Presenting our Partners: Using social vouchers for inclusion programmes

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With experience in the implementation of social support programmes in more than 20 countries, ESN partner, Edenred, tells us about the use of social vouchers for the implementation of welfare support programmes notably through the support of targeted spending.

Targeted spending and social welfare in support of socially inclusive recovery

Covid-19 responses have had a significant social and economic impact. As societies move towards recovery, more than ever, the challenge is to revive the economy in a socially inclusive way that does not leave anyone behind. With this in mind, it is essential to support citizens with their essential spending, which can also drive a strong sustainable recovery in food and hospitality, travel and tourism, agriculture or transport’s sectors.

Public authorities can use social vouchers to provide support for their citizens as an alternative to in-kind or cash allowances, even more through digital solutions which are safer, more impactful and easier to deploy. This system can prevent any misuse, ensure that funds are allocated for what they were conceived for, and gives freedom to beneficiaries to choose the product or service that betters suit their needs, thus preventing stigmatisation.

As the goods and services are accessible within a dedicated network, this provides economic opportunities to local businesses, especially smaller ones. This makes it possible for public authorities to combine social welfare support (increasing affordability of goods and services for people in need) with targeted economic measures that support the local economy and notably the most affected sectors by the Covid-19 crisis.

Easily adaptable and deployable solutions

Social vouchers have now transitioned from paper to cards and other electronic solutions such as mobile phone apps or QR codes, making them a fast, easily adaptable, and deployable tool, particularly in situations of emergency.

The following are examples of measures taken to address the effects of the health emergency brought about by Covid-19 through the use of social vouchers.

  • Meal vouchers for low-income families in the United Kingdom: In the lock-down context, the British government replaced the unavailable free school meals for children in low income families with a voucher solution. In one week, one million children received a £15 weekly allowance through a QR code voucher to purchase food from food stores.
  • Meal vouchers for citizens in greatest needs in Italy: The Civil Protection Service has provided municipalities with €400 million to be spent on food provision during the Covid-19 emergency. Hundreds of them have adopted meal vouchers to ensure the allocation of food.
  • Childcare vouchers for workers providing essential services in Italy: Italian local authorities have also been using vouchers for the provision of childcare services for children whose parents are home-office workers, workers from essential economic sectors, and healthcare professionals.
  • Holiday vouchers for low-income households in France: two of the biggest regions in the country have decided to finance holiday vouchers for low income households as a means to revive the local tourism industry while providing welfare support for families who have difficulties in financing their holidays. For instance, the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region will provide holiday vouchers amounting to €10 million. The Grand-Est region will provide 10,000 vouchers to families amounting to €5 million in total.
  • Using vouchers for the implementation of the European Fund for the Most Deprived (FEAD): Amendments to the FEAD regulation enable the buying of protective equipment for those delivering aid. Also, food and basic material assistance can be delivered through vouchers, lowering risks of infection. Introduced as a mechanism for the current crisis, e-vouchers will most likely remain as a means of implementation, as already in 2018, the Commission proposed their permanent introduction for the new FEAD programming period starting in 2021.