Impact of COVID-19 crisis on people in vulnerable situations

Published in the first of our ‘Social Compass’ newsletter special series on COVID-19

We find ourselves in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, the impact of which will be vast. And this is only the beginning – the full implications will take time to surface. But what clearly shows already is that people in the most vulnerable situations are hit the hardest by this crisis, and the COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating structural inequalities in society.

This is the first in a series of special ‘Social Compass’ newsletters on COVID-19 to bring together our membership’s initial reactions and reflections on the crisis’s impact on the issues we collectively work on, and on various groups of people our members represent.

While vulnerable and disadvantaged groups bear the brunt of the crisis’s impact, many Social Platform members are doing their part to ensure that solidarity and social justice are upheld. It is more important than ever that we come together to speak with one voice to call for actions to be taken now, in a spirit of unity and working towards the common good. This approach must complement that which the European Council is slowly starting to take, recognising that “The well-being of each EU member state depends on the well-being of the whole of the EU.”

As money is the crux of every political issue, EU institutions should first and foremost ensure that the revision of the proposal for a post-2020 multi-annual financial framework (MFF) does not undermine the overall strategic approach of regular cohesion policy spending and its contribution to EU priorities such as the European Pillar of Social Rights. The next MFF, while ensuring a prompt response to the ongoing health, social and economic crisis, should not lower levels of investment in social inclusion policies and in civil society organisations, service providers and social economy organisations. Political and financial support needs to be given to social, employment and health services that keep our societies running; these services have proved essential during this crisis and they will play a crucial role to build more resilient societies in the future.

While it will be a long road towards estimating the long-term consequences of the crisis, the impact of underinvestment in social and health services in Europe has already caused serious social damage. One thing is clear: the current system is not fully equipped for such a crisis and the economic recovery, currently being planned, should fully address the cracks in the system. Solidarity towards each member of society throughout Europe is the only way to minimise the long-term damage the COVID-19 crisis will inflict on our societies and economies. For this, immediate conversations must be launched by the EU institutions and national governments, including civil society organisations, on how not only to rebuild our system but how to make it just, inclusive, and equal.