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Someone was probably disgusted with the sight of it, perhaps they even observed the scene with contempt, many others walked by indifferently, while, with discretion dressed in humbleness, this middle-aged man was rummaging through trash, in search of food left-overs, in the very centre of Milan. His is just one case among many others, in the metropolis where life smiles. Not everyone though. Quite the opposite, only to a few lucky ones and even to them it is smiling less and less.

Italy is poor, much poorer than in was 2007. The  2015 Report of the Italian Caritas, presented in Rome, shows disturbing data. Since the beginning of the economic crisis, until last year, the number of totally poor people has doubled. Over 4 million citizens, that is, 6.8 percent of the population, have nothing to eat and drink, nor a roof over their heads. And even if ISTAT data promise a stabilization of the state of affairs, scenes like the one described above are more and more frequent, in the neighbourhoods of both Northern and Southern cities, as well as on the outskirts. A slap in the face of a solidarity made merely of empty words.

The face of poverty is changing. It is the face of our neighbours, friends, and family. No longer elderly people and people without jobs or families with three or more children, but also young people, workers with a steady job and an income, separated parents and families with two children. There is a general worsening of life conditions and a reduction of earnings for everyone, cutting through all the social strata. The scientific manager of  Caritas Report, Cristiano Gori, a teacher of Social Policy at the Catholic University Sacro Cuore, declared to the information agency SIR that ”indigence has become a habitual trait of our country”.

It is an emergency, that has become a habit and that requires immediate action. Improvements in welfare policies were marginal. The measure adopted by the Government so far – such as the Social Card, the 80-euros bonus for the employees and the so-called baby-bonus for the numerous families, as well as the unemployment allowance – proved to be inadequate and insufficient for those who have an income that is below the poverty line. Those affected the most are people above 50 years of age, poorly educated and with family members to provide for. The Report of Caritas is titled the following way: ”Policies against poverty in Italy. Building the welfare after the crisis”.

”It is outrageous that poor people should continue to be given merely the left-overs. Structural measures and resources are needed”, said don Francesco Soddu, the head of Italian Caritas. Italy and Greece are the only countries in Europe, that do not provide a basic income guarantee and allocate the lowest funds in the European area for the support of the poor. The largest part of the available public funding is destined to the national monetary benefit, whereas the service industry, a prerogative of the municipalities, are underfunded, recites the Report. To sum up, aids destined to finance exceed those destined to citizens who are in difficulty. And the announced cut on the TASI and IRPEF taxes would not change the situation significantly, according to the researchers.

Italian Caritas asks for the introduction of the Income of Social Inclusion (aka REIS), put forward by the alliance against poverty, the social Pact signed by Caritas and Acli. Besides, it proposes an allocation plan running from 2016 through 2019, with interventions over 1,8 milliard  in 2016 up to 7,1 milliard in 2019, to support those in need. The undersecretary for the Presidency Council, Claudio De Vincenti, despite assuring an increase of the resources for Active Support for Inclusion (SAI), also in other Italian cities, not only in the 11 that are a part of the Stability plan of this year, declared that they will still be much lower than those requested in the proposal to introduce REIS.

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