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

The Region of Crete was successfully held the conference of the Regional Observatory for Social Inclusion (Observatory) in Chania with the title, "Living Conditions, Urban Deprivation and Local Needs Recording in Crete". The Observatory collaborates with the Laboratory of Social Analysis and Applied Social Research (EKAEKE) of the Department of Sociology of the University of Crete. The Department of Public Health and Social Care and the social services of the Municipalities of the Regional Unity (R.U.) of Chania actively participated in the conference.

The Conference opened by the Deputy Regional Governor of the Regional Unit of Chania Nikolaos Kalogeris, and the Deputy Regional Governor for Social Policy, Lambros Kambourakis. The Deputy Mayor for Social Policy, Eleni Zervoudaki, also welcomed the event, on behalf of the Mayor of Chania, Panagiotis Simandirakis. They noted the importance of the work of the Observatory in the formulation of social development policies for the fight against poverty and social integration in the Region of Crete and individual areas.

According to the recently available data from ELSTAT and Eurostat presented (1st research axis), there has been a significant deterioration in the standard of living in Greece and Crete in the last 15 years, which is significantly below the corresponding average of the EU-27 countries. Despite the fact that in the period 2015-2019 there is a significant reduction in the risk of relative poverty (based on a constant poverty line over time), the level of prosperity is still lower in the country than it was before the economic crisis. The pandemic (covid-19) also interrupted and reverse this trend, leading again to a small increase. Although the risk of poverty in Crete is at lower levels than the rest of the country, the ability of households to cover critical needs for their well-being with their available income is more limited than the national average. For example, consumption in Crete shrank significantly between the years 2014 and 2020, becoming more and more limited to cover basic need in food than to health. The weakness observed in the ability of benefits to reduce poverty and inequality in Greece is higher in Crete, which leads to reinforcing the necessity for further development of social benefits in kind (education, childcare, employment, care for the elderly, etc.) and social investment in the island.

The social geography of deprivation per Regional Unit of Crete showed (3rd research axis) that the Regional Unit of Chania does have extensive zones of deprivation but individual areas near the mountains (rural areas) and in the historical districts of Koum Kapi and Splatzia (urban area). In the latter, vulnerable households coexist with a middle-class household, an evolution influenced by the tourism development in the areas leading to the change of their human geography and cultural identity. The areas are also faced with material deprivation, lack of elderly care and access to health services, social inclusion of vulnerable people and energy poverty. In this context, there is a need to integrated community development interventions in order to combat spatial deprivation, with the preservation of the rich historical heritage and identity of the districts. There is also the need for development of a social care network with upgraded social services and a social capital or a solidarity and collective action constructing from the bottoms.

The needs recorded by the Observatory in the Regional Unit of Chania, related to housing, domestic violence, difficulty in accessing services, unemployment over 50, aging of rural areas, lack of mental health services, loneliness and vulnerability of older people, spatial isolation. Also noted, the absence of service structures and lack of support and covering needs of the population in the south of the R.U. of Chania, other rural and remote and inaccessible areas of Crete.

The conference was attended by institutional & official representatives of the Region of Crete, the Municipalities of Chania and Crete, Regions and Observatories of Greece, research and other bodies.