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“The National Programme for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion 2020. A New Dimension of Active Inclusion” (Krajowy Program Przeciwdziałania Ubóstwu i Wykluczeniu Społecznemu 2020. Nowy wymiar aktywnej integracji) should be considered a key document organising issues related to combating youth exclusion. However, it is unclear whether the Programme is still in force and what is its significance and impact nowadays. A recent statement by the Minister of Family, Labour and Social Policy indicate that the Programme is still formally in force, but its enactment is not a priority of the Government. In response to a parliamentary question , it has been indicated that the Programme “is mainly a document presenting actions aimed at combating social exclusion, which at the time of its preparation were being enacted or planned within extant strategies, initiatives, legal acts and projects which, by and large, function under different accountability procedures” (e.g. under regional, ministerial or governmental programmes). The Programme is incorporated into other strategic documents, including the Long-Term National Development Strategy - “Poland 2030". The Third Wave of Modernity” (Długookresowa Strategia Rozwoju Kraju – Polska 2030. Trzecia fala nowoczesności), and the Mid-Term National Development Strategy, along with nine integrated strategies, including the “Strategy for Human Capital Development” (Strategia Rozwoju Kapitału Ludzkiego), which plays a leading role in terms of fighting poverty, and the “Strategy for Social Capital Development” (Strategia Rozwoju Kapitału Społecznego).
The Programme’s Operational Objective 2 is described as aiming “to provide guarantees for the future of the youth – create opportunities for young people to enter the labour market and start a family. To create a coherent system of efforts in terms of educational, social and professional development to enable young people to prepare for entering the labour market, acquire the necessary competences and skills to facilitate social inclusion, professional activity and family development”. This Objective has been broken down into lower-level outcomes and actions. As a whole, it mostly focuses on the socialisation and early-intervention function of the school, modernisation of the education system (focus on developing key competences, creativity, entrepreneurship and co-operation), improvement and promotion of vocational training, and implementation of the first job system. The Programme emphasises the importance of (1) preventing premature motherhood, and providing adequate assistance to young mothers (parents) and their families; (2) taking special care of families bringing up more than one disabled child, as they frequently encounter difficulties in ensuring adequate rehabilitation for all children, and failure to meet those needs increases the risk of poverty. It was emphasised that in the sphere of education, this amounts to the problem of many disabled children remaining outside of inclusive education, coupled with the general low quality of inclusive education itself, and in the professional sphere – remaining outside of education, training and employment after graduating from lower secondary schools or vocational schools (in particular special needs schools); and (3) striving to ensure equal opportunities in life by reducing the inequalities at the start of life during childhood. A large reduction in the phenomenon of inheriting one’s parents’ status has been indicated as proof of the effectiveness of such measures.
Strategic areas described in two broader strategy documents are also of relevance for the Programme in question. In the aforementioned response of the Minister of Family, Labout and Social Policy to a parliamentary inquiry, it was stressed that the 2017’s Strategy for Responsible Development (Strategia na rzecz Odpowiedzialnego Rozwoju do roku 2020) is the document in which new priorities regarding social exclusions had been indicated, as a result of analytic work that had been going on since 2016. One of the three strategic areas in the 2020 National Development Strategy (Strategia Rozwoju Kraju 2020), which was cancelled in 2017 and replaced by the Strategy for Responsible Development, refered to social and territorial cohesion. It listed the priority directions of public intervention (incuding youth-focused actions such as increasing the activity of excluded people and people at risk of exclusion and reducing poverty among the most vulnerable groups.
On the other hand, the Strategy for Human Capital Development 2020 (Strategia Rozwoju Kapitału Ludzkiego) adopted by the government identifies priority directions for interventions. In terms of youth-focused actions, the changes in public policy are of key importance. These changes, aimed at the young generation, are intended to prevent any limitation or loss of its potential, primarily by supporting the transfer between education (learning and training) and employment, reducing the scale and risk of poverty, especially among children, the elderly and the disabled, and strengthening the preventive measures dedicated to children and families at risk of dysfunction or with difficulties, including development of family forms of foster care. Other directions of intervention concern, among other things, improving the effectiveness of the social benefits system and the system of professional activation and re-integration into the labour market; social integration of immigrants and Poles returning from living abroad; the development of active, including innovative, forms of assistance to people at risk of social exclusion or socially excluded; support for people at risk of or affected by domestic violence; and increasing the availability of housing, including through development of the rental system and development of social housing.
The National Programme for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion (Krajowy Program Przeciwdziałania Ubóstwu i Wykluczeniu Społecznemu) attaches particular importance to supporting children in families at risk of poverty or social exclusion, young people having problems with entering the labour market (NEET) and young people with disabilities (with unmet needs for rehabilitation and medical care, and problems with participation in education). Those target groups only partially correspond with the EU Youth Strategy 2019-2027, which identifies specific categories of young people at risk of exclusion on the grounds of ethnic background, sex, sexual orentation, disability, religion and political views. The document also stetes that there is a correlation between social and economic exclusion and exclusion from politcal and democratic life. An additional difficulty in identifying target groups is the fact that the Polish social security system generally does not make a distinction based on age, but on the specific problem when categorising citizens eligible for social support (subject to certain conditions). Young people are included across those categories.
The second important, and the most up-to-date document, is the Programme: “Active Forms of Combating Social Exclusion – A New Dimension 2020” (Aktywne formy przeciwdziałania wykluczeniu społecznemu – nowy wymiar 2020). The Programme was announced in February 2016 by the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy, the Department of Social Security and Integration, and was created as a result of merging two previous programmes: “Active Forms of Combating Social Exclusion 2011-2015” (Aktywne formy przeciwdziałania wykluczeniu społecznemu – edycja 2011-2015) and “After School Care – Children – Work to support children and families in the commune for the years 2011-2015” (Świetlica-Dzieci-Praca na rzecz wsparcia dziecka i rodziny w gminie na lata 2011-2015). Two of the challenges described in the Programme refer to young people: “inclusion of youth through social animation and education in the creation of space for its activity, with particular emphasis on strengthening individual social competences” and “educating young people through acquisition of social skills and various forms of spending free time as a preventive measure”. As a result, one of the Specific Objectives of the Programme is to “integrate young people, particularly from communities at risk of social exclusion, into the local environment through education and inclusion activities”. The main challenges faced by public policies related to counteracting youth exclusion include: (1) building intergenerational solidarity, which is defined as intergenerational cohesion; (2) building a system to support the social activity of youth and youth groups; (3) providing support and promoting social activity through the general education curriculum, study programmes, etc, and facilitating access to non-formal education; (4) preparing an offer dedicated to young people with disabilities.
According to the analysed documents, the main governmental entity responsible for counteracting youth exclusion is the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy and its departments: The Department of Social Security and Integration, the Department of Family Policy, and the Department of Social Economy and Public Benefit. In “The National Programme for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion 2020” (Krajowy Program Przeciwdziałania Ubóstwu i Wykluczeniu Społecznemu 2020), Priority 2, in addition to defining the relevant activities (Ensuring coherence of the educational, social and professional activities for children and youth), indicates partners for those activities such as the Voluntary Labour Corps (Ochotnicze Hufce Pracy) (for actions aimed at modernising the youth education system through focusing on development of key competences, such as creativity, entrepreneurship and co-operation, improvement of the vocational training model, and promotion of vocational training interlinked with the labour market), as well as institutions of education, labour market and social inclusion for actions aimed at implementation of a comprehensive first job system for young people based on integrated activities. The specific actions described in the documents in question are tied to partners being, in particular, specific institutions falling under the jurisdiction of local authorities, including education institutions and care facilities (schools, care and socio-therapy centres, correctional facilities and shelters for minors), cultural centres, Social Welfare Centres, and District Employment Offices. Non-public partners, such as social inclusion centres and clubs, social economy actors, NGOs, including volunteer centres, are also identified. The Programme: “Active Forms of Combating Social Exclusion – A New Dimension 2020” (Aktywne formy przeciwdziałania wykluczeniu społecznemu – nowy wymiar 2020) is implemented by the Department of Social Security and Integration at the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy, and the Audit Office at the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy (central level) and local non-governmental organisations. Local government units and non-governmental organisations may apply for grants.
Funds for the implementation of the “National Programme for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion 2020. A New Dimension of Active Inclusion” (Krajowy Program Przeciwdziałania Ubóstwu i Wykluczeniu Społecznemu 2020. Nowy wymiar aktywnej integracji) have been earmarked in the State budget, budgets of local government units, special-purpose funds and European funds (primarily from Regional Operational Programmes, the Knowledge Education Development Operational Programme, and sometimes other schemes such as the 2014-2020 Operational Programme of the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived). This model of the Programme’s financing has been confirmed in the response of the Minister of Family, Labour and Social Policy to a parliamentary inquiry. In the response, it was stressed that the Programme, in essence, enumerates a number of different actions against social exclusion which had been outlined in different documents that had also established their financing.
According to the Programme’s financial plan for 2014-2020, expenses are at PLN 180,228,744 (annual average of approximately PLN 25,747,000). The vast majority of this amount was to come from the State budget (PLN 111,755,579, i.e. 62%), followed by the budgets of local government units (PLN 58,431,778, i.e. 32%). The remaining amount was to be made up from specifically designated funds and private funds. Financing Priority 1 of the Programme (“Counteracting social exclusion of children and youth”) accounts for 55% of the amount foreseen for the whole programme in 2014-2020 (PLN 98,589,915). The vast majority of these funds were to come from the State budget (73%) and the budgets of local governments (23%). The highest resources under this Priority were to be allocated to Measure 1.5 – “Extending the scope of support in the system of financial benefits for families (55% of the funds allocated for the implementation of the entire Priority). This means that most of the money was intended to support families, or, indirectly, to improve the situation of children up to the age of 18. The Programme’s allocation of funds to counteract social exclusion of young people aged 19 to 30 is negligible.
The level of funding for the whole Programme: “Active Forms of Combating Social Exclusion – A New Dimension 2020” (Aktywne formy przeciwdziałania wykluczeniu społecznemu – nowy wymiar 2020) (three competitions, including one directly related to youth) amounts to PLN 21,745,000 for 2016-2020, which translates into an annual subsidy of PLN 4,349,000, with can be used to cover up to 80% of project costs.
As regards the “National Programme for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion 2020” (Krajowy Program Przeciwdziałania Ubóstwu i Wykluczeniu Społecznemu 2020), the following indicators concerning youth have been defined by indicating the base value in 2011 and the target value in 2020: (1) unemployment rate of graduates of schools with vocational education: post-secondary schools and secondary vocational schools, as well as basic vocational schools: base 40.6%, target 35.9%; (2) youth inactivity index, NEET for people aged 20 to 24: base 18.2%, target 16.2%, for people aged 25 to 29: base 21.4%, target 18.0%. The Programme mentioned monitoring, ongoing evaluation, mid-term evaluation and post-closure evaluation of the indicators. The monitoring is to be based on collecting and analysing data using the Assessment of Social Welfare Resources tool and also rely on the data collected and verified in MPiPS-03 reports and the statistical and information systems used by the Ministry as well as the data collected by the Central Statistical Office of Poland (GUS). The Observatories for Social Integration, which were created within the framework of the project “Co-ordination for Active Inclusion” implemented under the Human Capital Operational Programme 2007-2013, were intended to be responsible for data collection and research. Those Observatories operate at the Regional Centres for Social Policy. At the central level, the Programme envisaged the establishment of the National Research Platform to manage all analyses and recommend changes to the Programme. However, the project found itself among projects that have had not been accepted by the European Commision. It did not receive funding under Operational Programme Knowledge-Education-Development 2014-2020 OP KED (Program Operacyjny Wiedza Edukacja Rozwój 2014-2020 (PO WER)) and it had had not been enacted. It had also planned to prepare (from 2015) an annual report on the progress of the Programme. None of those tasks have been accomplished after the parliamentary elections and change of government.
Indicators for the Programme: “Active Forms of Combating Social Exclusion – A New Dimension 2020” (Aktywne formy przeciwdziałania wykluczeniu społecznemu – nowy wymiar 2020) assume that N=200 young people will be included in the competition described above, 15 reintegration and local community centres and youth clubs will be involved in project activities, and 20 volunteering initiatives will take place. The Programme foresees that monitoring will be carried out by the Department of Social Security and Integration at the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy. Entities which are awarded subsidies in competitions are required to submit reports on the performance of the public task entrusted to them, and its day-to-day implementation may be subject to evaluation by the staff of the ministry during the monitoring visits.