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Poverty: Commission proposes new Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived
The European Commission has proposed to set up a Fund to help the most deprived persons in the EU. The Fund would support Member State schemes providing food to the most deprived people and clothing and other essential goods to homeless people and materially-deprived children. The proposal now goes to the European Parliament and the European Union's Council of Ministers for approval.
The Commission foresaw a budget of €2.5 billion for the Fund during the period 2014-2020 as part of its June 2011 proposal for a Multiannual Financial Framework (see IP/11/799). Member States would be responsible for paying 15% of the costs of their national programmes, with the remaining 85% coming from the Fund.
President of the European Commission José Manuel Durão Barroso said: "At the European level, we need new solidarity mechanisms and proper resources to help deprived and poor people who in many cases are living in a real social emergency situation. This is the purpose of the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived proposed today"
European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor commented: "The proposed new Fund would provide tangible aid to help Europe's most vulnerable people to integrate into society. It will be a concrete demonstration of EU solidarity with the weakest - those who have been worst affected by the economic and social crisis. I hope Member States and the European Parliament will adopt this proposal, and the accompanying budget, swiftly so that the support reaches those in need without delay. "
Under the proposed Fund Member States would apply for funding to support operational programmes covering the period 2014 to 2020 for schemes providing, through partner organisations, food to the most deprived persons and clothing and other essential goods (such as shoes, soap and shampoo) to the homeless and to materially-deprived children.
The proposal would give considerable flexibility to national authorities to plan and deliver the assistance in line with their national schemes. Detailed criteria to allocate assistance would be the responsibility of Member States, or even partner organisations, as they are best placed to target assistance to local needs.
Partner organisations, often non-governmental, would be responsible for delivering the food or goods to the most deprived persons. To meet the Fund's social cohesion objectives, partner organisations would not only have to provide material assistance to the most deprived persons but also undertake basic activities aimed at their social integration. The Fund would also be able to support such accompanying measures.
National authorities would be able to use the Fund to either purchase food or goods and make them available to the partner organisations or provide the partner organisations themselves with funding to do so. The proposal also foresees the possibility to use food stored in intervention stocks, if there are any.
The Europe 2020 Strategy commits the EU to reducing the number of people in or at risk of poverty by at least 20 million.
Out of the 116 million people in the EU who are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, about 40 million are suffering from severe material deprivation.
One of the main features of material deprivation is the inability to access appropriate quantities and quality of food. The share of the EU population unable to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day – something which is defined as a basic need by the World Health Organisation – was 8.7% in 2010, i.e. more than 43 million people. The first figures available for 2011 indicate a worsening situation.
A particularly severe form of material deprivation is homelessness, the extent of which is difficult to quantify. Nevertheless, estimates indicate that there were 4.1 million homeless people in Europe in 2009/2010. Homelessness has recently increased due to the social impact of the financial and economic crisis and rising unemployment. Even more worryingly, homeless people increasingly consist of families with children, young people and people with a migrant background.
There are 25.4 million children at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU. Overall, children are at greater risk of poverty or social exclusion than the rest of the population (27 % against 23 % for the total population). This exposes them to material deprivation going beyond malnutrition. For example, 5.7 million children cannot afford new clothes and 4.7 million do not have two pairs of properly fitting shoes (including a pair of all-weather shoes). Children suffering from material deprivation are more likely than their better-off peers to do badly in school, experience poor health and fail to realise their full potential as adults.
The European Union's main instrument to support employability, fight poverty and promote social inclusion is and will remain the European Social Fund (ESF). This structural instrument invests directly in people's competences and aims at improving their value on the labour market. Yet some of the most vulnerable citizens suffering from extreme forms of poverty are too far away from the labour market to benefit from the social inclusion measures of the European Social Fund.
The EU's Food Distribution programme for the Most Deprived People (MDP) has since 1987 been an important source of provisions for organisations working in direct contact with the least fortunate people providing them with food. It currently distributes some 500 000 tonnes of food per year to the benefit of deprived people. It was created to make good use of the then agricultural surpluses. With the expected depletion of intervention stocks and their high unpredictability over the period 2011-2020, as a consequence of successive reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy, the MDP will be discontinued at the end of 2013. The proposed Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived would replace and improve upon the MDP.
László Andor's website: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/andor/
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Jonathan Todd (+32 2 299 41 07)
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