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For a person in Belgium affected, poverty means having to manage on a net household income under the poverty threshold of 878.00 euros/month. The poor have limited access to basic rights and basic needs (healthcare, work, education, housing etc.)
According to the UN Refugee Council almost 60 million people are fleeing worldwide. They are fleeing from civil war, terrorist violence but also from the general lack of prospects in their home country. In Belgium the federal state is responsible for accommodating and distributing refugees and checking asylum applications. The DG is only indirectly concerned in this first phase – except schooling for the children and issuing work permits for asylum seekers. When a refugee obtains a residence permit and decides to settle in one of the nine DG municipalities, this is when the task of the German-speaking Community in the area of integration officially starts.
Living with a disability
After the assumption of the responsibilities in the area of disability in 1990, it very quickly became clear that in the DG there was a lack of facilities, instruments and options to respond to the different needs but also the abilities and interests of people with disabilities. At this period the only existing form of housing consisted of residential homes for people with learning difficulties and multiple disabilities. And in the area of employment there were no alternatives to the day centres and sheltered workshops.
From an international convention in Quebec/Canada in 1993 the then managing director of the Department for People with Disabilities (DPB - Dienststelle für Personen mit Behinderung) brought back some ideas for the disability area of the DG: housing resources, training placements and a few other things. Likewise the conviction that the provision for people with disabilities must be reconsidered to the effect that it must be customised to enable people to a large extent to make decisions about their own lifestyle and to participate actively in the life of society. The development potential of people with disabilities and particularly those with learning difficulties are still much too often underestimated by society but also by professional staff. The concept of housing resources first had to be rewritten and adapted to the circumstances of the DG.
Thus first of all people had to be found who wanted to work as housing resources, families had to be found who were prepared to entrust their disabled adult sons or daughters to other people in this new form of housing, a compensation system and a subsidy procedure developed, etc.
Thus arose a new individually adapted and inclusively addressed concept promoting the self-reliance and self-determination of the person concerned – which even then corresponded to the present-day spirit of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The whole thing was embedded into the social network of our society with strong partners such as the social housing companies and Wohnraum für Alle [living space for all] and supplemented by advisory, support and assistance services.
A standard that has enabled the disabled area in the DG – by the way, as the only one in Belgium – up to now to provide all people with high support and care needs with appropriate housing and not to build up waiting lists.
Community meeting place: association or public facility recognised under the decree of 5 May 2014 on the recognition and promotion of community meeting places that, by community and group work, reinforces the social cohesion of people who live within its sphere of influence.
Social cohesion: a sense of belonging to a social environment arising from social ties, solidarity and involvement in networks.
Community work: method of social work that, starting from the resources and needs of the inhabitants of a sphere of influence, pursues the aim of improving the living conditions of the inhabitants – particularly people who can only access with difficulty the rights mentioned in Article 23 of the Belgian constitution – expanding their opportunities for action and empowering them for self-organisation.
Social group work: method of social work that helps the individual to recognise his social functioning through meaningful group experiences.
Fragility: “Social fragility describes the lack of strength or the weak stability of social ties (at work, in the family, to the state and to communities) by which the subject is connected with his environment” (S. Paugam, 2009).
Precarity: “Precarity is the lack of security in one or several areas that enable people and families to meet their fundamental obligations and exercise their basic rights. The situations of economic and social precarity are different and often cumulative. They can be accompanied by other factors that in combination run the risk of the precarious situation developing into a situation of poverty or extreme poverty.” (S. Paugam, 2009).
Poverty: “Poverty represents a network of forms of social exclusion that extends over several areas of individual and collective existence. It separates the poor from the modes of existence generally accepted by society. They are unable to bridge this gap on their own” (J. Vranken, 2013).
Great poverty: “Great poverty is used to designate a network of forms of social exclusion that has led to a rupture of ties that is at the same time permanent and deep-seated. These ruptures are integrated into the objective, subjective and social realities that people in great poverty maintain with the surrounding world and infect all relationships.” (B. Humbeeck, 2012).
Vulnerability: “Vulnerability designates the exposure to more or less foreseeable external threats that put pressure on resources that a subject or a community has available.” (R. Castel, 2003).
Social exclusion: Being poor means not seldom finding oneself in a network of social exclusion. Socioeconomic status, gender, proximity to education, family structure and origin significantly co-determine how high the risk of poverty is and how difficult participation in society in all its facets.
Integration: Integration pursues the aim of equal participation of all groups of the population in civic life in all its facets.
- Structural integration: This denotes equal-opportunity access for example to the education system or to the labour market. People with a migration background acquire rights and access to positions in subsystems of society such as work, education, health, the economy and politics.
- Cultural integration: This involves cultural adaptations and changes both among people with a migration background and among the host society (cognitive behaviour and attitude modifications). These include language acquisition, development and admission of biculturalism, recognition of values and norms of the host society, getting acquainted with and appreciating migrant cultures, interreligious dialogues.
- Social integration: Social integration means the development of social contacts, membership of associations, social ties at the workplace, in the neighbourhood and in leisure activities as well as friendships and encounters at all levels of society also among immigrants.
- Identificatory integration: By this is meant the readiness to identify with the place where one lives. Only a person who is accepted as an immigrant and feels as if s/he belongs will be prepared to participate and help to shape society at all levels.