human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Study on educational poverty

Education: key to breaking the cycle of poverty

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When my Spanish husband retired, we returned to Portugal, after having lived and worked in Spain for 27 years. I only completed primary school and lack the skills required by the labour market. I had several temporary and non-qualified jobs and completed several trainings, but never obtained a scholar certificate. Currently, I am still unemployed, I don’t receive any social support and still face the same difficulties with being be included in the labour market.

Maria, aged 57, assisted by the Diocesan Caritas in Beja, Portugal

Caritas organisations empower people to find solutions to the poverty and social exclusion related challenges they face. The way in which Caritas does this, is firstly by listening to people and offering individual counselling, services, material or financial assistance. Caritas also compiles quantitative and qualitative data on the challenges faced by people who call on its services. In accordance with this two-pronged strategy, the link becomes clear that many of the challenges they face are rooted in gaps in the country’s social welfare or social protection system.

This process allows for a structured approach within which the signals given by the people can be linked to the underlying structural cause(s) of the problems they face. Such an analysis enables Caritas to look for solutions that address the root causes, and to advocate for structural change by recommending solutions to the competent authorities at a local, regional, national and/or European level.

This is ultimately the main purpose of the Caritas Poverty Observatories (CPOs), to collect data in a structured way, analyse it and detect where structural change is necessary. Given the fact that the competence for social policy is situated at all governance levels, it is crucially important to continue increasing the national and European compatibility of CPO data collection. Keeping in mind that progress is achieved step by step, this publication marks the initial fruit of this process.

Four Caritas organisations* have collected data regarding the educational history of the people in need of their service. The analysis of these data, both qualitative and quantitative, have brought about a better link between the causes and consequences of educational poverty, both at social and structural levels and formulated recommendations for action by the various governance levels – including the EU level – in accordance with their legal and policy competence in the matter.

* Caritas Germany, Caritas Greece, Caritas Italy and Caritas Portugal