Aid for poor remains on shelf

A social benefits program aimed at helping residents struggling at the bottom end of the low-income group would cost the government budget between 500-600 million euros annually, according to the results of a study published yesterday. The research, compiled by the National Center for Social Research (EKKE), looks at measures that could help to provide a boost to one of the 270,000 four-member households in Greece that earn less 7,560 euros per year. The study found that improved use of community services along with an allowance would provide much needed relief. «Poor people, as research shows, do not make use of community services. Financial assistance is just not enough,» said EKKE Vice President Yiannis Sakellis, «To improve their quality of life, they need to take advantage of free services which they do not normally have access to. Medical tests, psychological support, speech therapy for children, etc,» he added. Greece is the only country among the EU’s original 15 members not to have a minimum-income scheme. Data showed that countries such as Portugal offer two-person households with very low incomes a 303-euro benefit per month, while in Italy the amount is between 338-542 euros. Sources said that the conservative government is considering introducing the measure in the future but it was not clear when this might take place. Both the ruling conservatives and the previous Socialist government have rejected calls in the past to include the allowance in their social policies.