Written by Marie Lecerf,
In 2014, around 122 million people were ‘at risk of poverty or social exclusion’ (AROPE) in the 28 EU Member States– a quarter of the population. This means they were in at least one of the following situations: at risk of monetary poverty (17.2 % of the total population); living in households with very low work intensity (11.1 %); or severely materially deprived (9.0 %).
Since the onset of the 2008 financial and economic crisis, fighting poverty and social exclusion is a key priority for the European Union. One of the aims of the Europe 2020 strategy is to reduce the number of people ‘at risk of poverty or social exclusion’ by at least 20 million by the end of the decade. Consequently, on 24 October 2012, the European Commission announced a proposal to set up a new Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) for the 2014-2020 period, to replace the EU’s food distribution programme for the most deprived (MDP).
The fund’s general objective is to promote and enhance social inclusion and therefore ultimately contribute to the goal of eradicating poverty in the Union. It seeks to alleviate the worst forms of poverty by providing non-financial assistance for the most deprived in conjunction with other EU funds, such as the European Social Fund (ESF), and with Member States’ national poverty eradication and social inclusion policies.
The EU contribution to the FEAD is more than €3.8 billion (in current prices) for the 2014‑2020 period. In addition, Member States are to co-finance at least 15 % of the costs of their national operational programmes (around €674 million), bringing the total resources channelled through the fund to approximately €4.5 billion.
The principal measures undertaken under the FEAD are:
- food support (distribution of food packages and meals to people in deprived situations, school lunches for children at risk of poverty or social exclusion, collection and distribution of donated food, etc.);
- material assistance (basic hygiene items for adults and children, basic household items, clothing, sleeping bags for the homeless, school supplies, etc.);
- accompanying measures to alleviate adversity through advice and guidance (regarding basic rights, nutrition and health, available social services and access to education services, temporary shelter for the homeless, etc.);
- social inclusion activities (improving access to existing support and social services, psychological support, training in self-reliance, language courses, etc.).
FEAD assistance is delivered via partner organisations (public bodies or non-governmental organisations (NGOs)), selected by Member States on the basis of objective and transparent criteria.
On 27 March 2019, the mid-term evaluation of the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived was published. It presents the FEAD’s main achievements for the period up to the end of December 2017. According to the report, between 2014 and 2017, the FEAD supported more than 12 million people per year and, during this period, more than 1.3 million tonnes of food were distributed. Social inclusion measures, meanwhile reached about 66 000 people. Given the FEAD’s very limited resources compared with other EU funds, the main conclusion of the mid-term evaluation is that there are strong arguments in favour of continuing the programme.
The European Court of Auditors is, however, much more severe in its evaluation of the programme’s first results. In its Special Report No 5/2019: FEAD-Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived, published on 3 April 2019, the Court assesses whether the initial set-up of the FEAD and the Member States’ operational programmes effectively target the most in need and do contribute to the Europe 2020 poverty-reduction target. The Court points out that the fund remains primarily a food aid scheme, with 80 % of its budget devoted to food support. As a result, although the FEAD offers Member States the possibility to focus on social inclusion, those measures are scarcely implemented. The Court concludes by stating that the ability of the fund to reduce poverty has yet to be demonstrated.
Read this briefing on ‘Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD)‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.