reaching strategy for social cohesion. EAPN was instrumental in getting this

    new article written into the Amsterdam Treaty and will continue campaigning for its implementation to make real changes to people’s lives. EAPN proposed that the 2European strategy to combat social exclusion should be based on 3 pillars:

    - Access to fundamental rights for all

    - The development of multi-dimensional and integrated policies

    - Participation and partnership with people living in poverty and exclusion (and their

    advocacy groups).

    Each of these 3 dimensions must get equal attention at the special Summit of EU Heads of State and Governments on “Economic reforms, employment, social cohesion” to be held

    in Lisbon in March 2000.

I.2 - Introductory address by Maija Perho, Finnish Minister for Social Affairs and 3Health

    Ms Perho welcomed the role played by NGOs in general and EAPN in particular, as a vital partner in highlighting the serious problems facing our societies.

    Tackling poverty and social exclusion is no easy matter and must be addressed at European level to complement national measures. Finland’s policy of preventing poverty is based on a typically Nordic welfare state model of universal social protection. Finnish people set great store by it, and the social protection system had stopped many people being consigned to poverty and social exclusion during Finland’s deep economic

    recession of the early 90s. Academic research bears out the fact that the Finnish social protection system has given people confidence in the workings of society by enabling them to return to work in time.

     2 See EAPN’s contribution “A Europe for all. For a European strategy to combat social exclusion”, May 1999. 3 The full text of Ms Maija Perho’s speech is available in English from the EAPN secretariat.

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    Nevertheless, like other EU Member States, Finland faces many challenges: providing the new services needed to cope with the ageing population; ensuring that the social security system helps people remain capable of engaging with the future; ensuring that people do not slip through the “safety net”; getting to grips with the particular problems faced by

    people with learning disabilities, drug addiction or long-term unemployment.

    On taking office last spring, the Lipponen government put preventing poverty and social exclusion at the top of its agenda. It has not brought in a specific programme on poverty and exclusion, but has mainstreamed them across all decisions, and the main proposals coming out of the Hunger Group set up by the churches and EAPN Finland have found their way into the government programme.

    The European Social Fund’s role as a lever against social exclusion and in support of policies to tackle long-term unemployment, equality of opportunity between men and women, and integration of young people, should be recognised. Community initiatives also play an essential role. The Amsterdam Treaty offers new opportunities for action. The 15 have got productive co-operation under way on employment, and a common discussion is making headway on social protection. But more will have to be done if the objectives set by the Amsterdam Treaty are to be met. The Finnish government believes that tackling poverty and social exclusion must be more firmly rooted in Union policies than at present. For one thing, effective integrated action is needed to prevent social exclusion. Also, those now living in poverty and exclusion must be helped. The experience developed through the co-ordinated employment strategy is an example to be followed in adopting common measures to tackle social exclusion.

Ms Perho said that EAPN’s contribution to the European Commission’s May 1999 4conference was a solid basis for future discussions. The different histories and cultures of

    each of the 15 States means those European solutions will also have to take account of national particularities.

Social exclusion is a complex process and the statistical tools needed to track it are

    lacking. Ms Perho stressed that ways had to be found of putting that right in order to exchange information and experiences to get a clearer picture of developments at EU level. NGOs also have a role to play here, and the Finnish government is favourably impressed by EAPN’s call to set up a European monitoring centre on poverty and social exclusion.

    Ms Perho concluded that civil society has a key role in preventing poverty and social exclusion. Each individual’s environment influences their position in the society and future prospects. But that is not enough. For that reason, it is important to have social security system and services, which are always able to help individuals. For that reason, too, it is important to develop relevant measures and policies for the worst-off, economically and socially speaking.

    I.3 - Poverty and social exclusion in the European Union: an overview by Katherine Duffy, Principal lecturer, De Montfort University, United Kingdom

K. Duffy developed six main points.

     4 Op.cit. note 2.

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