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Poverty plan: Elisabeth Borne’s announcements deemed “largely insufficient”

The government's anti-poverty plan, called the “Solidarity Pact”, was presented this Monday in Matignon.

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Poverty plan: Elisabeth Borne’s announcements deemed “largely insufficient”

The government's anti-poverty plan, called the “Solidarity Pact”, was presented this Monday in Matignon. Initially planned for the month of January, before being postponed twice, it is intended to follow on from the Poverty Strategy launched in 2018. Described as “ambitious” by Élisabeth Borne, this plan “marks an increase of 50 % of credits dedicated to the fight against poverty compared to the previous strategy. And to develop it, the Prime Minister explains having “faced the strengths and shortcomings” of the French social model. A model which, according to her, is one of “the most powerful” and “the most redistributive” in the world, but which still presents some “weaknesses”.

The head of government in fact recalled that many fellow citizens do not “enough to perceive the effects” of this model, which also struggles “to fight against social reproduction”. “Even today, a child born into a family in the lowest 20% of income has a one-third probability of remaining there as an adult,” underlined the tenant of Matignon, before discuss the four main priorities of this new plan: namely support for children living in poverty, the return to employment of those who are far from it, strengthening the fight against extreme poverty and the pursuit of the ecological and inclusive transition.

“Our model must allow social advancement”, “it is through work that we can get out of it”, launched Élisabeth Borne, before listing the main measures of this plan “which is based around two objectives” which are “to correct structural inequalities” and “to respond to the urgency of today’s social situation”. Among them, she cited the return to employment of those who are furthest away from it, with the France Travail reform which will replace Pôle Emploi or even youth engagement, which allows their support towards the professional world. She also spoke about improving equality between women and men, and the fight against all discrimination at work.

Concerning poor workers, the Prime Minister described low wages for so-called essential professions as “unacceptable” and criticized the part-time work suffered. So many subjects which will be debated during the social conference which will meet in October at the request of the President of the Republic. Same observation for modest retirees, whose small pensions “will be increased” from this month of September. In total, “1.7 million retirees are affected, for an average gain of 600 euros per year,” she said.

In addition, she considered it “imperative” to offer support adapted to climate change “to the most deprived” but also to “improve the quality” of public services, “essential levers of equal opportunities”. To do this, she explained that she was working on the development of public early childhood services but also on 100% coverage of health costs, “particularly in terms of prevention”. Finally, in terms of education, the Prime Minister affirmed to continue her policy for equal opportunities, “with the doubling of high section classes, CP and CE1 in the REP and REP zones”, “with the homework done system” and “the reform of the vocational high school”.

And because the poorest "are the first to suffer from insecurity, trafficking and the consequences of delinquency on neighborhoods", the head of government promised "historic resources" given to the Ministry of the Interior with, in addition to the 10,000 police and gendarmerie positions already created during the previous five-year term, the creation of 8,500 additional positions “by 2027”.

Also read: 8,500 more police officers and gendarmes on the ground by 2027

Faced with inflation, Élisabeth Borne then called for “concrete responses” to everyday issues, “first and foremost food”. Before citing "the revaluation of social benefits", "the anti-inflation quarter launched in March and renewed until the end of the year on everyday products" or even "the measure announced yesterday to lower the price of fuels”. Namely, the possibility given to fuel distributors to sell at a loss, from December and for a period of six months.

She also said she had asked major retail chains and manufacturers “to speed up their negotiations so that prices fall more quickly on the shelves”. On this subject, a bill will be presented by Bruno Le Maire to bring forward the deadline for these negotiations. Furthermore, saying she was “well aware of the difficulties faced by certain associations” which offer food aid to the most deprived, the Prime Minister recalled the doubling of the budget allocated by the State in 2023 compared to 2021, and announced “exceptional aid” integrated into the finance bill for 2024. In addition, “80 million euros of additional European credits spread over four years” will be released with this in mind.

For students, the amount of scholarships “has been significantly increased” this fall, while “the number of beneficiaries has been expanded” and the allocation system will be overhauled “to be fairer”, continued the head of government. At the same time, the one-euro Crous meal system – which “has shown its usefulness and importance” – will be maintained “for the coming year”. “I also asked that all students who are experiencing difficulties be able to benefit from these meals. Any student who feels the need must be supported. I will see to it,” she insisted, while, on the housing side, 12,000 Crous housing places will be “renovated by 2027 and an additional 30,000 will be created before the end of the five-year term”.

Assuring that she “heard the concerns” of associations regarding the housing of people in precarious situations, the Prime Minister explained that the 203,000 emergency accommodation places created in 2023 “will be maintained in 2024”. And because “energy poverty is progressing and preventing too many families from living properly”, the tenant of Matignon explained that “Ma Prime Rénov'” – which has already been distributed to 1.5 million low-income households – was going to be reinforced . The credits allocated to it will thus be doubled, “to reach more households” while “reducing the remaining costs”.

This global method “aims to concretely improve the lives of our fellow citizens” she finally concluded, affirming that these “structural changes will produce lasting effects”. The measures go “in the right direction” but are considered “largely insufficient” by associations fighting against precariousness, who are calling in particular for an increase in social minimums, an increase in housing assistance (APL) and the regularization of unemployed workers. papers in sectors under pressure. Ahead of this meeting, the Collectif Alerte – which brings together 34 associations fighting against poverty, the Federation of Solidarity Actors (FAS) and the Abbé Pierre Foundation – had underlined the “opportunity” that this plan represented “for the government to respond to the social crisis”, while fearing its lack of ambition.

Not to mention that certain measures announced in the first poverty plan were ultimately never followed up on. For example, it planned to offer a “mixed diversity bonus” for nurseries welcoming more disadvantaged children in disadvantaged neighborhoods, to set up free breakfasts at schools in priority areas or even to create a “ universal income”, which never saw the light of day. Today in France, poverty affects some 9.2 million people. Or nearly 15% of the population according to INSEE, which defines the monetary poverty threshold as a standard of living below 60% of the median standard of living of the French population. More than one in ten people also cut back on heating, food, various products and services, according to the rate of “material and social deprivation” calculated by the National Institute of Statistics. In this context, also marked by high inflation, requests are pouring in from food aid distributors, leading certain associations to the brink of collapse, like the Restos du Cœur which raised a cry of alarm at the beginning of September.

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