Interview with Fernando Barreiro, B-MINCOME project manager
Why did your city decide to apply under Urban Innovative Actions?
The challenges arising from this situation of poverty concentrated in some areas of the city need new, comprehensive approaches considering that those factors causing and maintaining poverty along the time, interrelate. Fighting poverty and providing poor people with the opportunity to become active players in co-designing and co-making these policies, empowering them to develop their own strategies to overcome poverty, is a key priority to the current City Council.
Therefore, the UIA program became an opportunity to launch an experiment around minimum income and active social policies. Regarding the important academic and political debate over the conditionality to access guaranteed income, different categories of income were established in the pilot project based on different conditionality or paying systems whose provision will be combined with different public or private initiatives addressing different aspects of the fight against poverty. The implementation of different combinations should facilitate a comparative analysis concerning the synergies, efficiency and effectiveness of different social inclusion and welfare services.
How important is the political backing when trying out innovative actions?
There is a municipal commitment to implement a guaranteed minimum income to complement the income of Barcelona residents, raising them above the at risk of poverty threshold and reducing inequality levels. It tackles one of the main priorities of the local authority: reducing social inequalities in the city. The Barcelona City Council has allocated a significant budget to complement the UIA contribution to cover the amount of the minimum income during the duration of the pilot.
What do you consider to be the most innovative element of your project towards the fight against urban poverty?
The implementation of a municipal minimum income is an important change in the city's strategy to fight poverty in that it introduces a mechanism that facilitates ability to make decisions aimed at reducing their social exclusion, encouraging individuals to take the initiative and develop their own strategies, once a minimum economic security has been ensured.
At the same time the innovation is based in the idea that the delivered minimum income is part of a new integrated strategy based on new core elements: a) testing several types of minimum income paid with local funds; b) combine minimum income with integrated one-stop-shop public and private active policies attacking several poverty dimensions and c) strengthening inhabitant and community’s initiative.
What are the main changes that you expect to achieve in your municipality with this project?
The implementation of the minimum income (Municipal Support for Inclusion) among households in situations of poverty should prompt a comparative analysis concerning the costs of policies aimed at fighting poverty, with the ultimate goal of developing more efficient welfare services. It is a new solution adapted to the new poverty related phenomena occurring in the city. The municipal minimum income system will provide families with security, freedom and greater responsibility as a lever in overcoming poverty. It includes also a set of changes in the delivery of services available to persons receiving the income; a better understanding of poverty, based on the life stories of those affected; a social currency to cover a part of the minimum income, and new forms of co-creation, interrelation between services, community involvement and public-private cooperation.
After six months of implementation, can you tell us where you are with the project and what are the main challenges you expect to be confronted to?
The design of B-MINCOME, has recently been finalised. The sample of target population has been defined. It will comprise a stratified random sample from Besòs area households. From the selected households, 1000 will be assigned to a control group, while the other 1000 will be assigned (at random) to one of ten treatment groups, all of which will receive cash income supplements (Municipal Inclusion Support). Treatment groups differ according to whether the SMI is accompanied by an additional program and whether the SMI is means tested. The four complementary active public policies have been designed as well. Nowadays, the selected population complying the basic conditions is being called and informed on the conditions and requirements of participation, through 380 small meetings (with 10 families each) along the Besos area. The main challenges B MINCOME has to face in the very short time are drawing the 1000 recipient families, starting the delivery of the minimum income among the families, and setting-up the four active policies involving different local stakeholders from inside and outside the municipality.