Opinions of Our Partners on the Crisis of Social Welfare Services

Teresa Crespo. President of ECAS

Model change or just cuts

I am concerned about some of the changes that are taking place as a result of the new regulations that the government has recently enacted through the Fiscal and Financial Measures Act (2011 budget), or the Omnibus Act. The impression given by the proposal of the latter law is that more than as its title indicates it is not a law of simplification and improvement of regulation, but it seems that its aim is to find ways to reduce social spending, and one of them is to limit the access of some people to the benefits or services that our welfare state structured and guaranteed based on subjective law.

From the promulgation of the different social laws, and especially with the Law of social services and the portfolio of social services where the guaranteed services were fixed, and the Law of Promotion of the Personal Autonomy and Attention to the People in situation of Dependence a welfare model was set up, which represented a great advance due to its universal and guaranteeing character. These principles define our welfare state and oblige the public authorities to finance guaranteed benefits, and therefore expand their budgets due to social needs. Today, however, it seems that this progress, which we are proud of, which was achieved with the consensus of all political parties, is in danger.

There has been a lot of talk about cuts in social policies, and although I think these are not the best option for balancing budgets, because it mortgages social cohesion and leads to greater inequalities in the future, I could accept that at some point and conjunctural way it is necessary to apply some savings measures. But what worries me now is that along with budget cuts, legal changes will be made that will erode the foundations of the social policy model we have been building in previous years, signifying a weakening of social rights and guarantee systems. in the access to the benefits and services of social protection with modifications of the regulation of the subjective rights and a greater fragility of the principle of universality.

Some of the cases that may illustrate this finding of the new regulation of the rights to a service or benefit is the modification of the conditions required to access it, increasingly harsh and stricter. The length of residence of immigrants in Catalonia to access social benefits or medical services is increasing. In the case of the minimum insertion income, prior proof of need is required, a period of 12 months of lack of income is required to be able to receive a minimum insertion income, incompatibilities are defined with other aids or benefits, and the aid is conditioned to the availability of the corresponding budget item, forgetting the subjective right of the protection of the state that the laws recognize to all citizen.

A new example of this trend has been the unique and universal benefit to families, which was created as an instrument of family policies, and today has become a specific aid for those families who do not exceed an income of 12,000. € per year, and therefore becomes a social aid for the most needy, forgetting the universal character that was intended to give when it was created.
In short, it denotes a weakening of public responsibility to respond to social needs understood as a subjective right of citizenship, and is moving from universal services to services for the poorest, thereby, without wishing to we can find ourselves again in a society much more divided between the poor and the rich, with specific services for some or for others that more than responding to needs causes greater differences.

We are in a very difficult time financially, and we know that it is necessary to reduce public spending, but this reduction should not blur the model of well-being that we have all been building and that has taken a lot of effort and many years. It would be necessary to delimit very well in time and in the concepts which benefits or aids can suffer a reduction, and which others that affect the rights indicated by our laws, must remain immovable until one day the consensus of the citizenry and its representatives in Parliament they can decide whether a change has not been made today.

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