I wait for Mrs Maria (we will use this fictitious name out of respect for her privacy) in a room of the Levi Library, a beautiful and welcoming space in the heart of the Barriera district of Milan, on the extreme outskirts of Turin. Maria is the first participant in the ActionAid project “Ora facciamo i conti” (the Italian sentence means both “we settle it now” and “let’s do the math”).
To put it all, I am a little agitated: right from the start, Maria amazes me for its energy. I was afraid that the meeting issue would make dialogue difficult, but it’s flowing, as between two people sitting in the same train compartment. We are talking about children and rent, studies and passions, the difficulties of making the ends matter, work, travel, and choices. Maria is one of the 950 people who in Turin saw the application accepted to receive the new purchase card. Since she applied in August 2013, she had to wait nine months to receive it, but her family has had an additional monthly income of just over 300 euros since May this year.
Maria is also one of 475 randomly selected people to participate in an “activation project”. These projects are specific actions that the municipalities must activate in support of the measure, but no funds have been allocated. Therefore, the Municipality of Turin relies on other existing programs, managed by the same municipal structure, but financed externally, as in the case of “lavoro accessorio” (ancillary work, a project in which the person receives a small remuneration to carry out work with associations). Or it seeks to increase the operation of social services; or, finally, it relies on activities or projects carried out by private organisations, as in our case. If the person who receives the new purchase card does not participate in the “activation project”, they lose it.
Maria is therefore talking to me because she has to, but she doesn’t show it. On the contrary, she says that group work, which I briefly presented to her, will be an opportunity to learn new things.
The group work consists of six meetings, during which participants will discuss the use of money and address some issues of financial literacy. Each participant will then be able to avail themselves of financial advice and psychological accompaniment free of charge.
Maria has not had a formal and stable job for two and a half years: she has left the labour market due to a set of small health problems and care for her children and has not re-entered it. Like her, another 55,000 women are unemployed in Turin. In total, with men, you get to 118 thousand people (ISTAT data for the Province of Turin). It is a significant number – the highest rate of all the North Centre’s metropolitan provinces – and one of those that has grown the most since 2007, which means that many of the “newly unemployed” are not used to it.
Precisely the exponential increase in people in poverty since 2007 motivated ActionAid to strongly support the proposal to insert the REIS (Reddito di Inclusione Sociale, i.e. minimum income) in the next budget law, also launching an online petition.
While continuing to work with social card beneficiaries with monitoring and participation activities within personalised activation projects, ActionAid recognises that this measure is too categorial and lacks an organic vision of the fight against poverty. That is why we support a proposal aimed at all families living in absolute poverty in Italy, combining a mix of rights and duties with a strong component of social inclusion.
This post was published on the ActionAid Italia page.