The issue of poverty should not be tackled in isolation but within a wider context of wealth, members of the Anti Poverty Forum Malta said.

As the EU dedicates this year to the eradication of poverty and social exclusion, the voluntary organisation representing the interests of people facing poverty said a deeper knowledge of wealth would lead to solutions guaranteeing its fairer distribution among society.

"The reasons for absolute or relative poverty do not emanate only from the unfair distribution of wealth. Other factors contribute towards poverty and social exclusion such as health, education, unemployment, family values and children," the organisation said, adding that prejudice, including racism, also led to discrimination and social exclusion.

It appealed to all stakeholders to join forces and work as a team for solutions to be found.

The organisation said there should be rigorous and regular enforcement by the Social Security Department to pay benefits to people in need, while ensuring no abuse of the system. It drew attention to the need for amending the Social Security Act, with benefits being given to the individual rather than the household.

Collection of revenue should be done on a regular basis and the Tax Compliance Unit should be more vigilant, members of the forum said.

The organisation also called for the abolition of mandatory retirement age and for employers to change the prevailing attitude towards the employment of older workers. Statistics show that poverty is on the increase in Malta and other European countries, especially among children and those over 65.

The threshold of poverty by EU standards is considered to be 60 per cent of the median income.

The forum said minimum wage and non-contributory social security benefits could be considered as a safety net to avoid poverty but did not represent an adequate income for today's needs and expectations according to EU standards.

Anti Poverty Forum Malta is an active member of the European Anti Poverty Network in Brussels.

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