4.8 Current debates and reforms
Poland is witnessing two major discussions about the situation of the young generation. One concerns the implementation and effects of the “Family 500 +” scheme (described in Section 4.6 Access to Quality Services). Its main positive effects include substantial and rapid reduction in poverty, especially among children and adolescents, resulting in very high social support for the scheme. The major controversies are, however, about the actual and long-term impact of the scheme on improvement of the demographic situation, the mechanisms affecting primarily single parents, the possibility of fraud, the financial security of the State in the face of such high social security expenditures. According to the authors of the “Family 500+ - evaluation and proposed changes” report, the programme failed to increase the birth rate, pushed about 100 000 women out of the job market (mainly low-income, low-education women from small towns), increased social transfers and forced the introduction of new tax burdens. It is the result of the programme’s core assumptions, offering benefits to all families, regardless. of their financial situation. The authors indicate that only “37% of the programme expenses goes to poor families, and just 12% of funds committed by the state to 500+ would be enough to eliminate extreme poverty among children.”
An important voice in this discussion belongs to the view of social researchers that claim that the family-centric approach (central to the 500+ programme) can, within a few years, change into a relatively unimportant part of a family budget, especially in the light of high inflation. From this point of view, it would be more beneficial to enact children-centric policies, such as developing the network of public services that children use (mainly investing into education, free time, personal development). Such approach provides better opportunities for permanently freeing from poverty the children that grow up in the conditions of social exclusion.
A new challenge for social policy is found in the mass migration of Ukrainian population due to the Russian invasion in February 2022. Arrival of 2 million people, mostly women with children, leads to a need to create systemic solutions in the area of housing, labour market, health care, and education. Currently, those people are mainly supported through actions by local governments, NGOs, and individual citizens (volunteers, donation-givers, and families accepting refugees into their homes).