This year the European Meeting of People Experiencing Poverty, organised by the European Anti-Poverty Network took place on 15-16 November, in Brussels. The theme for the meeting was ‘Empowerment through Participation’ and it also followed-up last year’s discussion on the European Pillar of Social Rights. Magdi Birtha, our Policy and Advocacy officer was invited to share COFACE’s views on the potential of the proposed Pillar to fight against poverty and social exclusion. Magdi highlighted among other points that there is little or no attention paid yet on how to bring the most vulnerable and deprived groups (e.g. homeless people, persons with disabilities, family carers, etc.) in the labour market who may lack necessary skills to contribute to economic growth in the short term, due to the long-term, structural exclusion they have been facing, something started even before the economic crisis. COFACE is convinced that social rights should be the starting point and the Pillar should be set firmly in a social policy framework rather than being an instrument to achieve a stable Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).
Furthermore, she emphasised that exclusion from certain key services automatically translates into broader social exclusion, therefore it is important to include financial inclusion in the list of principles of the Pillar. Access to housing is also directly linked to financial inclusion, because without a basic bank account to pay rent or make mortgage repayments and access to credit, a family is de facto excluded from housing. This is especially an issue for the most vulnerable families. Single parent families, persons with disabilities, families with a low income, all of these are at risk of being denied access to an affordable credit to access housing due to the supposedly higher risk they represent. Effective measures to prevent poverty are as important as fighting against existing poverty, including work-life balance policies, inclusive education and labour market, quality community-based services and affordable wide-range childcare services among others.
The workshop included representatives from Hungary, France, Romania, Greece and the UK and participants had a lively discussion on the challenging aspects and potentials of the proposed Pillar. COFACE expressed the need to develop more systematic ways to involve the voice of civil society in the building and implementation of the Social Rights Pillar, through formal consultation channels for civil society to improve its legitimacy and quality.
See COFACE’s work on the European Pillar of Social Rights.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to write to Magdi Birtha at email@example.com