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LAW

Italy passes law to tackle poverty: Five key points

Italy on Thursday passed a law aimed at tackling poverty, with a particular focus on assisting families with young children in particular.

Italy passes law to tackle poverty: Five key points
File photo: bitpics/Deposit Photos

The country’s Labour Minister Giuliano Poletti, said it was an “important day” after the Chamber of Deputies gave the bill the go-ahead.

Having already received approval from the Italian Senate, the law will come into force in the next few weeks. 

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni described the new law as “a step forward to help families in need”.

But what will it actually entail?

Two billion euros per year

The Italian government has allocated €1.6 billion to the project in 2017, which will be distributed among those in need.

However, Poletti said that this would rise to €2 billion each in 2017 and 2018, once EU contributions were taken into account.

Families first

Previous welfare packages have generally been restricted to specific categories: the elderly, unemployed, or single parents, for example, and the country spends most of its welfare budget on pensions.

However, high levels of youth unemployment have seen the younger generation emerge – for the first time ever – as Italy's poorest. Families with young children are expected to be the main beneficiaries of the new measures, and will be eligible even if both parents are employed, if they are still considered below the poverty line.

In February, the OECD called on Italy to take “urgent action” to tackle child poverty, pointing out that the past decade had seen the proportion of Italian minors living in absolute poverty surge from three percent to 11 percent.

Children's charity Save the Children saw the situation as even more drastic, claiming that a third of Italian children were at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

€480/month

Families in need will receive a reddito di inclusione (inclusion income), which will start at up to €400 each month, based on means testing, and will increase to up to €480 per month depending on circumstances. 

This represents “the key pillar of the national plan to fight poverty”, Poletti said.

He expects around 400,000 families to benefit from the REI, amounting to a total of 1.77 million people

“[The REI] fills a long-standing gap in the Italian system of protecting individuals on a low income, and is the sign of a new approach to social policy,” the Labour Minister added.

Strings attached

The monthly benefits are not without a catch. Firstly, families will have to prove they have been resident in Italy for a certain amount of time before they can claim the inclusion income.

Those receiving the REI will have to sign a “community pact”, promising to adhere to “good standards of civic behaviour”.

Recipients must also agree to certain conditions in order to get the cash; for example, unemployed adults will have to prove they are actively job-seeking, and parents must ensure children attend school and are vaccinated. 

Criticism

The bill was passed with 138 'yes' votes, 71 nays and 21 abstentions – but critics say it's not enough to make a real difference.

The anti-establishment Five Star Movement party said the measure was “shameful”.

“All that's going to happen is that there will be two kinds of poor people: 'A-list' and 'B-list'” the party said in a statement. “There are nine million poor people who are waiting for a serious measure, which is universal income.”

A basic income for all citizens is one of the party's key promises, should it get into power in Italy's next general election, and it has already run a trial of the scheme in Livorno.

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EDUCATION

Teaching association insists parents abide by current vaccination law

A national teaching association has said parents will have to present vaccination certificates from the national health service, ASL, before their children start at nurseries in September.

Teaching association insists parents abide by current vaccination law
StockImage/Depositphotos

ANP has staunchly come out against an amendment passed by Italy’s Senate earlier this week postponing the obligation for parents to present a certificate proving their children have been vaccinated before they can attend public nursery schools.

The amendment still needs a vote in the lower house of parliament, expected after the government recess, before becoming law.

If passed, the law would delay the mandatory measure introduced by the previous left-wing government until the 2019-2020 school year. Before then, the coalition government, which is made up of the vaccine-sceptic Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League, plans to introduce legislation that would give parents freedom of choice.

But ANP insists that when nurseries reopen in September, the current law must remain in force.

“If an ASL certificate is not presented then we cannot allow children to attend nurseries and kindergartens,” ANP said.

“We don’t want to raise walls and we hope we don’t reach that point, but as managers [of the school system] we are obliged to respect the laws in force.”

In early July the health ministry said parents no longer needed to provide documentation proving their children had been vaccinated and could instead ‘self-certify’.

“Self-certification needs to be verified,” ANP added.

The current law, which sparked heated public debate when it took effect, stipulates that children cannot enroll in a creche or kindergarten unless they have been vaccinated against measles as well as nine other diseases. All of these vaccinations are offered free of charge, and parents who failed to comply face fines of up to €500, unless there was a medical reason for not getting the vaccines.

Previously only four vaccines – not including measles – were mandatory, and M5S leader Luigi Di Maio, now deputy prime minister, suggested reverting to just these four with the addition of a compulsory measles vaccine.

In 2017, there were four deaths from measles in Italy and almost 5,000 cases of the disease in total, while the national measles immunization rate of 87 percent is far below the 95 percent threshold recommended by the World Health Organization.

A growing anti-vaccine movement in the country was thought to be one of the causes in the recent drastic rise in measles cases, and the M5S has been heavily criticized for its role in raising doubts over the efficacy of vaccinations. A law proposal put forward by the party in 2014 called for “better information and possible denial of administering vaccinations” and cited the debunked studies.