Since the joint proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) was made by the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament at the Social Summit in Gothenburg, Sweden on the 17th November 2017, those committed to creating a more social Europe have been eagerly waiting for the Action Plan outlining concrete measures for the implementation of the EPSR to be published.
As a European network of 52 members in 32 countries delivering social services to the most vulnerable and advocating for social justice, we have long been determined to see the rights enshrined in the Pillar turned into reality for all people in Europe. Therefore, Eurodiaconia has participated in the 10-month-long consultation process on the Action Plan, and we submitted our written input based on the experience and needs of our members. We firmly believe that for our Union to be truly social, it must be both inclusive and non-discriminatory – combining concrete, targeted actions with universal rights and support.
Finally, on 4 March this year, the European Commission launched the Action Plan which immediately generated heated discussions among experts, policy makers and all interested parties debating whether the proposed actions will be broad and strong enough to make meaningful changes in the lives of the most deprived, excluded and discriminated against in the EU.
We are very aware of the continuing negative socio-economic situation that too many people in our Member States experience. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 90 million people were at risk of poverty and social exclusion, and every fifth child lived in a family that experiences poverty. Women, persons with disabilities, Roma, migrants and many others have been facing enormous inequalities in all areas of life including when accessing basic services and social services. Young people, almost 18% of whom are currently unemployed, have been struggling to start their careers. An increasing number of people experience some form of homelessness in the EU in the absence of available social housing and strong enough social protection systems. And all these major challenges have been further exacerbated by the socio-economic effects of the present COVID-19 crisis.
The EU is often held up as an example of a socially well-functioning Union, where human rights are respected and where people can fulfil their potentials. But whenever we talk to our members providing services and support to those who experience marginalisation, poverty, social exclusion and a lack of care, and whenever we see the ever-growing demand for their work and services, we realise how much we need a comprehensive Social Pillar Action Plan which takes both a human rights-based approach and the revitalisation of our economies from a solidarity perspective to ensure that we have an economy that works for people.
Having taken a closer look at the proposed Action Plan, we can see several promising measures such as the new Disability Rights Strategy, the Strategy on the Rights of the Child and the European Child Guarantee, but we also feel that the Plan should go further in addressing all of the rights and principles of the Pillar rather than only focussing on some actions that are already planned.
For the Action Plan to effect real change, it must combine ambitious measures that reduce poverty, social exclusion, inequality and also the reasons for them, such as discrimination or antigypsyism. Otherwise, those who need advancement in their lives the most, and may be the hardest to reach, might be very easily left behind.
We have written a short report to share some specific opinions, proposals and concerns on key areas of the proposed Action Plan. We invite you to read our report here and interact with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.