“The Whole-Person Approach” . Report on the 6th FEAD Network Meeting

The meeting was held in Brussels on 19 June 2017, EPA was represented by Herminio Correa, EPA Ambassador

According to Amartja Sen’s theory, poverty is to be seen as deprivation of capabilities. Functionings are states of ‘being and doing’ such as being well-nourished or having shelter. Capabilities are the set of valuable functionings the person has access to. People do not just need resources, they also need to be able to use them in order to conduct the kind of life they consider valuable.

The whole-person approach has been put into practice to address the causes and consequences on health and wellbeing of specific forms of material deprivation, such as food insecurity or homelessness. While mental health issues are not present in all cases of poverty, some interesting associations can be found in the literature.

A total of 44.2% of food bank users reported a longstanding illness or disability, compared with 28.4% of non-users. Mental health problems were also found to have a significant association with food bank use. Two-thirds (66.4%) of those who had used a food bank reported a mental health problem, compared with 31.6% of non-users.17 It has been noted that food insecurity is particularly harmful to the mental wellbeing of children.

In health care and social work, the possibility to put in place a whole-person approach has often been linked to “case management”. Case management is defined as “a collaborative process which assesses, implements, coordinates, monitors and evaluates the options and services needed to meet an individual’s health needs, using communication and available resources to promote a quality, cost-effective outcome”. Case management and care coordination, coupled with health care services, have been found to be effective in improving health outcomes in vulnerable populations such as low-income mothers, children and older people.

As usual this meeting had a welcome from the Commission and a discussion panel on the topic, with three special guests: Frederik Spinnewijn from FEANTSA, EU, Marcus Herz from Malmo University and Michal Krupka from the Social Welfare Centre, Poland.

Then the “Marketplace” sessions on adopting a “whole person approach” in FEAD support activities began with six case studies from six different countries:

Case 1 – The Srečevalnica project (Slovenian Red Cross)
This project offers a range of activities whereby individuals are able to develop particular skills. Following discussions with end recipients, it was decided that activities of interest, including sewing and cooking classes, would also be offered. Participants are encouraged to take on the role of “mentors” and lead their own activities where possible. While food aid is often considered an entry point into other support activities, the Srečevalnica project has demonstrated that support activities can also act as the main entry point to assistance.

Case 2 – Digniti Omnia (Sweden)
This project adopts a whole person approach by carrying out activities across four areas of need. Broadly speaking, these relate to personal empowerment, [digital] communication, preventive healthcare and awareness raising of rights and obligations as EU citizens. Related activities may for example focus on literacy, IT skills, Swedish language, preventative healthcare and how to access key services in Sweden.

Case 3 – Linking FEAD end recipients to social workers (Slovakia)
Their task is to contact the end recipients and notify them when and where their food parcels will be distributed. The parcels are distributed four times a year through a wide distribution network of over 2,600 distribution points that reach nearly every town and village. The parcels are distributed by accredited social workers who crucially also provide counselling and advice on a variety of topics.

Case 4 – Combining food distribution with counselling and information provision (Bulgaria)
This programme operates two measures: firstly, the Red Cross oversees the distribution of food packages, and secondly local municipalities provide warm meals to end recipients. A personalised approach is adopted in response to the specific needs of end recipients as a way to best address social exclusion.

Case 5 – Future accompanying measures to address mental health issues and addiction (Hungary)
The aim of the proposed accompanying measures is to act as a bridge between the social and (particularly psychiatric) healthcare sectors, by linking homeless people directly to healthcare psychiatric doctors.

Case 6 – Providing support through specialised solidarity centres and support services (France)
SPF, an independent and non-profit organisation founded in 1945, aims to help people in poverty to become actively involved in addressing their own situations through a comprehensive approach, offering different forms of “solidarity” (material aid, food aid, social activities).

Key learning outcomes from the marketplace session
  • It takes time and trust (in services/volunteers) to build an empowering path for end recipients;
  • An integrated approach is needed: importance of connecting services (e.g. health and social services) using FEAD flexibility – acting as a bridge;
  • Assumptions (e.g. “it has to be long-term/complex”, “a general approach fits all” …) should be checked: is the approach truly individualised?
  • Complexity needs to be acknowledged (addictions, language barriers) and FEAD dares to address these issues;
  • It is important to acknowledge where the person is and what they are prepared to commit to (sometimes they only want material support);
  • Tangible and realistic targets must be set for and with end recipients;
  • Food is an entry point to access beneficiaries and allows signposting, and vice-versa;
  • Complementarity with ESF approaches is necessary, building connections between ESF and FEAD Managing Authorities;
  • The empowerment of end recipients can lead to volunteering, while not forgetting labour market integration (from caring to integration and active inclusion);
  • There must be space to express and share, create a rapport and work with other existing services to tackle what comes up;
  • Outreach work is essential and helps identify new beneficiaries;
  • End recipients must be involved in every step;
  • FEAD provides flexibility but some participants felt there needs to be better balance between allocations for food and for accompanying measures.

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