I listened to many stories

Stories of people living in poverty, stories of people with a history of migration, stories of abandoned women with children, stories of different people who have one characteristic in common: they were all underprivileged.

They live in slums, in social housing, at the countryside, in small villages. They live in old industrial areas such as northern France, Wallonia, East Germany and other regions of Europe.

They have one common characteristic: they all feel abandoned. Abandoned by the state, social services, public transportation, stores and bank branches and even the post office.

They have another common feature: they have lost their faith in traditional parties, or even, and this is more dangerous, in democracy. They don’t participate anymore: because they are not listening to us, they say.

All of these stories are about feeling abandoned. They all feel abandoned. If you walk in these deprived areas, you know what they feel. We talked about deprived areas, but the same feelings are found in rural areas. They all feel that their problems, their needs are not being listened to.

Common to all these stories is feeling abandoned by social and public services. In the old industrial areas unemployed workers, former proud metal workers are only offered jobs as polishers. In the Netherlands, welfare recipients are denied their support because they have a migrant background. The perverse thing is that because of not enough income their children were taken away. In rural areas, villages and small towns are being isolated. Public transportation is eliminated. Lokets and small crafts have disappeared. They are abandoned, left behind.

Every time again we see in these hideous stories how some, not all, social services for the sake of hard savings and hard principles do not support persons in need, but rather push them away.

The result of this harsh social policy is that people no longer trust the government, and indeed no longer trust democracy at all.

And this is where INVOLVE comes in. Social and public services are essential to reduce inequality, to give people a perspective of a better life, to create solidarity. So inclusive services are necessary. But not only to create a more equal society, but also for a more supported society. A supported society for which everyone wants to care. Inclusive services are the outposts of a democratic society: they show in their participatory way of working, in their generous support, in their way of forming community that everyone matters, matters and is necessary to help shape society.

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