Spring Summit : Draft Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion
The Council of employment and social policy ministers will examine, on 22 February, the draft joint 2007 report on social protection and social inclusion, which will be presented at the spring European Summit on 8 and 9 March. This report is the first document to integrate the strategies relating to social inclusion, pension systems, health care and long-term care, in accordance with the procedure of rationalisation of the open methods of coordination defined in 2006.
According to this document, recent developments are "encouraging". "Sound management of social policy at the national and EU level is today consolidated. [...] Reforms have been carried out or are underway in practically all member states in order that the systems are fiscally and socially more viable and better meet the changing needs of individuals." There is a "strong convergence towards active inclusion". And, concerning the pension reform, there is a "will to progress at once on two aspects: adequacy and viability". Finally, the member states take into consideration, "in a more effective manner than in the past, the problems linked to equality (of the sexes)".
But flaws remain and the report draws up several recommendations.
THE MOST EXCLUDED OF THE EXCLUDED
Youth poverty. In all member states, notes the report, youth unemployment, in particular of youths descending from immigration, is two times higher than the global rate. "Youths are often caught up in a vicious circle of poorly paid or unpaid jobs". Many states are developing apprenticeships, personalised help, or are actively proposing replacement solutions after periods of short-term unemployment, by focusing on socially underprivileged areas or by improving access to general measures. The report thus recommends paying "particular attention (to) the situation of immigrants and ethnic minorities".
Active inclusion. The introduction of stricter conditions for access to social security benefits, associated with a progressive decrease in benefits at the time of reintegration in the work market, as well as tax credits for those on low income, has proven its results, according to the report. But this measure "must not worsen the social exclusion of those who are not in a position to work". It is also necessary to "look more closely into the guarantee of a sufficient minimum revenue".
The homeless. Certain member states are developing a "more structural approach to exclusion in terms of housing and the phenomenon of the homeless," by concerning themselves with prevention and quality of housing rather than just the situation of the people on the street. "Reconciling the need to guarantee universal access to quality services with certain financial constraints will be a major challenge."
The handicapped. If the situation of the handicapped appears to be better taken into consideration, "those suffering from mental illnesses and handicaps are receiving less attention".
STIMULATING LONG-TERM CARE
The report states "striking differences" between member states and within them. …