Most European countries and the EU institutions rely on household surveys for their official statistics. This approach only covers a sample of the general population that is officially registered, and it does not include groups such as undocumented migrants, the homeless or those who are institutionalised – the so-called ‘missing poor’.
In Belgium, the Combat Poverty, Insecurity and Social Exclusion Service cooperated with an academic institution and market research company to adapt the EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) for the homeless and undocumented migrants. The aim was to involve these groups of people in surveys and collect their responses.
The Service acted as a bridge between the research team, the survey team and the social sector, which ensured that individuals belonging to these groups could be reached. The findings suggested that existing household surveys should be further simplified, interviewers should have clear instructions and training, and interviewees should have enough time.
To improve indicators on assessing poverty, the Combat Poverty, Insecurity and Social Exclusion Service in Belgium developed the Research-Action-Training programme, which involved people living in poverty. The programme confirmed the importance of involving people living in poverty in obtaining information, interpreting it in context and understanding their daily reality.
Local jurisprudence database
Given that enrolment in the civil register is normally a precondition for accessing certain rights in Belgium, people with housing problems face obstacles establishing their legal residence. A possibility to overcome this is a registration at a reference address which can be obtained at the local centre for social welfare. However, according to the experience of many people living in precarious circumstances, local authorities are not always very eager to provide the reference addresses even when they are legally obliged to do so.
The Combat Poverty, Insecurity and Social Exclusion Service conducted research on the jurisprudence concerning this matter, investigating all arrests and judgments by the labour tribunal. This was conducted following an appeal against the decision of a local centre for social welfare not to give a reference address. The results of the research incited many reactions and debates on the matter.
Survey with water companies
Individuals in some households in Belgium cannot realise their right to water. They are cut off from the water supply or can only use a limited amount of water because of the installation of a flow restrictor. The various (public) water companies had little or no harmonised figures on this issue.
A few years ago, the Combat Poverty Service conducted a survey with the various water companies in Belgium. Based on the results, it brought together associations of people in poverty and various stakeholders. It asked the water companies to provide systematic and harmonised data on the social aspects of water supply.
Later, the Flemish government obliged the Flemish water companies to make an annual report on the social aspects of water supply. This report is discussed annually by a group of stakeholders, including the Combat Poverty Service. In the meantime, a social tariff for water has also been introduced.