Photo Hugues Siegenthaler © LIVES

Maillard opens Symposium on Poverty, dialog between research and practice

On October 11th, 2012, the Head of the Department of Health and Social Work (DSAS) of the Swiss Canton of Vaud pleaded in favor of a dialectical flow of ideas between public sector and research institutions in front of 300 social workers and scholars.

At the opening of the 2nd Symposium on Poverty in Lausanne, a two-day conference in Lausanne with 300 participating social and academic institutions and the important contribution of members of the Swiss National Center of Competence in Research LIVES, the President of the Council of the State of Vaud and Head of the DSAS underlined the mutual benefits of that type of meeting. "Public sector needs to be infused with ideas", he said, adding that researchers needed to be filled in by practitioners on the other hand.

The Vaud minister also endeavored to ensure that he would listen to the social policy users. Based on feeds from an online forum, he said he understood why some low-income families have been rebelling as they find it difficult to obtain social aid. Pierre-Yves Maillard is mainly concerned about "the lengthy procedures" and the fact that "people feel the social policies never apply to them", despite the Canton's significant efforts to improve on poverty: "We must take people's feelings into account and adjust the procedures accordingly", he declared.

Breaking the mindset

The socialist member of the State Council then underlined that some "mental constructions" must be broken down, such as the idea that foreigners are doing better in claiming and obtaining social aid. He also intends to destigmatize the social aid recipients by building more bridges between the pillars of solidarity. "One must have the right to social aid, and the opportunity to get out of it", said Pierre-Yves Maillard, as he called for "seamless relations and a better combination" between the existing schemes.

Finally, he insisted on the importance of empowerment as a therapy through the example of the FORJAD project, which provided training and employment to 1,500 young recipients of the Social Integration Income since it has been launched, and has led to success "beyond our expectations". To conclude, Pierre-Yves Maillard announced that his department together with the Youth and Training Department were looking to develop a policy to prevent social issues based on the model of existing health assistance to families with a newborn child.

The academics' word

The inauguration speech was followed by three presentations. In order to tackle poverty in families, psychologist Heidi Simoni urged to create perspectives for parents and their children as soon as possible: "As subject matter experts, we can help parents conceive and expand their scope of action and thinking."

Marianne Modak, a professor at the School of Labor and Health – EESP Lausanne and a LIVES researcher, emphasized how social workers' value system conveyed gender inequalities. Based on a study she led in 36 social services of Swiss Romandie, she demonstrated that the helper's "normative systems" determine the type of aid they offer, as mothers are often advised to stay home, even when they can earn more than their partners.

Finally, Daniel Oesch, a sociology professor at the University of Lausanne and member of a LIVES research team, brought forward the results of a survey on workers dismissed after plant closures, which he conducted in partnership with Isabel Baumann. He said "the good news" is that two thirds of them got a new job within two years, including those with poor qualifications. The bad news is the heavy drop in job-finding rates after age 55.

As part of the Symposium on Poverty, several workshops, a round-table and the much awaited presentation of Serge Paugam, a reputed French specialist in the social insecurity field, took place on October 12th.