How EU countries could support social innovation
We’re past the halfway mark of the Europe 2020 strategy and far from reaching the targets, one of which was to reduce by twenty million the people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion by 2020. Due to the austerity measures, today around five million people more live in poverty than only five years ago. In CARITAS, in our local social services and parishes we observe the increase of in-work-poverty, a clearly insufficient unemployment reduction in many countries and reduced access to services: social and health services, education, housing, and culture. Statistical data support what CARITAS has observed.
We need a new approach, a new paradigm. In CARITAS we demonstrate that it is possible. It is worth considering just two of many projects implemented by CARITAS and other organisations that show the way forward for economic sustainable policies.
Cooperative enterprises in the Netherlands
COIN is a cooperative for part–time entrepreneurs developed by CARITAS Netherlands. People start working part-time and together with others. The employees focus on their strengths and talents, the cooperative assists them with things like administration, training, supplies and housing. The entrepreneurs save a part of their turnover and declare their expenses; their spending power improves. They establish new social networks useful for their business and personal relations. The members can stay on welfare whilst making a turnover. Part of their turnover is paid out to the local authority to repay their welfare benefits.
It is a sustainable business model as it empowers people and is beneficial for the municipalities and the community. It promotes social participation and independence and reduction in public costs.
Refugee Hotel in Austria
CARITAS Vienna (Austria) developed the Magdas Hotel which is run by twenty refugees from sixteen countries. Between them all, the staff can speak thirty six languages. The hotel solves social and economic problems with entrepreneurial tools.
The project aims primarily at creating job opportunities for people with a refugee background living in poverty with little or no chance of getting a job. It also helps change the ”image” of refugees – focusing on their skills and potentials rather than on their problems. Finally, the project creates a positive role model on how to integrate refugees in Austrian society and in the business world
Social investment: social protection, services and social economy
Social investment is essential in creating a resilient society. It should be understood in its double dimension: as an investment in social protection and social services but also as an investment in social economy and innovation. There should always be a safety net in the general social protection system that protects the most vulnerable.
Social investments are like an insurance. In the short run, you have a cost, but in the long run you are stronger and more resilient. Research shows that a commitment to social investments is clearly paying off. Not spending on social services and protection (like in health prevention) has a huge cost in the long-run.
The initiative of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) concerning Social Protection Floors is a useful instrument to achieve a comprehensive coverage. The four minimum guarantees are access to essential health care, a basic income security for children, for people in active age who are unable to earn a sufficient income and for retired people.
Public authorities should not focus merely on employment but should be aware of the importance of housing, education, healthcare services, social services and social protection.
The EU and Member States should improve access to financial opportunities (loans, microcredits, technical support, etc.) for social economy projects, including eased access for social entrepreneurs, in particular youth and the long-term unemployed and groups at particular risk, such as refugees. A proper implementation of public procurement rules is also very important, allowing local authorities to subcontract services to the social economy.
Jorge Nuño Mayer
Secretary General of Caritas Europa
CARITAS Europa is the network of CARITAS organisations on the European continent. The united strength of its forty nine members, present in forty six European countries, makes of CARITAS Europa one of the major social actors in Europe.