Poverty and social exclusion includes many multi-faceted challenges such as housing, health, access to employment, indebtedness and addiction, to name but a few. Poverty undermines all aspects of well-being in society, including education, long-term health, and family relationships.
For the seventh time in 2015, the European Economic and Social Committee is proud to present its annual Civil Society Prize. This year, the award goes out to civil society organizations and initiatives working to alleviate poverty in Europe.
Armut und Gesundheit in Deutschland (DE)
Poverty and bad health go hand in hand. Poorer people suffer more illness and die earlier than their wealthier counterparts. Armut und Gesundheit in Deutschland (Poverty and Health in Germany) was set up in Mainz in 1997, to offer good healthcare to all, regardless of financial resources.
Armut und Gesundheit implements the innovative ‘Mainz Model’, providing comprehensive medical care to homeless people. Its ‘Mobile Doctor’ clinic offers medical, nursing and social support to people on the streets.
The walk-in ‘clinic without borders’ supplies services to anyone lacking money or health insurance. In 2014, it treated 1500 patients from over 30 countries. Another initiative, the Street Jumper, promotes health for children and youth from deprived backgrounds.
The Y Foundation (FI)
The Y-Foundation has a clear objective: to end homelessness in Finland by providing affordable, good-quality rental housing. In 1985, when local authorities, churches, trade unions, NGOs and others launched the Y-Foundation, there were 20 000 homeless people in Finland. Since then, the foundation has helped reduce the total to 7,100 single people and 420 families.
The foundation’s approach involves buying flats on the private market and renovating them into social housing. This makes them accessible to some of the most vulnerable people, such as ex-prisoners, drug abusers and people with psychiatric problems.
ANDES, (the National Association for the Development of Social and Solidarity Food Shops), is one of France's main food aid networks. It enables people in need to buy quality food at low prices.
The Uniterres programme, set up in France in 2011, benefits both farmers and food aid recipients by supporting social and solidarity food shops selling locally grown produce at below-market prices while paying farmers a fair price. As well as strengthening the link between consumers and producers, this gives poorer people access to fresh, good-quality fruit and vegetables and promotes healthy eating.
The programme currently supports 124 small farmers in south-western France, supplying 53 social and solidarity shops, providing food aid for 20 000 beneficiaries each year.
Third Age (IRL)
Getting old can lead to poverty and isolation, whether in the towns or rural areas of a country like Ireland. Third Age encourages older people to remain actively involved in their communities through a range of activities and services.
Fáilte Isteach (Welcome In) is a community-based project benefiting from the skills, wisdom and experience of older people by recruiting them as volunteer English tutors.
Over the last 15 years, many immigrants have come to Ireland seeking work. They now make up 12 % of the population: more than half a million people from 199 different countries. Yet 80 000 of them do not speak good English, preventing them from integrating fully into Irish society. Fáilte Isteach’s 800 volunteer tutors deliver 40 000 hours of free tuition every year, catering for all levels of proficiency and helping students to secure work and escape the risk of poverty.
Barka Foundation for Mutual Help (PL)
The Barka Foundation was launched in 1989 during Poland’s painful transition years. It creates conditions for the empowerment and growth of vulnerable people and communities, through developing a pro-active system of social and vocational reintegration, serving more than 5000 individuals a year.
Barka started by establishing 30 self-sufficient communities in Poland, turning former state farms into organic farms and social enterprises. Currently, 1000 vulnerable individuals and families live in these communities.
In 2004-2015, the Foundation established over 200 social integration centres to support unemployed and vulnerable adults including addicts, ex-prisoners, single mothers and disabled people, and encourage them to become social entrepreneurs. Some 1200 social enterprises providing tens of thousands of jobs have been created, in partnership with local authorities and voluntary organisations.