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Following the EU Council’s Recommendation on 30 January 2023 regarding adequate minimum income ensuring active inclusion, Members of the European Parliament this month adopted a resolution calling for an EU directive on minimum income. The establishment of a legally binding directive on minimum income would mean that all EU national governments would have to establish a minimum income scheme, further enhancing their accessibility, adequacy, and effectiveness across the EU.  

Minimum Income Schemes are key for people’s ability to lead dignified lives

The adopted text highlights the importance of minimum income being effective, equal, and universal, allowing people to live in dignity. It calls for minimum income to be part of a broader income support scheme and urges EU national governments to regularly evaluate their national schemes and update them if needed so that specific needs and overlapping inequalities of disadvantageous groups, such as people with disabilities, will be considered. Therefore, the importance of strong monitoring and evaluation systems for minimum income schemes (MISs) is emphasized. Finally, the resolution, despite the need for more suggestions to involve regional and public social services, it does call for the involvement of social partners, civil society organizations, and people experiencing poverty and social exclusion in the development and implementation of the Council recommendation and national MISs. This is a clear message that no one should be left behind.

Enabling social services to address the underlying factors of poverty and exclusion

However, more than simply providing a minimum income may be needed to help people achieve long-term financial stability. Enabling services, which aim to address the underlying factors that prevent people from achieving financial independence, such as a lack of education or job training, poor physical or mental health, or a lack of access to affordable housing or childcare, are also crucial components. They help individuals and families break the cycle of poverty and achieve long-term financial stability. The role of local authorities and public social services, responsible for the implementation and delivery of the minimum income schemes by determining eligibility criteria, processing applications, and providing ongoing wider social support to the beneficiaries, is crucial. However, beyond the provision of financial support, it is essential to ensure adequate access to support services, such as job training, education, childcare, healthcare, and housing support.

Recognising the role of local and regional authorities for sustainable inclusion

The European Social Network (ESN) welcomes the adopted resolution on minimum income, stressing the need to combine financial support with access to a broader set of enabling services relating to childcare, education, health, housing, long-term care, and access to energy. As local and regional authorities are responsible for providing many enabling services, it is key to involve them in the design of minimum-income schemes and the development of broader social inclusion strategies. Furthermore, they should have access to relevant national data through a common framework to enable them to retrieve and update data belonging to jointly supported beneficiaries, allowing them to have a full picture of a person’s situation and provide support from all levels.  Sufficient financing of local social services is key for their ability to provide enabling support to complement financial support through national minimum income schemes. Our recent report 'Partnerships for Social Inclusion' highlights what EU, national, regional and local authorities can do to ensure that minimum income is provided in combination with a broader set of support, addressing people’s multiple barriers to social inclusion.