Two hundred people will be helped to find and keep jobs, improve their lifestyles and develop a sense of self-worth under a project aimed at pulling them out of poverty.

The funding will come from the Leap Project, an EU initiative to tackle poverty, which Social Solidarity Minister Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca described yesterday as “the scourge of our society”.

National statistics show that the rate of those at risk of poverty hovers at around 15 per cent of the population while, if the risk of social exclusion is factored in, it increases to around 20 per cent.

The minister said a national strategy against poverty and social exclusion should be finalised by the end of this year.

The Leap Project, she said, was expected to improve the lives of about 900 people as training and support will be offered to others apart from the 200 who will be followed closely. Details on how these 200 people will be selected have still to be ironed out.

The main causes of poverty include illiteracy, domestic violence and abuse, inequality...

The minister’s policy consultant, Maria Rauch, elaborated that for the purposes of the project Malta and Gozo would be divided into five regions.

Networks of key people within each region will identify areas of poverty and tackle pressing issues. These five regions will be further subdivided into a total of 12 regions to ensure better outreach.

The project will also help NGOs with capacity building, to better equip them to help the poor. Ms Rauch said the project would start once the final paperwork was concluded – possibly by the end of the month.

The Leap Project will serve as a platform for the creation of family resource centres, which are still at concept stage. These would provide a variety of support and prevention services in the community.

During the press conference Yana Mintoff Bland, the Government’s consultant on poverty, gave an overview of the feedback received during public consultation meetings on poverty. These meetings were held in July in eight localities – Marsa, Cospicua, Xgħajra, Marsascala, Valletta, Buġibba, Gżira and Marsalforn.

The main causes of poverty that emerged included illiteracy, domestic violence and abuse, inequality, lack of employability, housing issues and vulnerability such as disability and mental health problems.

In a recent interview with Times of Malta Dr Mintoff Bland had said the bottom 10 per cent of the community was earning less than €5,700 a year.

“It’s impossible to live on that and they hardly have any chance to get out of that situation. Only one in seven are upwardly mobile. The lack of social mobility is not acceptable,” she had said.

Illiteracy, absenteeism raised during public consultation

• Illiteracy and the lack of academic qualification of young people are strongly felt in Marsa.

• Social services need to offer more support to young people who are brought up in residential care.

• The social benefit system is too rigid and is failing to protect those who really need support.

• Immigrants need to be better integrated into society.

• Better use should be made of abandoned buildings.

• People should be taught basic life skills and how to handle money from a young age.

• There should be better coordination between the parish church, local council, the government and NGOs.

• The serious problem of school absenteeism must be addressed.

• Many buildings in Valletta are not accessible and this is leading to elderly people being isolated inside their homes.

• Gozo is suffering from an influx of families with social problems that is being reflected in children being sent to school without breakfast.

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