Implementation of a European Child Guarantee

The 'Winning the fight against child poverty' Conference launched a new initiative by the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament.

The event focused on the challenges linked to tackling child poverty and social exclusion in Europe.

Udo Bullmann, S&D Vice-President, opened the event and stated how, worsened by the financial and economic crisis, poverty has become a widespread phenomenon, which has a particularly negative effect on children and their families. Despite this, the EU has done too little to offer support: lack of political will, misguiding austerity policies and lack of implementation of EU social instruments, have resulted in millions of children in Europe living in poverty. 

Jutta Steinruck, S&D EMPL Coordinator, underlined that a shift from macroeconomic to social policies is needed. As stated by several speakers, if the aim is to put an end to child poverty, addressing unemployment are not enough: child poverty is a multidimensional issue, and jobs alone cannot solve it. Educational poverty, lack of access to quality health and child care, poor housing quality, unemployment and in-work poverty, are all contributing factors to the worsening of the situation of children in Europe. A multidisciplinary, integrated and rights based approach should be implemented.

Eurochild was invited to speak at the event. Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General, echoed the need for the Child Guarantee initiative to be coordinated with other EU instruments, such as the European Commission’s new Pillar of Social Rights, in order to “create the conditions for the long term inclusion of children and families in policies”, but also underlined that the Child Guarantee should be designed to become a catalyst to reinforce national positive approaches to tackling child poverty. The Child Guarantee should play a strategic role in showing how investing in children can bring an economic return. To achieve this, broader political buy-in is key, both at EU and national level, as well as more transparent and efficient public budgeting: if investment in children is to be measured and evaluated, EU and national budgets have to be tagged for children in the planning phase. Ms. Hainsworth, moreover, highlighted that efforts to tackle child poverty must not be reduced to emergency, charitable measures: a comprehensive and holistic approach to investing in rights and social justice may not the easiest way, but it is the only path leading to long-term social progress.

Other representatives from civil society attended the event, such as Save the Children, COFACE, Caritas, Medicins du Monde, as well as representatives from the Fundamental Rights Agency, Eurofound, the public services trade union, and the European Economic and Social Committee.  

Fosca Nomis, Save the Children Italy, underlined that child poverty should become a top priority: “while the 2013 Recommendation on Investing in Children provided a good framework, additional actions are needed: the Child Guarantee initiative could ensure that no child is left behind”.

However, Hugh Frazer, Coordinator of the European Social Policy Network (ESPN), highlighted that, for initiatives such as the Child Guarantee to be effective, Member States have to be actively involved, and children prioritised at the national level: “National Action Plans should be developed by Member States for the implementation of the Recommendation on Investing in Children, and the Child Guarantee could feed into that”. 

Moreover, the necessity to build a link between the Child Guarantee and other instruments at the EU level was discussed. Prof. Frazer as well as Sian Jones, Policy Coordinator of the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN), stated how the Social Pillar represents the political umbrella under which the Child Guarantee would be developed, and, therefore, it should mainstream children’s rights and recognise child poverty as an issue: “The Pillar of Social Rights is not a social pillar if children are not in it”, and it should go beyond indicators and benchmarks, paving the way for more practical measures, such as the Child Guarantee. The latter, furthermore, should be linked to the European Semester process, through the establishment of child poverty targets at EU and national level, as well as to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as they have the potential to influence the post 2020 EU social rights agenda.

Disappointingly, in its reaction the European Commission was more careful about the impact of  the European Semester, stating it is not intended as a social instrument and cannot address every social issue in each Member State. Despite this, the EC stated to be willing to explore ways to integrate the Child Guarantee with other measures tackling child poverty, such as the Recommendation on Investing in Children. The EC is drafting a staff working document taking stock of the progress and gaps in translating the Recommendation into practice at Member State level.