2010 is designated the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, with civil society groups and various governmental agencies aiming to boost cooperative efforts. In spite of longstanding pledges by leaders to make an impact reducing poverty, an estimated 80 million Europeans today live with it.
Charity workers across the EU are in the front lines every year. Euronews went out with a team in Brussels, and heard from a few of the people they help.
One said: “I got into money trouble… after my grandad died. I haven’t got a fixed home any more.”
Another confided: “All my family are dead. I don’t have anyone left. There’s no one for me to turn to.”
Exclusion from society does not only affect individuals’ wellbeing; it has a cumulative affect on society’s economic development. Exclusion cuts people adrift.
Nicolas Dermine, with ‘Samu social de Bruxelles’, said: “Since the economic crisis struck, and maybe before it, we’ve started to see quite a change among the homeless, finding more street people coming from France, Spain and Holland…”
The European Union Year against poverty will be launched officially on 21 January, in Madrid, at a high-level conference organised by the Spanish EU presidency and the European Commission.
The Fourth World social distress assistance movement ‘ATD Quart Monde’, as part of its programme, promotes dialogue between poor people and others who have not experienced poverty.
ATD Quart Monde’s Régis De Muylder said: “People who live in poverty today have more difficulty than they did ten years ago getting access to fundamental rights, whether it’s housing, education or healthcare.”
In targeted awareness campaigns, the EU is stressing the importance of collective responsibility. According to Brussels, 19 million European children are exposed to the risks of poverty.