The European Social Network (ESN) has recently carried out a consultation among its members on their involvement with Minimum Income Schemes (MIS). Members from Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain participated in ESN survey and shared their experience with MIS.

The European Social Network’s consultation concluded that MIS are a key topic that deserves attention due to its immediate impact on the lives of vulnerable social groups and on national and local economies. A recently completed study on Minimum Income Schemes in Europe from the European Social Policy Network reported that a majority of European countries have established MIS or similar types of means-tested regimes for people of working age, which constitute frameworks to ensure a minimum standard of living.

In ESN’s own consultation, the members were asked about their experience with MIS. It was mentioned that a good MIS should be able to respond to both basic and complex needs in order to prevent poverty and to support job take-up. However, benefits within MIS need to be combined with outreach-based services to support users.

Easy access to Minimum Income Schemes

It has been reported in the consultation that access to MIS can be difficult for users. A recent Eurofound publication comments on the question of access that this may be due to a lack of awareness by users about their entitlements. ESN members mentioned that users’ access is particularly difficult when parallel MIS regimes within one country are in place. In Italy, some regions do not have MIS (for example the Lazio region), whereas different schemes across regions exist in Spain.

Fairness between recipients and contributors

Fairness between unemployed MIS beneficiaries and low-income earners can be problematic. It has been perceived as unfair by ESN member that MIS beneficiaries may reach a similar living standard with benefits as low earners, some of whom may be suffering from in-work poverty. As a consequence, MIS beneficiaries might lack incentives to search for employment and take up available jobs.

Improving the evidence base for Minimum Income Schemes

It was expressed that more data should be collected through transnational research on the management and impact of different MIS. This research should be targeted towards developing an evidence base for the design of effective MIS policies. As an example, this research could review the impact of benefits on people’s quality of life and their motivation to take up jobs. Another example would be to understand the economic impact of strong benefit reliance in certain areas, such as rural regions affected by poverty.

ESN members underlined in the responses to the survey that while MIS constitute a key element of social welfare for those who do not have access to any other regular income, further research is needed to make sure that MIS are designed in a fair and effective way. Well-designed minimum income schemes should be combined with services based in the community that reach out to those who need them.

Conclusion

ESN members underlined in the responses to the survey that while MIS constitute a key element of social welfare for those who do not have access to any other regular income, further research is needed to make sure that MIS are designed in a fair and effective way. Well-designed minimum income schemes should be combined with services based in the community that reach out to those who need them.