A staggering 22.7 million children live in poverty or social exclusion across the European Union. That’s one in four children in the EU. This is unacceptable for one of the most prosperous regions in the world.
Due to migration, economic hardship, disability or discrimination, many families are struggling to make ends meet. Children are the first to suffer. The consequences will be felt for many years to come.
By announcing its intention to develop a European Child Guarantee, the Von Der Leyen Commission has rightly recognised the importance of tackling this issue.
Eurochild and Save the Children welcome the Commission President’s commitment to prioritise efforts to reduce child poverty. We are also encouraged that the European Parliament called for the allocation of 5,9 billion or 5% of European Social Fund Plus resources to the Child Guarantee.
Having member organisations working on the ground with children and families in vulnerable situations, we are only too aware of the urgency of investment in services to reach the most in need.
But promises at EU level are not enough. We need member states to recognise the moral and strategic imperative of prioritising investment in children.
Pedro Sanchez, President of Spain, has said, “the Europe of opportunities must start with a proper focus on childhood. This is why I explicitly support the launching of a Child Guarantee to tackle social exclusion at an early age”.
Investing in children offers long-term economic returns and acknowledges children as fully-fledged citizens in their own right.
Today, 17 February 2020 is an opportunity for ‘Team VDL’ to show how its commitment to converting the concept of a European Child Guarantee into a real programme for social change. A conference of 300 decision-makers and stakeholders are gathering to discuss how such an initiative can be operationalised.
The European Child Guarantee is an opportunity to develop and improve services in the areas of health, housing, nutrition, education and childcare. It should incentivise member states to reform the way services are designed and delivered so that they reach children in vulnerable situations.
It should facilitate strategic planning from municipality to government level, ensuring a clear focus on improving outcomes for children and families.
Whilst every EU country has some universal provision (such as access to education, healthcare) and additional support systems (such as access to benefits, targeted family support), the high levels of children in poverty – even in the richest of EU member states – show that the systems are not responsive to need.
If poverty is not tackled in childhood, it is very likely to be passed from one generation to the next.
A dedicated financial instrument is crucial. But it needs to be accompanied by a clear policy framework supported by the Member States.
That is why we are calling for a Council Recommendation on the Child Guarantee to be adopted as a matter of urgency. Member states are already planning their investment priorities for EU structural funds and tackling child poverty needs to be integrated into these plans.
We are not alone in calling for more urgency and determination. This week the EU Alliance for Investing in Children launches its statement calling on both Commission and governments to take this forward as a matter of priority.
This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to show how the EU’s social model can work in practice. This European Commission, together with the Member States, must seize this opportunity to make a difference to this and future generations!