Anti-poverty plan criticised

The national plan to eradicate poverty came up with few new ideas. This is the verdict of Helsingin Sanomat (14 June 2001) in an article which analyses a paper prepared by a working group set up by the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

The plan includes no concrete actions, the paper notes and quotes Marita Ruohonen who was a member of the working group and is the chair of the Finnish network against poverty and social exclusion:

"Most of the actions listed in the plan have either been already decided upon or have been implemented."

The chair of the working group, Kari Välimäki, defended the result by saying that "no one really expected that one paper would solve something. This is one part of a long process."

"Our starting point was that the basic structures are OK. The best way to prevent poverty and social exclusion is to guarantee everyone public services and basic income. From there we started to analyse which groups of people are in specific need of support."

Helsingin Sanomat writes that the anti-poverty plan emphasises employment as the most important deterrent of poverty. The actions listed in the plan apply to various services from health to housing. This was criticised by Matti Heikkilä, the director of the Institute of Social Policy Studies.

"The plan uses quite a wide net. I wonder how for instance teaching health in schools reduces poverty and social exclusion."

Heikkilä also points out that the anti-poverty plan did not adopt a clear line in the question of basic security.

"I wouldn't like to use the word citizen's income but basic income should not be tied to whether one is receiving help in finding a job."

In the December summit in Nice, the EU Council of Ministers required that all member states prepare an action plan to fight poverty and social exclusion. According to information obtained by Helsingin Sanomat, only half of the member countries had their plans ready in time for the EU Commission to start preparing a summary.

Helsingin Sanomat points out that there are 18 million poor people in the EU countries in spite of a favourable economic situation. One of the aims of the anti-poverty plans is to create indicators for measuring poverty and monitor its development.

The newspaper adds that poverty figures in Finland are among the lowest in the EU. According to current definitios of poverty, 3,6 per cent of Finns are poor.


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