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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.fr/social-eco/j...

by Justine Cohendet

“A real tidal wave of poverty is crashing down over France.” – Julien Lauprêtre.

Julien Lauprêtre, the president of Secours populaire (a non-profit association whose aim is to fight poverty and exclusion), declared that the poverty rate revealed by INSEE this Tuesday is clearly lower than the reality. These figures actually date back to 2009 and therefore are not current. The president of Secours populaire is worried by this “tidal wave of poverty” which is crashing down over France. Interview for Humanité.fr

Translated Tuesday 11 October 2011, by Emily Drummond and reviewed by Bill Scoble

This morning you criticised INSEE’s 2009 figures for being lower than the reality. What does the current situation look like?

Julien Lauprêtre: This morning, Secours populaire received INSEE’s figures on poverty with great interest, and they do indeed reveal the high level of poverty in our country. However, these figures date back to 2009 and, as a result, they are below the reality. All the signs point towards the fact that poverty is growing. On the other hand, although these figures are fact, they don’t cover every aspect. You have to take into account other factors. One French person in two didn’t go on holiday this year. In addition, 39% of French people gave up health care, for financial reasons, care that had been prescribed to them. Lastly, it should be noted that not all French people have access to sport or culture. There is a real tidal wave of poverty crashing down over France. Today our volunteers all came to the same conclusion: poverty has continued growing, no matter which region you look at. There isn’t a single region in France where the situation hasn’t deteriorated.

Which measures have been put in place by the Secours populaire?

Julien Lauprêtre: Today the problems of job insecurity have become problems with society. We have alerted the public authorities that it is affecting young people more and more. In the last few years we have observed a flood of young people coming to our centres. In November, we are organising the “National Conference of Youth Solidarity” which will be held from 24th to 26th November in Nancy. The Secours populaire are trying to get as close as possible to young people, but we can’t solve the problem on our own.

What kind of response have you received from the government and the E.U.?

Julien Lauprêtre: The Secours populaire directs the authorities and is an advocate for the poor. These figures confirm what we have been saying for years. Today we have proof, in the form of these figures, that poverty has continued to grow. That’s the reality of it. From this moment on the authorities must wake up to these signs. Unfortunately, there is no chance that the poverty rate will improve after the European Commission took the decision to cut around 400 million euros from its European Programme of Aid to the Poor (PEAD) in June. This is a drastic decision, which involves the budget being cut by 75% before being scrapped completely. In France, this programme helps feed nearly 4 million people through the work of 4 associations (French Red Cross, Banques alimentaires, Restos du Coeur and French Secours populaire). Regarding our services, if this measure is not reconsidered, it will be impossible to distribute half of these meals. A meeting of the ministers for Agriculture will take place on 18th September. If the decision to make these cuts cannot be revised then our country faces a real food disaster.

Lastly, can you tell us something about the reason behind your presence at the Fête de L’Humanité (the biggest communist festival in France)?

Julien Lauprêtre: The aim of Secours populaire’s presence at the Fête de l’Humanité is to show the public the importance of developing our organisation in today’s society in order to create more and more solidarity. We are also there to spread our message, notably by alerting the public to the seriousness of the European Commission’s decision through a petition.

In their study INSEE announced that in 2009 the poverty rate had reached 13.5%, 5% higher than in 2008. This year the poverty line was set at 954 euros a month and in 2009 8.2 million people were living below this line. Out of these 8.2 million half are living on less than 773 euros a month.

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