human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Fostering access to services

to support people to move out of poverty

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On the occasion of the World Day for Social Justice of 20 February, Caritas Europa presents today its new report on poverty and inequalities in Europe. The report highlights the legal barriers, bureaucratic hurdles and other difficulties vulnerable people face when trying to access housing, early childhood education and care, employment and other basic services.

We are now three years on a waiting list for social housing. In the meantime, we rent a small apartment that is actually too small and too expensive for us. We have two bedrooms; our three children sleep altogether in one room. We have no money left at the end of the month. Our children are suffering from this situation, but there’s nothing we can do other than wait.

Elsie, 34, married to Johan and mother of three children aged 8, 5 and 3 years, Belgium

Caritas beneficiaries who are trying to access basic services identify lack of understandable information, bureaucracy, strict rules and formal application requirements as the main barriers that hinder access to these services. There is lack of a personalised and caring approach, which translates into the service not responding to the beneficiaries’ needs. This is particularly the case with public employment services.

In order to address these challenges, the Caritas Europa report recommends Member States to ensure access to social rights, especially for those in situations of vulnerability. The European Commission should promote the exchange of best practices to address any legal barriers and bureaucratic hurdles that restrict access to services. A gradual move towards universal access to services and minimum income, together with a tailor-made individual approach in service provision, are vital steps for effectively lifting people out of poverty. The Council should further adopt recommendations towards this aim and monitor their follow up.

This report, based on findings by Caritas organisations across the EU, calls for coordinated and coherent action by the EU and its Member States to improve access to services for the most deprived people. It is crucial that people are fully aware and informed about their social rights and how to access them.

Maria Nyman, Secretary General of Caritas Europa

A strong Social Europe is a priority for the European Commission and the European Pillar of Social Rights is pivotal in this endeavour. Its success will depend on the commitment and contributions of all stakeholders. The new Caritas CARES! Report on poverty and inequalities, highlighting the challenges faced by the most deprived people in accessing services, is an excellent example of how civil society organisations can successfully contribute to shaping policies that reduce inequalities and fight poverty. Its recommendations are a good contribution for the preparation of the Action Plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

Nicolas Schmit, EU Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights

Caritas Europa is committed to contributing to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), as proclaimed by the EU Institutions on 17 November 2017 in Gothenburg. Ensuring access to housing, public employment services and early childhood education and care services, along with access to minimum income, are key elements in the goal of the EPSR to reduce poverty and social exclusion in Europe.