When faced with choosing between our twelve calls, mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart did not hesitate and went straight for Fight poverty. He didn’t even make a move towards the very popular Carbon neutrality by 2050, because for him it is an evidence that fighting poverty is a prerequisite to tackle climate change.
This is because poverty can’t be reduced to economic inequality. Poverty has repercussions in many other aspects of our societies. Therefore, while it is the constitution that guarantees equal rights, it is up to cities to guarantee equal opportunities for all.
“In Tallinn we understand that this is very important,” says mayor Kõlvart, “and we have the numbers to show it.” In fact, today more than 10% of Tallinn’s budget is spent on social welfare and health, compared to 6% in 2017.
One of the ways Tallinn fights poverty is by creating “more possibilities for people to re-enter the labour market,” also thanks to the European Social Fund.
Another priority of the municipality “is to direct more resources to people with special needs, especially children.” This has taken the form of multiple programmes to be implemented throughout the year. For example, from next Spring Tallinn will give a special allowance to families that have children with special needs for hiring a support and care person, enabling the parents to go back to work.
“Poverty also has a direct link with school bullying”, an issue that children in Tallinn are unfortunately acquainted with, so this year the city wants “to implement in every school a special programme to fight against school bullying.” All the schools in Tallinn have already joined, or will in the near future, the national Bully-Free-School Foundation, which provides training and activities for schools and pre-schools both for preventing bullying and for solving actual cases.
Cities are doing some heavy lifting on the subject of poverty, and they could use some help, especially in setting the framework for some of these priorities. “Cities need more independent regulation, because we are really close to the people, we see their problems, and we know what to do. So, we need our independent regulation provided by the European Union, and of course, financial support, maybe directly to the cities.” Concludes mayor Kõlvart.