human development, social justice and sustainable social systems
Caritas Sweden caring for the most vulnerable
The response by the Swedish authorities to the Corona crisis has been different to the majority of other countries. Primary schools, restaurants and shops remain open, and gatherings of up to 50 persons are still allowed. However, the objective has been the same as for other states: to flatten the curve, thus avoiding heavy pressure on the public health system. It will therefore not come as a surprise that the pandemic still has huge consequences in Sweden, also from a socioeconomic perspective. The public is called to take on a large responsibility in respecting social distancing measures and to stay at home if they experience any symptoms. They are advised to avoid any travel, whether domestic or international. Moreover, persons over 70 years of age are requested not to have any social interactions at all, and there is a ban on visits to the homes for the elderly.
Similar to the reality in other countries, Caritas Sweden has noted that persons in the most vulnerable situations are the worst affected by the crisis. Undocumented migrants are among those who face the most challenges, with regards to the loss of unsecure employment contracts, for example, which can quickly lead to a real struggle for survival. Caritas Sweden is being contacted every day by persons who cannot access social security and who are only entitled to emergency healthcare. Moreover, thousands of people who have resident permits due only to their employment, often in restaurants, cleaning or transport services, now see the market facing severe hardship. Those who lose their employment are under immense pressure to find new jobs, without which they will also lose their resident permit.
The number of phone calls received by Caritas Sweden from persons seeking help has not only drastically increased in the last few weeks, but the focus has also been different from the usual requests for legal or practical advice. An increasing number of individuals and families are asking for urgent financial support for the most basic needs, such as food and accommodation.
In addition to the support provided by Caritas Sweden, a number of parishes across the country have proactively organised assistance to people in need through their local Caritas, by offering support to those who are lonely or in need, to buy food, medication or anything else that they may need support with in the current context. At other places, the food distribution centres have been replaced by home-delivery of food parcels to people who are elderly or in disadvantaged situations.
All public masses in the diocese of Stockholm have been cancelled since the end of March due to the coronavirus. Whilst this is painful, Caritas Sweden reminds us that by caring for our brothers and sisters in the most vulnerable situations we can continue to worship.