On 29 January we held an online conference “Covid19 supercharging poverty” – data and experiences from the ground, hosted by MEPs Cindy Franssen and Marisa Matias. The EU Poverty Watch report was launched with this event. The Poverty Watches start from the reality of people experiencing poverty and the perspectives of NGOs who work with them. With poverty predicted to rise to at least levels seen in the 2008 crisis, and the EU Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights and Recovery and Resilience Plans around the corner, the time is now to get poverty elimination right.
Co-host MEP Cindy Franssen opened the event by highlighting the foreseen increase in people at risk of poverty and the need to protect vulnerable groups. She mentioned the important role of FEAD, the Parliament’s work to end homelessness, reduce energy poverty as part of the Green Deal and close the gender pay gap. She highlighted the reality that having a job does not necessarily mean avoiding poverty, saying “Jobs must also be decent.”
The moderator, EAPN Interim Director Hélder Ferreira, then introduced new EAPN Policy & Advocacy Coordinator Anna Krozser who presented the Report, which was followed by a session on realities and recommendations from our members’ Poverty Watches.
Access the agenda here
Presentation of the EU Poverty Watch
- Anna Krozser – EAPN Policy & Advocacy Coordinator’) – And listen to her presentation here! (’10)
Poverty Watches throughout Europe in the context of Covid-19
- Cidalia Barriga & Paula Cruz – EAPN Portugal
- Danijela Marcola & Ziva Humer – EAPN Slovenia
- Noellie Denomerenge & Caroline Van der Hoeven – EAPN Belgium
- Noellie Denomerenge input – experience from the ground
- Fran MacDonnell – International Federation of Social Workers
Paula Cruz (EAPN Portugal), Ziva Humer (EAPN Slovenia) and Caroline Van der Hoeven (EAPN Belgium) presented how their national reports had been built on input from people experiencing poverty; the situation in those countries – with main affected groups, challenges brought by the Covid-19 crisis – and key messages from their reports.
Cidalia Barriga presented her views having first-hand experience of poverty, highlighting mental health risks and problems of insufficient IT access.
“We need to strengthen our solidarity and common efforts in finding solutions that will work for everyone, while respecting people’s dignity.”
Danijela Marcola from Slovenia who is a single mother shed a light on her reality, under the telling title ‘Systemic (non)solutions and errors’:
“Meals at school definitely made it easier to provide at least one hot meal. It is horrible when your child comes home and says “there is no food.” And then you try to make dinner out of a single egg… With Covid, I was made redundant and I didn’t know who to turn to.”
Noëllie Denomerenge is Inequalities Prevention Faciltator in the Wallonian Network in BAPN, and interviewed many people who lost income due to the confinement. Read all her input here (in French). She personally talked about the stigmatisation faced and how it impacts mental health.
“The choice of which bills to pay or not has given rise to fears, anxieties and a great deal of uncertainty. Some had to ask for help from the CPAS with a great sense of inability to manage themselves, which resulted in shame.”
All 3 countries reported that those on low incomes have been hit hard by the crisis and raised the issue of the vital need for strengthened social protection systems, including adequate Minimum Income Schemes.
Fran McDonnell also highlighted this in her presentation of the International Federation of Social Workers’ Poverty Watch, saying “Crucially transformative social protection systems for all and preventative social services need to be seen as an investment in society and not a cost.” See Fran’s presentation here, to read the main issues social workers are seeing in 12 European countries. IFSW propose 9 concrete EU-level recommendations.
The Director of Social Affairs in the European Commission, Katarina Ivankovic-Knezevic, was then invited to reflect on our key messages and the Commission’s approach to poverty. Whilst agreeing with a remark made that although recovery budgets seem impressively high, funds are lacking to cover such a social crisis, she highlighted the solutions of the Commission, which have been and will be indeed structured on the Social Pillar’s 20 principles. She stressed that the Commission’s efforts are not only on job creation and economic growth but also on social justice, reducing income inequalities and upwards social mobility. “Without the strong social dimension there could not be a creation of a strong and resilient economy… Because the divide is going to be deeper and the path that people will have to climb will be steeper, so if this would not be the focus of our actions we would be facing further inequalities.”
Responding to questions from the participants Katarina said ongoing social actions will be continued with the new Recovery and Resilience Facility. She is confident that if changes in the proposed regulation remain when the Action Plan is endorsed, social policy will be heavily invested in, although she acknowledged that job preservation, short-term unemployment schemes and strengthening health systems will take the lion’s share. The Commission is negotiating based on 2019 & 2020’s country specific recommendations which cover everything from health, minimum income to pensions.
Responding to a question on whether states will be obliged to implement social rights, she answered that although how states implement the Action Plan will be up to them, certain elements will require more strategic documentation – such as the recommendation on Minimum Income and the Child Guarantee. The new and enabling conditions to Structural Funds also mean that states need to offer a strategic overview.
To a third question on assuring civil society’s involvement in forming and assessing the new Programmes, she said that the code of conduct on partnerships is very clear for the Commission and that they assess if this principle is being implemented in their negotiations.
Co-host MEP Marisa Matias answered a final question saying that the Parliament will issue an opinion on the Action Plan of the Pillar of Social Rights, focussing on the fight against poverty and social exclusion. The EP Intergroup on Poverty will be monitoring the implementation of the Plan. The Intergroup agrees on cross-party positions which can also be used for legislative work.
Marisa Matias closed our event with the following powerful remarks:
“It is pressing to give the decision-making back to our people… We need a shift in paradigm, to strengthen our social rights and to put citizens back at the heart of our policies. The legitimacy of the EU is at stake. It will be judged by our capacity to build a social Europe.”
Watch the full video here!
(Note that it starts in English but some presentations are in Portuguese, Slovenian & English (EAPN Slovenia), and French & English (EAPN Belgium). The DIrector of Social Affairs in the Commission speaks in English and starts at 1:46)
Follow the conversation on Twitter @EAPNEurope #PovertyWatch
For further information on content, contact Anna Krozser (Policy & Advocacy Coordinator) email@example.com, or on events and materials, contact Rebecca Lee (Information & Events Officer), firstname.lastname@example.org
This event was supported by the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation “EaSI” (2014-2020). The information contained does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of the European Commission. For further information please consult: http://ec.europa.eu/social/easi.