human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

A COVID-19 advocacy success by Caritas France

Intense work was key to achieve emergency aid for families

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As in many other countries, weeks of lockdown have had heavy consequences for the most vulnerable and, among them, low-income families. In normal times, their budget is extremely restrained – that is why we have pledged for a raise of the minimum social benefits for a long time.

Secours Catholique. Gironde. Bordeaux.

The lockdown has been further reducing their income and raising their expenses due to no school lunch for children, a raise in consumption of domestic energy and telephone, etc.

Since the beginning of lockdown, Secours Catholique-Caritas France has implemented a large-scale voucher distribution operation to support people in need by allowing them to buy food and hygiene products. Nevertheless, our action should not replace a public response. Therefore, we have called for the government to provide an exceptional allowance of 250€ per person and per month for people and families in need.

We asked for it repeatedly and in different ways: with a letter by our president to the Prime Minister, via an OpEd in a large national newspaper, and with our allies. Fearing that our demand would disappear during the ministerial trade-offs, we made a joint call with other organisations[i], asked the French President to support this measure with a letter on April 6, and launched a petition.

On 17 April, the French National Assembly voted in favour of this measure: on 15 May the national social services would automatically transfer an allowance of 150€ per household receiving minimum social benefits such as the RSA[ii], and additional 100€ per child. For households receiving only housing benefits, the allowance would be 100€ per child only.

This measure, which cost is estimated at €900 million, addressed more than 4 million households. It was completed at the beginning of May with an announcement by the Prime Minister of an allowance of €200 for 800,000 people under 25 years old of age, modest students and young workers in vulnerable situations receiving housing benefits. The allowance is to be transferred in June.

The mobilisation of Secours Catholique-Caritas France was key to bring these measures forward. We asked for the allowance from the beginning of lockdown, we succeeded in mobilising our partners, finding political allies and getting public attention. In the end, our call to the Head of State showed our commitment to increase the level of mobilisation on this vital issue.

However, we are conscious that this allowance leaves some people out, although they are also facing precarity during this sanitary crisis. That is the case of elderly people getting the elderly benefit, people with disabilities and alone, asylum seekers and the people under 25 years of age who do not receive housing benefits and cannot benefit from the RSA.

Finally, the approved amount is insufficient and below what we had pledged for. Therefore, we continue to call for a rapid and significant increase of minimum social benefits, which do not allow, today, for people to get out of a survival situation, and an extension to those who are 18 to 25 years old.


[i] CFDT, l’UNSA, Emmaüs France, l’UNIOPSS, APF – France handicap, FAS (Fédération des Acteurs de la Solidarité), FAP (Fondation Abbé Pierre), Collectif ALERTE, ATD Quart Monde, Fapil, l’Ansa, Semaines Sociales de France, Mission de France, Apprentis d’Auteuil, Aides, MNCP, Communautés Vie Chrétienne (CVX), Fédération de l’entraide protestante (FEP) and with the support of Oxfam France, Les Petits frères des pauvres, Vacances et Familles et Vacances Ouvertes, CMR, Réseau des Accorderies.

[ii] The RSA is the minimum benefit that people living in France and above 25 years old of age have a right to get if they do not benefit from any other revenue. It amounts to 564€ per month for a person living alone, which is about the half of poverty line. In fact, 1/3 of righting holders do not benefit from it.

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Josephine Dubois

Executive Assistant to the Head of Advocacy for France and Europe
Secours Catholique-Caritas France