The suffocation of communities slows the recovery of social policy spending | Society

The financial suffocation of the communities caused by the lack of Budgets has slowed the incipient recovery of regional spending on social policies. If, starting in 2014, regional items in health, education and social services began to increase timidly after years of hard cuts, this evolution was cut short in the accounts of last year, a situation that worsens this and will extend, at least, until 2020 given the lack of government. This is evidenced by the report presented Monday by the Association of Directors and Managers in Social Services, which not only warns of the risk of stagnation, but of a "return to the deterioration of essential public services" and calls for "budgetary shielding" in these items. It also shows the differences between communities, since while some regions already exceed the pre-crisis levels in social spending, others remain below. Especially worrying is the case of Catalonia, with almost a 20% difference.

"The communities are under extraordinary budgetary tension to provide essential public services," explains José Manuel Ramírez, president of the association, an expert in the social sector. In his opinion, if there was a stable government and approved budgets, the social expenditure prior to the crisis could have been recovered, since the regional debt would have slowed. In 2009, just before the start of the cuts, the expenditure of communities in health, education and social services was 116,851 million euros, which was falling to a minimum of 100,000 million in 2013. From there followed four years of progressive increase However, the budgeted expenditure in 2018 was 112,662 million, below the 113,100 million of the previous year, and 3.4% lower than the 2009 level.

The suffocation of communities slows the recovery of social policy spending

For these experts, it is worrisome that the autonomous social expenditure budgeted per inhabitant in 2018 was 2,420 euros, 4.54% lower than 2,535 in 2009. The percentage of the total budget for social protection has increased from 66.9% from 2009 to 60.7% of 2018, "which shows that the expenditure on social protection policies managed by the autonomies has not recovered or has stagnated," according to its press release.

By sectors, the only one that has recovered and even exceeded the levels before the cuts is that of social services, with 1.320 million euros of difference, 11.1% more. The association considers that this increase is due to the fact that "the attention to dependency, which was in full deployment in 2009, and the necessary attention to hundreds of thousands of people and families especially hit by the crisis, meant the increase in spending on care services and insertion income ". However, this expense "has clearly been insufficient if we take into account the data on the increase in poverty and the more than 250,000 people on the waiting list for care and the 140,000 pending assessment" of the unit.

In health, the regional expenditure in 2018 was 3,764 million lower than in 2009 (5.9% less), while in education it was 1,646 million below (4% less). Meanwhile, the debt soared in this period at 23,331 million, up 338.8%.

"Budget shielding"

In this context, these experts call to "consider the budgetary shielding" in these matters "and put in place urgent formulas that allow the autonomous communities to provide these services," according to their note. "It is a scenario of politician as serious as the current one; with such extreme positions, the well-being of people cannot end up being hostage to partisan strategies and lack of political stature," they warn.

The president of the association explains that, as a first step, they will ask that the Territorial Council of Social Services, where government and autonomous communities meet, approve generating a loan to inject funds into the dependency system, which this year has suffered its first setback since 2015, with an increase in waiting lists of 6,700 people. The system missed an injection of 515 million when Pedro Sánchez did not obtain the support to the accounts agreed with United We can. However, this measure is provisional, says Ramírez. "We want formulas to be applied, such as those that exist in the pension system or with the State's Defense, stable and guarantee commitments, to ensure fundamental rights for citizens," he says.

The suffocation of communities slows the recovery of social policy spending

Differences between communities

The study of Association of Directors and Managers in Social Services highlights the differences between each community in the management of social spending during the crisis. Nine regions have exceeded in 2018 the per capita expenditure on health, education and social services of 2009: Balearic Islands (9.6%), Valencian Community (6.5%), Cantabria (5.6%), Asturias (5, 4%), Castilla y León (4.8%), Basque Country (3.7%), Navarra (2.6%), La Rioja (2.1%) and Extremadura (1.9%). On the contrary, Catalonia accumulates a decrease of 21.7% (19.91% in absolute terms), and Castilla-La Mancha of 13.8% (15.46% in absolute terms).

According to the association, "the starting situation and the severity applied to the cuts by both governments have not been the same." Thus, it differentiates the situation between the two communities in the queues: "Castilla La Mancha was a paradigm of the most brutal cuts between 2011 and 2016", which reached 39%, according to Ramírez, so it is more difficult to recover the level before the crisis. Compared to 73.6% of the Budget dedicated to social expenses in 2009, last year the percentage was 61.1%.

Meanwhile, Catalonia has maintained "an expense well above average in other policies while cutting back on essential services." In this community, it has gone from dedicating 71.3% of the Budget to social expenses in 2009 to 54.1% last year. The situation is especially alarming for Ramírez, as it is aggravated by the paralysis of the Government. "It is essential to analyze what is happening there and take urgent measures to guarantee the social protection system," he urges.

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