Social Inclusion & Poverty

Social inclusion informs the work of the European Anti Poverty Network Ireland. Social inclusion is about ensuring the marginalised and those living in poverty have greater participation in decision making which affects their lives, allowing them to improve their living standards and their overall well-being. This section aims to provide users with a comprehensive guide to social inclusion at national and European level, the kind of policy processes that it involves, and how it can be developed and monitored to ensure progressive social change.

Contents: Social Inclusion Explained

  1. What is the EU social inclusion strategy?
  2. Other elements of EU social inclusion strategy
  3. Social objectives explained
  4. Targets and indicators
  5. National reports
  6. Joint reports
  7. Irish National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016
  8. 2010 EU year for combating poverty and social exclusion
  9. Monitoring and implemtation
  10. Our engagement with the social inclusion strategy

1. What is the EU Social Inclusion Strategy?

In 2000 the EU agreed the Lisbon Strategy, which outlined that the EU must address economic, employment and social priorities with equal importance. Environmental priorities were added in 2001. As a way of addressing the social element of this strategy the EU and its Member States including Ireland agreed a Social Inclusion Strategy the aim of which was to “make a decisive impact on poverty by 2010”. 2010 has been designated the EU Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion.

Because social policy is still mainly the responsibility of Member States, rather than the EU, the Strategy is organized through an ‘open method of co-ordination‘ (OMC) a process agreed on in the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997 and which was already used to Coordinate Employment policy in the EU.

In 2010 the Lisbon Strategy came to an end. The EU has agreed to carry on the process in the Europe 2020 Strategy for the period 2010-2020. The social inclusion strategy is again part of this with the commitment to making it more effective. It is currently called the European Platform
Against Poverty the details of which will be agreed in late 2010 early 2011. You can check out EAPN’s proposals on the Platform Against Poverty here.

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2. Other elements of the EU Social Inclusion Process

  • Funding – A community action programme – now called PROGRESS (programme for Economic and Social Competitiveness) 2007-2013 to promote transnational mutual learning and awareness raising, and which funds studies and surveys.
  • Annual EU Presidency Meetings of People Experiencing Poverty (co-ordinated by EAPN and supported by the European Commission) which take place in Brussels and involves delegations from each Member States including four from Ireland.
  • EU Round Table on Poverty which takes place in October, near the 17th October UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

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3. What are the Social Objectives?

The original social inclusion objectives were agreed in Nice in 2000 and revised in 2006. This was part of the Lisbon Strategy 2000-2010. These were to achieve the overall aim ‘to make a decisive impact on poverty by 2010’.

New objectives will be agreed in 2010 as part of Europe 2020: a European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The objectives set out more clearly what the goals of the EU strategy are and Member States in writing their own Plans or reports to the EU have to present their plans to achieve these.

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4. Targets & Indicators

From 2000-2010 the EU did not have an agreed poverty reduction target but did set indicators as a way of measuring and comparing progress across the EU including the at-risk of poverty indicator.

While not required, Ireland has adopted poverty reduction goals in the past. The one adopted in 2007 (in Towards 2016) is ‘to reduce the number of those experiencing consistent poverty to between 2% and 4% by 2012, with the aim on eliminating consistent poverty by 2016’.

In the UK the Overall Poverty Goal for the NRSSPSI 2008-2010 is that: ‘The government will provide all families with a clear route out of poverty by 2010.”

Europe 2020 Strategy has an agreed EU poverty reduction target. This target is to lift at least 20 million people out of risk of poverty and exclusion (defined as the number of people who are at risk of poverty and exclusion according to three indicators i.e. at-risk-poverty; material deprivation; jobless households). Member States have to adopt their own target as a means of achieving the overall EU target.

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5. National Reports

Initially known as the National Action Plans for Social Inclusion (NAP incl.) until 2006, Member States including Ireland now submit two-yearly National Reports on Strategies for Social Protection and Social Inclusion (NRSSPSI) to the Commission. These plans so far have been for 2001-2003, 2003-2006, 2006-2008 and 2008-2010. The NAP Inclusion is the main statement of Government policy on the fight against poverty. The NRSSPSI includes chapters on (i) social inclusion (ii) pensions and (iii) health and long-term care.

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6. Joint Reports

The EU’s Joint Inclusion Report 2009 outlines the following challenges:

For Ireland:

  • To continue to invest in services in tandem with welfare reforms to address inequalities and reduce poverty levels. Prioritises childcare and particularly its affordability.
  • It emphasises the need to continue to address the high risk of poverty and low employment rates of certain disadvantaged groups through targeted measures and tax and welfare reform.
  • With numbers on unemployment benefit increasing, to monitor the adequacy of welfare system to meet their income support needs and ensure timely responses regarding personalised needs and labour market interventions.

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7. Irish National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016

Ireland also has a 10 year National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016. It is a successor to the National Anti-Poverty Strategy (NAPS) 1997-2007. It is separate but linked to the plans submitted as part of the EU Social Inclusion Strategy and has the same overall goal but is a much wider strategy. It has 12 high level goals and over 100 other targets outlined under the heading of the Lifecycle approach which are:

  • Children
  • People of Working Age
  • Older People
  • People with Disabilities
  • It also has a section on Communities.

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8. 2010 European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion

2010 is the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. Overall the Year is an opportunity to review progress in implementing the EU Social Inclusion Strategy and put in place a process for post 2010. EAPN Ireland and the Irish Government have a programme for the 2010 Year.The agreed objectives for the year are:

  • Recognition of Rights
  • Shared responsibility and participation
  • Cohesion
  • Commitment and Concrete action

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9. Structures for Implementation

(1) European:

  • EU Social Protection Committee (Officials from Member States)

(2) Ireland:

There are structures at EU, National and local level to support the Implementation social Inclusion strategies. These include

(a) National

(b) Local

  • County/City Development Boards and other local structures
  • Social inclusion units in government departments and on a phased basis in half of all county/city local authorities
  • Community and Voluntary Sector
  • Partnership structures

Full list in Institutions in Annex 5 of the Irish National Action Plan for Social Inclusion (NAP incl) 2007-2016

Other key elements of Ireland’s social inclusion process include:

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10. European Anti Poverty Network Engagement with Social Inclusion Strategy

EAPN at European and Irish level played a key role within the EU for the introduction of a Social Inclusion Strategy and since its introduction actively engages to ensure that the guidelines and their implementation are as effective as possible in addressing poverty and social exclusion and that people experiencing poverty and the organisations that represent are actively engaged as key stakeholders in the process.

EAPN (Europe) has been successful in accessing funding from the European Commission under the Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity (PROGRESS) and previously the Community Action Programme to support their engagement in this work. EAPN at EU and national level continue to play a central role in influencing plans for post 2010.’

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