This week I attended the European Parliament Poverty Intergroup. The main topic of the meeting was minimum income schemes, and there was much debate as to how they work, are they legal etc. To be honest, nothing really new. However, I was really touched by a speaker from Ireland who took the floor and moved away from the sometimes technical rhetoric about poverty and asked hard questions: “Why am I pushed to the side. Why am I brushed under the carpet? Why is there nothing to help me?”. He wanted MEPs to tell him why his needs for housing, for income support till he found a job, as well as for other social assistance were just ignored. Why was he not worth supporting and why did he have to stay in the gaps that exist in our social protection systems?
What struck me about what he said was the disconnect between his experience of life on the margins, the reality of living in the gaps, and the debate going on around him. His questions remained unanswered, although some colleagues from other NGOs tried to address his concerns and those of others who experience poverty.
If we continue to have such a disconnect between the policy discussions and the realities that they create or don’t address, then we cannot claim to be good at what we do. We need more reality checks, more voices asking hard questions and more transfer of experience into poverty.
In the meetings we plan for 2016 we hope to have more of those voices and our members experience of providing services and actions among some of the most vulnerable people in our societies. In our Enews this week you will see a report from the Church City Mission Oslo on the reality of employment in Norway and another from Diakonie Austria on the impact of Dementia. Please read them and see the reality – and then let’s all try to get good answers to hard questions.
Have a good weekend,