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On 30 January, the EU national ministers adopted a Recommendation on adequate minimum income calling national governments to ensure effective access to minimum income and enabling social inclusion services, which can help people to overcome barriers of social and labour market inclusion. For several years, the European Social Network (ESN) has been advocating for a stronger integration of minimum income with social services, as monetary support alone often is not enough to lift oneself out of poverty and social exclusion. ESN’s latest report, on ‘Partnerships for Social Inclusion- Integrated Minimum Income and Social Services Programmes’ highlights how minimum income in combination with social services can become an impactful enabler for social inclusion.

Making minimum income accessible – strengthening take-up

The need for increased take-up for social support, especially for populations in socio-economic disadvantaged situations has just recently been stressed by a resolution voted by the Committee for Employment and Social Affairs in the European Parliament. ESN‘s report has found that with estimated rates of 40-60 % non-take-up, the situation is far from marginal. It highlights several programmes to improve take-up, such as ‘Vroeg erop af’, which provides support with debt relief in Amsterdam (The Netherlands), or  programmes for Roma families in Greece and Spain. 

Integrating minimum income within a wider network of social support

It is necessary to address particular life circumstances such as care responsibilities, ill mental and physical health, homelessness, debt, or substance abuse to promote the sustainable and lasting social inclusion of people furthest from labour markets. Local social services are key partners in the implementation of integrated social inclusion programmes. ESN‘s report found that collaboration between social services working on social inclusion is frequently based on informal agreements and professional networks, but this type of agreement is highly dependent on individuals’ willingness to collaborate. By formalising collaborations between organisations, integrated support can become more sustainable.

Fostering integrated minimum income support at all levels

The report makes a series of proposals for European, national and local policymakers with responsibility for integrated social inclusion support programmes. Notably collaboration is impeded by fears of breaching rules for data protection. European and national guidance on this issue could facilitate better collaboration between services responsible for financing, needs assessment and provision of minimum income and enabling social services. Furthermore, national authorities should develop a legislative framework that enables collaboration and joint working between authorities across administrative levels. At local level, authorities should set up integrated support strategies, programmes and partnerships, for example through one-stop-shops, joint needs assessment and case management involving not only social services but also youth, housing and employment services, amongst others.

Read the report here