On 14 July, EAPN presented its detailed research into the Covid-19 crisis and its impact on people experiencing poverty and vulnerability at its conference How to ensure the poor don’t pay for Covid-19 – From short-term response to an effective rights-based integrated antipoverty strategy. The study was conducted by Graciela Malgesini, Co-Chair of the EAPN EU Inclusion Strategies Group/EAPN ES, with the participation of 25 national networks (AT, BE, HR, CZ, DK, FI, FR, DE, EL, HU, IC, IE, IT, LT, NL, MA, NO, PL, PT, SB, SE, SK, SL, ES, UK) and 3 European Organisations (SMES, IFSW and Age-Platform).
This report analyses:
- the situation of health, social protection and minimum income systems before the pandemic
- the positive and negative changes in our systems produced as a result of the spread of the virus
- the measures adopted by governments to tackle the situation
The conditions of people suffering from poverty and vulnerability in countries participating in the study are described and analysed in detail, considering the impact that this crisis has also had on gender as well as other forms of inequality. Annex 1 captures key EU trends and data, whilst Annex 2 provides a Country Annex summarising detailed input from the national level regarding all areas of the report.
EAPN then makes important recommendations to national and European authorities, in order to leave no one behind, by rebuilding a rights-based Europe with a social heart and a commitment to ending poverty and reducing inequality.
More specifically, at the national level, our proposals to fight Covid-19 are directed towards:
- the promotion of rights and protection of the vulnerable groups
- the increase in the generosity of income support schemes, building towards more effective long-term social systems and strategies to fight poverty
At the EU level, it is vital that the short-term support is translated into a long-term improvement in welfare states and quality employment – guaranteeing adequate income (through social protection/minimum income and decent wages) and essential services as pillars of an effective EU integrated strategy to fight poverty.
Short-term EU Recommendations
- Urgent and coordinated health action, focusing on protecting the most vulnerable. National authorities must undertake immediate, extra targeted actions in the field of physical and mental health, food security, housing and accommodation and guarantee access to clean water and hygiene products, accessible information, free access to testing and treatment for patients affected by COVID-19 to ensure the protection of disadvantaged communities and vulnerable socio-economic groups during the pandemic.
- Urgent action to protect workers and ensure adequate income for all, including financial support to keep people in their jobs, with guaranteed income, increased minimum income support to address additional costs, guaranteed income support to self-employed or those in atypical work who are losing income due to the crisis.
- Urgent action to protect people at risk of poverty, including suspension of evictions due to non-payment of rent and mortgages, supporting payment of energy bills, and continued free provision of school meals for those who need it.
- Action to mitigate the social impact of containment measures on social isolation and loneliness, including urgent support to social NGOs who provide care and support services, and setting up of nationwide helplines for social and psychological support to address an increased risk of domestic violence and abuse, especially against women, under quarantine conditions. All EU MS should allocate and earmark specific funds at European and national level to target the needs of women and girls from vulnerable and excluded groups, to take account of their particular needs, especially to tackle gender-based violence and intersecting forms of inequality and discrimination faced in access to healthcare, employment, education and housing that may intensify during the pandemic.
Mid-Term EU Recommendations
EAPN also wrote a letter to Commissioner Nicolas Schmit, asking him to provide leadership and to propose a Framework Directive on Minimum Income, as soon as possible, and to ensure that Minimum Income is in the European Commission’s work programme. The following are the mid-term proposals:
- Embed poverty and social impact assessment.
- Reinforce quality public health and social care services.
- Prioritise adequate minimum income and social protection.
- Protect employment, prevent precarious work and revalue front-line work.
- Ensure that poor and vulnerable groups do not pay through austerity measures.
Long-term EU recommendations
EAPN makes the following long-term recommendations, an EU Action for a Social and Green Recovery:
- Adopt an overarching EU social and sustainable strategy, with ending poverty a pre-requisite
- Agree an integrated EU antipoverty strategy, as goal and framework for the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan
- Implement a comprehensive assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on poverty and equality in the EU, with guidance for MS
- Establish “strong and balanced” coordination throughout the European Semester
- Make progress on obligatory rights and the European commitment to guarantee adequate income
- Ensure that the EU recovery plan benefits the poor and vulnerable, with 30% of ESF+
- Ensure meaningful participation of people experiencing poverty and civil society organisations, implementing these changes in the Employment Guidelines
- End the era of austerity in Europe, and use taxation to help pay the costs of rescue and recovery packages.