Thomas More Kempen University of Applied Sciences

UAS involved: Thomas More Kempen University of Applied Sciences, Flanders (Belgium)

From a local question to a EU project in six Member States

In 2006 some local municipalities in the north of Flanders requested the university of applied science (UAS) Thomas More Kempen to carry out a research in the field of the income of an individual household and its minimally needs to reach an acceptable standard of living. The Social Service Departments of the local municipalities in the Flemish provinces Antwerp and Limburg asked the UAS for a norm for the judgement of the social situations of poor families in function of the human dignity.

Bérénice Storms, researcher at the UAS of Thomas More Kempen, started with a basic and practically oriented inquiry and surrounded herself with a steering committee of practice workers, policy officers of municipalities and scientists. She worked on the development of the Flemish reference budgets and a standard to evaluate poor family’s needs. These are priced baskets of goods and services which illustrate the minimal income an individual household needs to live efficiently. After the development of Flemish reference budgets she started to develop a standard for Belgium as a whole.

Simultaneously, the European Commission organised a peer review in the Walloon parliament about reference budgets as a tool to help shaping the protection of the minimum income in Europe. Subsequently, the Belgian approach was expanded to Europe. The European Commission financed a project in 2014 – 2015: research teams and interested people from all EU-member states made up a common methodology to develop cross-national comparable budgets for Europe. By doing this, the European Commission wants to support Member States in their policy on an efficient protection of incomes. How a local practical question finds her way to a approachable UAS, which have traditional very good links with the work field, can foster a solution for questions in the EU.