Commission Communication Draft Joint Report on Social Inclusion.
||10 October 2001|
|Deposited in Parliament:
||7 November 2001|
||Work and Pensions |
|Basis of consideration:
||EM of 9 November 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
|To be discussed in Council:
||3 December 2001 |
||Cleared, but relevant to any debate on poverty and social exclusion
16.1 At the European Councils of Lisbon
(March 2000), Nice (December 2000) and Stockholm (June 2001),
Member States made a commitment to promote sustainable economic
growth and quality employment in order to reduce the risk of poverty
and social exclusion and to strengthen social cohesion in the
Union between 2001 and 2010.
16.2 As a way of tackling poverty and social
exclusion, Member States agreed to draw up National Action Plans
(NAPs). The objectives underpinning the NAPs were agreed at the
Nice European Council. Member States were invited to present their
NAPs by June 2001, covering a period of two years, and to develop
national indicators and mechanisms for monitoring their progress
in tackling poverty and social exclusion. On the basis of the
NAPs, the Commission presents a summary report identifying good
practice and innovative approaches of common interest to Member
States. The aim is that Member States and the Commission co-operate
in order to bring about better understanding of the problems of
social exclusion and to exchange good practice in countering it.
16.3 From 2002, this open process of co-ordination
is to be supported by a five-year Community action programme on
social inclusion. The previous Committee cleared the original
proposal and subsequent amended proposal for the action programme
on 20 July 2000 and 24 January 2001 respectively. We cleared the
revised text on 17 October 2001.
16.4 The draft Communication represents
the Commission's first policy document on poverty and social exclusion
and is seen as part of a new process, called "open method
of co-ordination", that seeks to develop the European Social
Agenda as agreed at Nice. According to the Commission:
"This report marks a significant advance in
the process of developing common indicators to measure poverty
and social exclusion across and within all Member States. It shows
that Member States and the Commission are actively engaged in
this process. This will lead to a much more rigorous and effective
monitoring of progress in tackling poverty and social exclusion
in the future. It will also contribute to better evaluations of
policies and a clearer assessment of their effectiveness and value
for money. This should lead to better policy making in Member
States in the future."
16.5 The document is divided into two parts.
Part one deals with the EUwide dimension, drawing up common
themes, whereas part two presents an analysis of the position
in each Member State.
16.6 As regards part one, the report notes
that "the number of people experiencing high exclusion and
poverty risk in society remains too high" and that "tackling
poverty and social exclusion continues to be an important challenge
facing the European Union". In summarising the main points,
the report notes that:
- the position on poverty and social exclusion
deteriorated in many Member States as a result of economic recession
in the mid 1990s, but the position stabilised between 1995 and
2000 owing to favourable economic and employment trends;
- on the basis of latest data on incomes (1997),
18% of the EU population, or more than 60 million people, were
living in households where income was below 60% of the national
equivalised median income and that about half of these people
had been in living such poverty for three successive years;
- unemployment, especially when longterm,
is the main factor that significantly increases the risk of poverty
and social exclusion; other risk factors include "low income,
low quality employment, homelessness, [poor] health, immigration,
low qualifications and early school leaving, gender inequality,
discrimination and racism, disability, old age, family breakups,
drug abuse and alcoholism and living in an area of multiple disadvantage."
- there was some recognition amongst Member States
of the extent to which these risk factors "interact and accumulate
over time" and the "need to cut through the recurring
cycle of poverty and to prevent inter-generational poverty;"
- some Member States also identified new risk factors,
such as structural changes in the labour market resulting from
a period of very rapid economic change and globalisation and the
very rapid growth of Information and Communication Technologies;
- to a greater or lesser extent, the following
eight core challenges are being addressed by most Member States:
" developing an inclusive labour
market and promoting employment as a right and opportunity for
guaranteeing an adequate income and resources
to live in human dignity;
tackling educational disadvantage;
preserving family solidarity and protecting
the rights of children;
ensuring good accommodation for all;
guaranteeing equal access to [and investing
in high] quality services (health, transport, social, care, cultural,
recreational [and] legal);
improving the delivery of services; and
and regenerating areas of multiple deprivation."
16.7 As regards best practice, the report
"it has not been possible to identify examples
of good practice as at present there is a general lack of rigorous
evaluation of policies and programmes in Member States. The report
thus identifies that an important challenge for the next phase
of the social inclusion process will be to introduce more thorough
analysis of the cost effectiveness and efficiency of policies
to tackle poverty and social exclusion."
16.8 However, according to the Commission,
NAPs may begin to allow some elements of best practice to be identified,
"designing and delivering policies as close
to people as possible; ensuring that services are delivered in
an integrated and holistic way; ensuring transparent and accountable
decision making; making services more user friendly, responsive
and efficient; promoting partnership between different actors;
emphasising equality, rights and non discrimination; fostering
the participation of those affected by poverty and social exclusion;
emphasising the autonomy and empowerment of the users of services;
and emphasising a process of continuous improvement and the sustainability
16.9 The report presents a typology of Member
States in an attempt to highlight, in general terms, their strategic
approach in tackling poverty and social exclusion. The UK is grouped
with Portugal, Finland and Sweden. The report notes:
"The NAPs of Portugal, Finland, Sweden and the
UK are solidly underpinned by diagnoses of key challenges and
risks and set out reasonably coherent and strategic approaches.
The NAPs of Finland and Sweden place the fight against poverty
and social exclusion very much in the context of their developed
universal social protection systems which they intend to improve
further through a range of very specific measures. The NAPs of
Portugal and the UK are particularly strong on diagnosis and set
ambitious quantitative targets. ... The UK NAP tends to focus
on a number of particular issues like child poverty, problem neighbourhoods,
lone parents and teenage pregnancies for which it sets out policies
that are to be pursued as part of a comprehensive and integrated
16.10 A more detailed account of each NAP
is given in part two of the report under the headings: "Situation
and key trends", "Strategic approach", "Policy
measures" and "Challenges ahead" for each Member
State. The report makes clear that it does not evaluate the effectiveness
of the systems already in place in different Member States. Instead
it examines the NAPs in each Member State by focussing on the
quality of analysis, the clarity of objectives, goals and targets
and the extent to which there is a strategic and integrated approach.
As a result, the NAPs are very descriptive. However, the report
"[This process should] be enhanced in ... future
by more extensive evaluations of ... national policies, [including
their implications for public finance], and through the development
of a comprehensive set of indicators and methodologies, at both
national and EU levels."
16.11 The report is the first in a biennial
process, with the next NAPs and Joint Report expected in 2003.
For convenience, we set out the next steps in this open method
" Step 1 (Oct-Dec 2001): the analysis
of the NAP by the Commission is supplemented by the Member States
in the Social Protection Committee and subsequently in the Social
Affairs Council. The European Parliament is expected to contribute
to the debate. A Joint Report will then be submitted to the EU
Council in LaekenBrussels which is expected to define the
priorities and approaches that will guide efforts and cooperation
at Community level during the implementation of the first NAPs.
" Step 2 (Jan-May 2002): attention
will concentrate on organising a process of mutual learning, supported
by the new Community action programme which is planned to start
in January 2002 and the set of commonly agreed indicators on social
inclusion which the Council is expected to agree on by the end
" Step 3 (remainder of 2002): A dialogue
between Member States and Commission will take place in the Social
Protection Committee, building on the experience of the first
year of implementation. The aim is to draw conclusions towards
the end of 2002 which make it possible in the run up to the second
wave of NAPs to consolidate the objectives and to strengthen cooperation.
The Government's view
16.12 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 9
November 2001, the Minister of State for Work in the Department
for Work and Pensions (Mr Nicholas Brown) says that the Government
is generally content with the report and considers that "it
provides a broadly accurate reflection of the situation both regarding
the UK and the wider European agenda." However the Minister
"The Communication contains a few points where
the Commission view does not accord with the view of the Member
States. The UK and others will be pressing for
" Technical descriptions of 'poverty'.
The Government thinks that the text should emphasise more clearly
the multidimensional nature of poverty and avoid overemphasis
on any single measure of such complex issues as poverty and social
" The Commission has drawn up a typology
dividing the different NAPs into four clusters (pages 22 and 23
of Part I refer). In effect this provides a fourway ranking,
with the UK appearing in the second rank. We have doubts as to
whether this approach fits in with the current process, which
we think should focus on identifying good practices and innovative
" When discussing the major trends
in poverty and exclusion across the EU the draft identifies a
group of Member States that have a high 'poverty rate' and links
this to their 'less developed welfare systems' (see page 14 of
Part I). The UK is included in this group. We have argued against
the Commission analysis that stems from a belief that similar
outcomes must stem from similar causes.
" There are also technical concerns
about the robustness of some of the 1997 data used in the draft
report. The Government continues to regard this data as provisional."
16.13 We recognise that this is the Commission's
first policy document on poverty and social exclusion. We also
recognise that it is essentially a descriptive account of the
approach taken by Member States in tackling poverty and social
exclusion. The report contains no legally binding recommendations
and has no direct implications for Member States. Having said
that, we appreciate that the process of agreeing common objectives
and sharing best practice can be a valuable exercise. We note
the Commission's expectation that this process of coordination
will lead "to a much more rigorous and effective monitoring
of progress in tackling poverty and social exclusion in the future"
and will "contribute to better evaluations of policies and
a clearer assessment of their effectiveness and value for money"
and "better policy making in Member States in the future."
We will continue to scrutinise such policy developments with interest.
16.14 Meanwhile, we clear the document,
but it will be relevant to any future debate on poverty and social
17. We consider that the following documents do
not raise questions of sufficient legal or political importance
to warrant a substantive report to the House :-
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