Promoting local development through smart subsidies’ solutions addressing poverty and strengthening social inclusion
13th European Week of Regions and Cities
Click here to view a summary of the event
12 October 2015
Special advisor to the Mayor of Athens, Greece
Methodologies officer for the Department of social benefits concerning state social support, poverty and social work, Labour Office of the Czech Republic
Officer on social benefits on poverty, Local Labour office of Beroun, Czech Republic
EU liaison officer, Fondazione Banco Alimentare Onlus, Italy
Manager for Communication and events, OvidiuRo Association, Romania
Tailored according to the needs of public authorities, smart subsidies help to implement and manage public funds efficiently and in complete transparency. The conference discussed how to design such solutions which can also facilitate the implementation of programmes benefiting from EU funds.
This special event of Policies and Practices focused on the topic of promoting local development through smart subsidies solutions fighting poverty and strengthening social inclusion.
Supporting the most deprived through an emergency programme in Athens
Konstantina Karydi, Special Advisor to the Mayor of Athens was the first speaker on the panel. Ms Karydi put into words the effects of the economic crisis in the longer run and explained its deep impact on her country. As resources were lacking, the number of people needing help were soaring at the same time. “There was a gap”, said Ms Karydi, “and the municipality of Athens was forced to enter and answer this gap”. In 2013, she explained, the municipality received a €2m grant from the EEA grants mechanism. “It was not a preventive programme”, she said, but rather “to support the augmenting number of people who live under the poverty line and requiring support in Athens.”
Athens voucher programme
Objective: support people under the poverty line with food vouchers
- 2 million euros
- 3 700 beneficiaries
One idea was to use the grant for distributing food and basic subsistence but the process, would have taken too long to materialise. “So we thought about the vouchers and we developed a new type of service with a new programme”, she explained.
One of the great aspects of the voucher system is that it dignifies the people who use them: it respects their quality of life as well as their future. “This way”, said Ms Karydi, “we give them the opportunity to continue and get back into the system and use without the feeling of being intimidated different types of services of the municipality”.
Another benefit of the voucher-based programme, was to give supermarkets and retailers the opportunity to join in the framework of their CSR programme. The fact these vouchers are spent at retailers is a secondary benefit: “our programme does also have the purpose of creating a sustainable system of services”, said Ms Karydi. It also has “the side effect to subsidy the market by almost €2 million in the space of one year. So this is important for the retailers.” Ms Karydi continued: “what we have is an integrated services.”
As the programme is reaching an end in March 2016, Ms Karydi said their priority was to continue and extend the system, in order to expand the programme to other people in need. Secondly, the plan to integrate refugees will have to be combined with the programme tackling poverty and social exclusion. “And we are hoping to tackle social exclusion providing trainings and different types of assistance”, Ms Karydi added.
Vouchers for people in material need in the Labour Office of the Czech Republic
Next on the panel, Helena Znamenáčková and Michal Jankovský, both from the Labour Office of the Czech Republic, presented jointly the advantages of the voucher system implemented by their administration.
The programme addresses families with children, with at least one parent addicted to alcohol, drugs or gambling. Beneficiaries can use vouchers to access a large variety of essential goods such as food, drink, baby and kids goods or medical items in big chain stores or local shops. Children’s interests are protected as alcohol, tobacco and luxury goods cannot be bought with the vouchers.
Voucher programme of the Czech Labour Office
Objective : support to poor families with vouchers to access food and basic goods
- Running as from 2012
- Approximately 390 000 euros monthly
- 7 000 vouchers per month
“Assistance in material need”, the panelists said, “is a modern system design to assist people with insufficient income. The system motivates them to actively strive to secure the resources they need to meet their living requirements.” Benefits in the voucher system are twofold: the standardisation of the conditions of people in needs’ identification combined with antidiscrimination measures. “Working with people in material need is very important and must be constant and consistent”, they added. Because the Labour Office only provides basic social counselling, it cooperates with social workers from municipalities and civil sector.
An Italian example of a traditionnal food delivery system, open to cooperation and innovation Angela Frigo, the EU liaison Officer for Fondazione Banco Alimentare Onlus in Italy, introduced the work of the Foundation which consists in recovering food, perfectly edible but not saleable on the market (due to packaging errors, products close to the expiry date, etc.). “Once collected”, she said, “we distribute the food through charitable associations in Italy that assist the most deprived.”
Action of the Fondazione Banco Alimentare Onlus in Italy
Recovery and distribution of 40 767 tons of surplus food and 1 043 351 ready meals in 2014
- Collection and distribution of 14 965 tons of food products
- To assist 8 669 charitable organizations per year
- That is to say 1 909 986 poor people annually
An important change occurred when EU subsidies shifted from the Food distribution programme for the most deprived persons of the Community (MDP) to a new Fund for European aid to the most deprived (FEAD): the general objective of this new fund is to promote social cohesion.
The latter represents an attempt of social innovation because, said Ms Frigo, “it is a combination of work from charitable organisations on one side with public, local authorities on the other side.” Ms Frigo added: “we think it is possible to do more with this fund. We are still working to implement it and to make it work in the best possible way” such as recovering more food, she said.
Another room for improvement is in the outreach. “The contribution of food recovery and distribution cannot reach all the most deprived”, said Ms Frigo. “We can improve our activities but the needs of the most deprived are higher. So we believe that if there are other solutions it is important to work on this together.”
Every child in kindergarten: encouraging child schooling through smart subsidies in Romania. Oana Stanescu, representing OvidiuRo Association, an NGO from Romania, was on the panel to present the programme “Every child in kindergarten”. It is designed to prevent early school drop out and poverty. The programme provides food vouchers to families when their child attends school. “The beneficiaries,” Ms Stanescu added, “are really poor families”, who might not realise the importance of early education in the light of their everyday needs.
The programme’s principle is simple: rural families receive food vouchers worth €11 if their child attended school every day for a month. “Besides that we try to bring the parents closer to the education system”, Ms Stanescu added.
OvidiuRo Association “Every child in kindergarten” programme
Objective : support children enrolment to kindergarten through monthly provision of food vouchers conditioned to their school attendance
- Running as from 2010
- 1300-1500 children aged 3 to 5 years old annually in two dozen rural and semi-rural communities
From the floor, Ms Kaupuza, from the Latvian association of Local and regional governments, asked what happened after kindergarten. Statistics show these types of actions induce a change of behaviour in the family. Ms Stanescu explained: “research reveals that after kindergarten, 98% of the children continue in school with a good attendance. So, after we stopped giving them vouchers, they keep going to school.”
A virtuous cycle is triggered, with the collateral benefit of school attendance in those communities on the rise: because the parents take their younger child to kindergarten, the older one continues going to school. Involvement and dignity of the beneficiaries
Jo Bothmer, project coordinator at European anti-poverty network Netherlands, asked whether the beneficiaries were involved in the decision-making processes of the programmes discussed on the panel. Ms Stanescu replied that was precisely their agenda: receiving vouchers on condition children attend kindergarten was precisely a very strong commitment and involvement. She added that the communities involved were also consulted in the ways programmes were designed and implemented.
Ms Karidy was asked to develop further on the notion of dignity of the beneficiaries. A benefit of the programme she supervises is “you do not make them queue to receive support and you allow them a selection, a choice in what they receive.” The system is targeted to the needs of the person. “Vouchers can also be a tool of influencing better consumption patterns on the food chain, and leading in this way but still horizontally”, Ms Karidy added.
Ms Frigo followed: “we receive food products and we distribute them but we are more aware that while working with charity organisations, we can give our contribution and we can support them and the final objective is to help people in need to move out from poverty. “So now”, she concluded, “at the centre of our activities there is the person and its needs.” Ms Karidy added that what mattered more than supporting people in need was actually to help them exit poverty.