Conference of the Observatory in the Regional Unit of Lassithi for the presentation of its research findings and the recording of local needs in Crete

The Region of Crete successfully held the Conference of the Regional Observatory for Social Inclusion (Observatory) - which collaborates with the Laboratory of Social Analysis and Applied Social Research (EKAEKE) of the Department of Sociology of the University of Crete -, in Neapolis Lasithi (Cinema "Driros"), with the title, "Living Conditions, Rural Deprivation Pockets and Registration of Local Needs in Crete", and the active participation of the Directorates of Public Health and Social Care of the Regional Units (R.U.) of Lasithi and Heraklion and the social services of the Municipalities of the same R.U.

The Conference opened by the Deputy Regional Governor of the Regional Unit of Lassithi, Ioannis Androulakis and the Deputy Regional Governor for Social Policy, Lambros Kambourakis, noting the importance of the Observatory in taking appropriate measures for the social cohesion and social development of Crete.

According to the recently available data from ELSTAT and Eurostat (1st research axis), the situation of poverty, inequality, material and social deprivation in Crete is unfavorable, affected by the significant deterioration recorded in the country's standard of living after 2008, which significantly below the average standard of living of the EU-27 countries. Among the data that confirm this, the indicators of material and social deprivation are included, which show triple the percentages in Greece and Crete. In Greece, the relevant percentages are at 29.2% (material and social deprivation) and 14.9% (intense material and social deprivation), in Crete at 32.7% and 15.3%, while in the whole of the EU- 27 is 11.9% and 6.3% respectively. Although the risk of poverty (based on a time-constant threshold) shows an improvement in the country of almost 10 percentage points in the period 2015-2019, its rates are still high compared to the period before the financial crisis (before 2009) (48 -38% in the period 2015-2019 compared to 18.0% in 2009). In Crete, the corresponding risk of poverty is at lower levels than the whole country. In 2020, a small deterioration in the risk of poverty is recorded again, as a consequence of the negative socio-economic impact exerted by the covid-19 pandemic in Greece. In the case of Crete, the corresponding deterioration corresponds to almost one (1) percentage point. The consumption capacity of households in Crete decreased significantly between the years 2014 and 2020, being increasingly limited to covering basic food supplies, compared to other important needs for well-being, such as health. The allowances also do not have a significant effect on the reduction of poverty, inequality and deprivation in Greece and in Crete in particular, reinforcing the necessity of free services in kind (education, childcare, employment, elderly care etc.) and social investment.

The same observed in the case of the population experiencing extreme poverty in Crete, where according to the figures for the Minimum Income Guaranteed (MIG) there is a worsening of extreme poverty for the period 2020-2021, while the stipend and other supplementary benefits of the program for the EEE  do not seem to be able to satisfy all the needs of the households that receive them (2nd research axis).

The findings of field social research in rural enclaves in the south-eastern part of Crete (R.U. of Heraklion and Lasithi) (3rd research axis) with a high density of deprived communities highlight basic problems and needs and, moreover, the structure of the sense of these local societies about the conditions deprivation. The findings show spatial divisions between isolated agricultural and pastoral settlements with an aging population and demographic decline, coastal settlements based on seasonal tourism and developed towns or small towns that function as commercial and social centers of the Municipalities and reception areas of internal population migration. Deprived communities experience dependence on the primary sector, limited innovation, geographic and social isolation, increased transportation costs, and inadequacies in social amenities and infrastructure. At the social level, there are high percentages of residents with low incomes and dependence on benefits, limited opportunities for youth sociability and quality free time, inability to cover health and social care services for the entire population, gender barriers to the integration of women in the local economy and understaffed social services . The study highlights the importance of networking the local with supra-local opportunities and a participatory social planning that utilizes alternative methods of community development and programs of social agriculture, social and solidarity economy, social housing and resettlement in the context of integrated spatial interventions with a vision of spatial justice and social cohesion.

From the participation of the social services of the R.U. of Heraklion and Lasithi, needs of areas related to the isolation and lack of a supportive environment for the elderly, the unfavorable living conditions of vulnerable population groups and migrant land workers, the lack of accessibility to services and mental health services, the delinquency of minors, the absence of intermediate housing and care intervention structures for the homeless, women victims of violence and the mentally ill, the lack of employment and rehabilitation programs for the disabled, the lack of – among others – psycho-social support for populations affected by natural disasters (earthquake), the absence of creative employment structures children, playgrounds and for the disabled, the inability to cover insurance rights, addictions and domestic violence.

The conference was attended by institutional & official representatives of the Region and the Municipalities of the R.U. Lasithi and Heraklion and other R.U.. of Crete, the University of Crete, the Hellenic Mediterranean University, Developmental, Social, Research & other agencies. A corresponding Workshop of the Observatory will take place in the R.U of Chania.

More information through the link of the Observatory: