Rosario Planas was evicted on January 14 from the five-square-meter storage room where she lived with her disabled son in Valencia. The case brought to light a tremendous personal drama, product of poverty and the rapid rise in the price of rents. But it also highlighted the difficulties that many people find in managing the social aid bureaucracy. Rosario had the right to receive them, both from the City Council and from Generalitat, that the have increased substantially in the last three years, but it did not do it because in the first case it did not know that it existed and in the second it had not been successful to process them.
Your case is part of a global phenomenon. "We are always talking about fraud, how many people who should not use this type of aid, when the real problem is the opposite: the number of people who should receive them and does not," says Joseba Zalakain, director of the SiiS Documentation and Studies Center. The EU agency Eurofound analyzed in 2015 a wide range of social aid in 16 countries in the north, center and south of the continent, among which Spain was not included. The results, which the authors considered representative of the whole of the Union, revealed that the percentage of people entitled to receive aid that did not was in most cases between 30% and 40%.
A year earlier, another report published by the European Comission estimated that 964,400 people who met the requirements to receive the minimum income, which in Spain granted by the communities, did not do so. In 2017, the total number of people benefiting from this assistance was 313,000. The main reasons for this were, according to the study, not knowing their existence, not knowing how to process them, lacking a stable address to introduce in the application and the fear of being stigmatized as poor. Although in Spain there is no official data on how many people do not receive aid, the percentage of those who despite meeting the poverty requirements do not receive the benefit in the Basque Country -The autonomy with the most advanced guarantee income- is 30%, as estimated by the Basque Government in 2017.
A classic obstacle to access to social assistance has been the requirement of enumeration. To overcome this, a growing number of Spanish cities are allowing homeless people to register in social centers or in other municipal offices. Barcelona was one of the first to facilitate it. In 2016, it registered 2,500 people without a fixed address; in 2017, to 4,700, and in 2018, to 6,500 – in round figures, according to a City Council spokesperson.
The professor of the UNED Antonio López warns that, in parallel, the increase of the procedures that must be carried out by Internet is raising a new barrier between the helps and the people who need them the most.
"Spanish insertion income, with the exception of Euskadi, Navarra and Asturias, is characterized by very low coverage. In Madrid, for example, it is only received by one in nine people in a situation of severe poverty. This is due to the type of requirements they demand, but also because they are procedures that use a strong legal language difficult to understand especially for people who do not have a high level of literacy, "says Gabriela Jorquera, Save the Children.
The NGO recently presented a report that concluded that in state scholarships for high school and high school students, students who are the lowest 20% are the ones who receive the least. "Those who have more resources, more contacts and more information also have greater access to aid," says Fernando Fantova, social services consultant. This is what in sociology is called the Matthew effect -by the phrase of the Bible: "The one who has the most will be given, and the one who has the least will even be taken from him" – says Fantova.
They are not rights
Manuel Aguilar, professor of Social Work at the University of Barcelona, believes that in Spain there is a group of benefits that practically everyone knows and has clear. "Regulated state aids such as rights, such as retirement and disability pensions or unemployment insurance are very much assumed by people. Even Rosario, the evicted woman from the storage room, and her son received small pensions. But when we turn to local aid and to a large extent to the regional ones, the terrain is more blurred, "he says. "They are not established as rights, each Administration decides whether to implement them and under what conditions, and its budget is usually annual and limited; once it is exhausted, they are not granted anymore. All this makes them much less rooted and that people do not know they have a right to them, "ditches Aguilar.
The guide in those cases should be offered by the social worker of proximity, which is the municipal, leading the hand users through the stormy waters of the aid granted by different administrative levels, believes Lucia Martinez, professor of the University of Valencia. "The problem is that citizens do not know about aid, but social workers often do not either; they only know their system. Their role should be equivalent to that of a general practitioner, have the obligation to report comprehensively and, if necessary, refer to other services, "says Martínez. The new Valencian law on the matter contemplates this approach.
Social services are in a phase of redefinition when they have not yet recovered from the cuts they suffered during the crisis, the experts agree. The social worker also has the fierce commitment to offer the citizen the resources he needs and administer the limited resources of his Administration. "He is a lawyer and a judge," says Aguilar. On his shoulders is the bureaucratic processing of the files in a context of little personnel, often becoming a "role manager" who does not have time to know the problems of users and accompany them, says Joseba Zalakain: "If a doctor you need 10 minutes, the social worker would need something similar. "
In recent decades, the work of social services has experienced a great development in Spain, but at the same time has been "locked in the offices", says Ana Sales, who was a social worker for 18 years and now is a professor at the University From Valencia. "Humanitarian work, which is at the origin and in the sense of social services, and which happens by going out on the street, being in the neighborhoods and contacting the needy, is not done. As much, the normal thing is that the City councils finance to entities so that they do it, adds Sales.