Ten years ago in March the European Council urged the member countries and the Commission to combat social exclusion actively and, ambitiously, to eradicate poverty within the European Union by 2010. Unfortunately, during this recession we still see people falling into exclusion, and the goal of eradicating poverty has obviously not been reached yet. Based on the EU’s own definition of poverty, nearly 80 million people still live below the poverty line in Europe.
In 2009, a new institution called the Nordic Centre for Welfare and Social Issues - NVC - was established within the Nordic Council of Ministers. In basic terms, the institution’s task is to promote development in the sphere of Nordic social and welfare policies. The Swedish article introduces Tone Mørk, chairperson of the NVC. As well as her own knowledge on the subject, she presents some of the viewpoints of the Council of Ministers regarding poverty and exclusion in the Nordic countries: for instance, which groups are affected and what differences there are between the Nordic countries. We also get a brief comparison between the Nordic countries and the rest of Europe.
In Iceland, the recession has hit young people hard. Experience from other countries has shown that long periods of unemployment imply risks for the future lives and careers of young people. With this in mind, the Icelandic ministry responsible for social issues and employment has formulated a goal stating that young people should not be unemployed for more than three months before being offered employment, education or some other activity. A network consisting of numerous co-operation partners offers young people a broad range of activities that can be adapted to individual needs. Meet young Helene and Sverrir who chose to study tourism.
The Faroese article reflects on the phenomenon of courses for unemployed people. Do these courses fulfil a purpose for the participants in the long term, or are they just a temporary pastime designed to embellish the statistics?
The Danish article is an interview of Lars René Petersen, Director of the Center for Socialøkonomi, which promotes social enterprises. The article describes how people with disabilities can be given a chance to work instead of living on benefits. Ways of doing this include networks, mentoring, professional development and developing specific local strategies. As an example, Petersen describes how people with disorders on the autism spectrum are employed as IT consultants, for instance in software quality control. These tasks require attention to detail, logical thinking, a systematic approach, patience and concentration – in other words, the autists’ disability becomes their strength.
Finland’s article is an interview of Ilona Maaperä, head of Kalliola adult education centre. The article describes the settlement movement and its work with groups at risk of social exclusion.
This issue’s Norwegian article tells us about the EAEA, the European umbrella organisation for adult education. According to the EAEA, adult education that provides key competences promotes social inclusion. EAEA encourages its member organisations to share their experiences and solutions and, in the same spirit, annually presents the Grundtvig award. This year, in celebration of the European theme year, the award criteria highlight projects which use adult education to fight poverty and marginalisation. Chairperson Sue Waddington emphasises that participation in adult education results in improved self-confidence and well-being, which in turn translates into more active participation in society and increased welfare.
In the Åland islands, a new integration project is seeing the light of day. The project, called Integration.ax, is organised by the adult education centre Medis in the form of a course for newcomers whose mother tongue is not Swedish. Participants are offered traineeships, language courses and civic orientation. The basic idea is to always build on the participants’ qualifications and work experience acquired in their home countries. The aim of the project is that newcomers get to use their professional skills in the new home country, while the Åland society benefits from their competencies. Project coordinator Maria Christensen recounts her experiences from her first day on the job.
The idea behind the theme year is to give every citizen the right to a dignified life and the opportunity to participate fully in society. This can be achieved by increasing awareness and sharing experiences within and outside of national borders – so let yourself be inspired!
See also: http://ec.europa.eu/social