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A fair go for all: social inclusion for social cohesion





• Subsidiarity: the idea that a central authority should only perform those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level (Oxford Dictionnary). It is intended to ensure that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen. In the EU context this means that the Union does not take action (except in the areas which fall within its exclusive competence) unless it is more effective than action taken at national, regional or local level (EU Glossary).

What is the difference between social inclusion and active inclusion? Social inclusion is about combating poverty and social exclusion so that everyone can fully participate in society. Public authorities and NGOs, like SOLIDAR members, run institutions and provide services and support addressing a broad range of social risks linked to poverty, vulnerability and discrimination. For example they facilitate the labour market inclusion of disadvantaged people including early school leavers, promote the integration of people with disabilities and immigrants and tackle financial exclusion and over-indebtedness. Active inclusion is one strand of the broader social inclusion concept which deals with the integration into society of people furthest from the labour market. Social inclusion and labour market participation go hand-in-hand. For labour market integration to be sustainable, disadvantaged people need first to be supported with sufficient resources and personalised employment and social services to enhance their social participation and employability.

• Open Method of Coordination (OMC):

A European policy method which relies on soft law mechanisms such as guidelines and indicators, benchmarking and sharing of experiences and best practice. Common policy objectives are defined and a system of national reports is set up in view of policy coordination and convergence. It is used in policy areas where EU competencies are restricted.

Context The general aim of the EU’s active inclusion policy is to establish common European principles for all three strands of the concept: minimum income, labour market inclusion and access to quality services. These should help support Member States when designing or revising their policies. Their implementation will be monitored and evaluated, respecting fully the principle of subsidiarity*, autonomy and the different needs of Member States. EU-level activites to promote social inclusion address the social risks (see box above) in the frame of the Open Method of Coordination*. In recent years the policy focus has been on child poverty, over-indebtedness and homelessness. In this briefing, we will be focusing on early school leaving as one facet of social exclusion, linked to the social dimension of education. There are mid-term and longterm effects from the non-inclusion of young adults in secondary or tertiary schooling or vocational training for both the adolescents and society.

Coming up SOLIDAR is actively involved in the NGO Steering Group preparing the European Year 2010 on the Fight Against Poverty and Social Exclusion, especially with regards to its political messages and heritage.


In the broader framework of social inclusion, SOLIDAR regularly participates in the Round Tables on Poverty and Social Exclusion and recently got involved in the European Meeting of People Experiencing Poverty. SOLIDAR has been involved in monitoring and contributing to the European-level process on active inclusion, including the public consultations launched by the Commission in 2006 and 2007. Together with the Social Platform members, SOLIDAR successfully lobbied for the endorsement of the Commission Communication and Recommendation on Active Inclusion in October 2008. SOLIDAR also strongly contributed to the own-initiative European Parliament Report on Active Inclusion adopted in May 2009. To read more about SOLIDAR’s work, visit

About Pour la Solidarité Pour la Solidarité (PLS) is a SOLIDAR member from Belgium. It carries out European projects, studies, conferences and meetings to build bridges between different stakeholders in the economic and social sectors at Belgian and EU level: public authorities, companies, trade unions, research centres and associations. In 2007, PLS, in collaboration with the Rotary Club, carried out a study on early school leaving and participated in an awareness-raising workshop with teenagers on the risks related to early school leaving, and the options available to obtain counselling and support in the Brussels Capital Region. It set up a website on the topic ( with the aim of guiding young people at risk of dropping out of school and their parents to finding a solution, as well as developing a database of professionals working on this issue, and compiling an analysis on early school leaving in Belgium and Europe.

Meet Antoinette Antoinette is 15 years old. She comes from a middle-class family in Brussels. When Antoinette was 11, she started secondary school and thought school was really cool. But when she was about 13, she started having problems with her schoolmates. She doesn’t understand why but she started losing friends and having troubled relationships with her classmates; this upset her a lot. So, one morning instead of going to school, Antoinette decided to go to the seaside and spend the day there. She then continued to do this day after day and refused to go back to school. After the problem became obvious, Antoinette started going to see a psychologist who invited her to go to the School Drop-out Prevention team [SAS – Services d’accrochage scolaires].

What the social workers think “There are two types of measures taken to fight early school leaving in the Belgian French-speaking community. There are the preventative measures which include school health services (centres psycho–medico-social); school mediation to manage problematic relationships between pupils, parents and the school or between pupils and school; and mobile teams which intervene in schools to solve problems such as violence. Then there are also the ‘a posteriori’ measures offered by the School Dropout Prevention team (SAS - Services d’accrochage scolaire) which include supporting early school leavers for 3 to 6 months to analyse the reasons why they left school and to prepare their return or reintegration into the educational system. Third sector organisations, like social NGOs, manage many projects to prevent early school leaving and to help youngsters to come back to school, including cultural activities and sport.”

Antoinette really liked the team and she found it much better to have something to do during the day than just hanging around in town or at the sea. Through the work of the SAS team, Antoinette now feels ready to return to school. She sometimes talks about her future in which she wants to earn money as she is quite terrified of living in financial hardship.

“I found school very, very boring. I didn’t like the teachers’ methods and the teachers didn’t like me! I went to school, but I always arrived very late. At the end of the summer holidays, I received a letter which informed me that I was excluded. The School Dropout Prevention team really cheered me up and now I am ready to return to school.” ENVER, 15, BELGIUM


03 Education policy in Belgium According to Belgian legislation, adolescents cannot be absent for more than 30 half-days during one school year. If they exceed this limit, the school must inform the service in charge of schooling matters. In Belgium only a few statistics on early school leaving are available, with often contradictory or unreliable figures. According to Belgian statistics, 3,000 to 4,000 pupils in the French-speaking Community and 6,000 pupils in Brussels Capital Region are early school leavers. 2008 Eurostat statistics classify 12.3% of young adults aged 18 to 24 years as early school leavers - meaning pupils who have left school without a first cycle of secondary school certificate and who have not subsequently followed any vocational training1.

Interview with member of staff at Pour la Solidarité

What are the risks associated to leaving school early? Early school leaving results in negative consequences for both the youngster and for society as a whole. For the youngster, there are many negative consequences, such as a higher chance of being unemployed or on low income, being less likely to participate in lifelong learning, having higher chances of drug addiction and juvenile delinquency, and not fully using their citizenship rights. For society there are social costs, such as the cost of welfare and other social programmes, and a decrease in social cohesion. Challenges increase even further with rising numbers of unskilled young adults and high rates of youth unemployment in many EU Member States, even more so in this severe economic crisis, where the transition from school and professional training to the labour market becomes even more difficult, in particular for unqualified adolescents.

More generally, policies need to address the social dimension of education and training, and these policies should be better linked and coordinated with measures to promote social inclusion and social cohesion. Challenges related to the special needs of children with migrant backgrounds need to be tackled by prioritising equity in education, fostering the access of migrant children to early and pre-school education, reducing institutional barriers, and promoting intercultural skills at all levels of education systems. This could be done by creating partnerships involving schools, parents and social workers.

“Pour la Solidarité” (ed.), L’Union Européenne, s’intéresse-t-elle au décrochage scolaire? Etats des lieux et perspectives en Europe, Bruxelles, 2009, p. 3


In Belgium, the definition of an early school leaver is a pupil of 18 years of age subject to the school obligation but who is not going to school anymore. At the European level, early school leaving means youngsters aged between 18 to 24, who have not yet received upper secondary qualifications and are currently not in any education or training.

What are your main demands to the Belgian Federal Government and the regional governments responsible for education and social inclusion? Firstly that there must be better coordination between the institutions and organisations involved in tackling this issue. In Belgium, there are numerous actors working on early leaving school issues and if we want to achieve more efficiency and better outcomes, their activities should be better coordinated, for example in a network including all relevant actors. Secondly, the school system needs more financial means to offer a high level of education to youngsters without discrimination or segregation and thereby help to better prevent early school leaving; thirdly, statistics are needed to evaluate the extent of this problem.


What are the main causes for early school leaving? The reasons for leaving education early are numerous and various. They are specific to the individual and depend on several determinants and influential factors related to the education system, family (for example the family structure, its attitude towards school, relationships or authority issues) or to the adolescent (motivation and psychological issues, failure at school, school phobia).




View from a local authority

Issues prioritised by the PES Group in the Committee of Regions The PES Group in the Committee of the Regions stress that social inclusion is a pre-requisite for the creation of a fair and cohesive society in which each individual can fully participate and realise their potential. This means that active social inclusion, in particular of those most at risk of marginalisation, is essential in order to prevent deep and permanent divisions in society. Those out of work - young unemployed, persons with disabilities, migrants, women and other disadvantaged groups - need special attention and targeted policies enabling them to realise their full potential. Local and regional authorities play a key part in devising and running such political interventions because they have access to information about the situation on the ground, are the first port of call for those in need of assistance, and provide the services and infrastructures to address these issues. The PES Group is fully committed to balanced social development and the realisation of the European Social Model, based on solidarity and territorial cohesion. It is therefore necessary to exchange experience and learn from each other in order to improve social inclusion policies across the EU.

Henk Kool Member of the Committee of the Regions and Deputy Mayor of The Hague, The Netherlands Active inclusion in the City of The Hague: the successful case of the Youth Action Programme Main results in summary In The Hague, the school year 2006/2007 showed a significant drop, 13%, in the number of new school drop-outs of pupils aged 27 and under as compared to the school year 2005/2006. The number of drop-outs who re-entered the education system increased strongly from 39% in 2005 to 60% in 2006. From 2007 to 2008 the number of young people receiving municipal benefits decreased strongly up to 30%. Background to the initiative Young people are a vital part of our society and need to be given opportunities and encouraged to take up these opportunities. Young people aged 0 to 27 make up almost 1/3 of the population of the city (470,000 inhabitants). In The Netherlands a large number of tasks regarding youth policy have been assigned to the municipal authorities. This has enabled The Hague to direct the policy of the Youth Action Programme 2007/2010. The municipality brings the regional and local partners concerned with youth policy together. The Youth Action Programme contains under the main principle of “Every young person should attend school or have a job” three aims: • To prevent young people leaving school without qualifications (dropping out) • Returning drop-outs to school • Helping young people for whom a return to education is no longer an option to find employment Local Policy For absenteeism among young people under 18, a number of legal measures can be used, because young people under 18 are obliged to obtain a basic qualification. Furthermore, schools are obliged to report young people aged 18 to 23 who leave school without a basic qualification to the Regional Registration and Coordination point (RMC). Young people having dropped out receive a letter, telephone call or house visit encouraging them to return to school or choose an alternative education. In addition, the municipality keeps track of young people up to 27 years old who have left school without a basic qualification. All young people up to the age of 27 for whom return to education or a normal job are not an option will be referred to the Youth Office. There they will be assigned a trajectory within one week of registration in which they will be active for a minimum of 32 hours a week. These trajectories take place in an adapted work environment in which working, learning, guidance and mediation are central. Contacts will be made with the RMC at regular intervals so that drop-outs can be quickly traced and directed back to school, to work or to another trajectory.


Together for Social Europe is a one-year project which aims to demonstrate that a more social Europe is necessary for a socially sustainable and cohesive Europe. SOLIDAR seeks to demonstrate this by highlighting SOLIDAR members’ experiences of working with socially and economically disadvantaged people and putting forward proposals to EU and national decision makers.

This briefing, coordinated by SOLIDAR, is supported by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) with contributions by SOLIDAR member Pour la Solidarité and the PES Group in the Committee of the Regions. All Together for Social Europe briefings are available on SOLIDAR is a European network of 53 NGOs active in over 90 countries working to advance social justice in Europe and worldwide. SOLIDAR lobbies the EU and international institutions in three primary areas: social affairs (more social Europe), international cooperation (decent work for all) and education (lifelong learning for all).

Responsible editor: Conny Reuter Project coordinators: Mathias Maucher and David Andrés Viñas Publication coordinator: Abigail Goundry Printed on recycled paper ©SOLIDAR September 2009

SOLIDAR’s recommendations for EU decision makers on social inclusion and active inclusion 1. Implement the Commission Recommendation on Active Inclusion by • Active inclusion measures being built on individual rights, the respect of human dignity and principles of non-discrimination. • Ensuring that minimum income schemes cover not only EU citizens, but also refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants. • Including additional principles under the “access to services” strand of this Recommendation, including non-discrimination of access and use of services, rights and empowerment of users, good working conditions, proper financing in accordance with local, regional and national circumstances, and continuous and timely delivery. • Addressing and prioritising the challenge of early school leaving under the Open Method of Coordination (OMC)* on social protection and social inclusion, working towards the five common objectives set for the education systems. 2. Promote active labour market policies that address inequalities and strongly involve social partners by • Promoting active labour market policies that are not discriminatory, but interventionist and tailor-made to users' needs, in coordination with social protection systems, to bring people in precarious situations and far from the labour market back into employment and prevent the perpetuation of segregated labour markets. • Addressing inequalities in the labour market by eliminating discrimination in recruitment procedures. • Ensuring - through labour law - equal access to vocational training and lifelong learning as preconditions to promote reintegration into the labour market. • Acknowledging the importance of non-formal education and voluntary activities in acquiring qualifications and competencies. • Supporting the important role played by civil society organisations in formal and nonformal education and promoting cooperation between education institutions and civil society organisations based on an approach of complementarity of actions.

Afair go for all: social inclusion for social cohesion  
Afair go for all: social inclusion for social cohesion  

Solidar’s briefing on “social inclusion for social cohesion” includes some recommendations on how to address inequalities