ESN working group in Brussels

ESN working group on children and families met in Brussels on 12-13 February 2009 to look at how family policies support vulnerable children. Prior to the meeting, working group members had the chance to attend the launch at the European Parliament of Eurochild’s review of the 2008-2010 National Strategy Reports on Social Protection and Social Inclusion. The launch brought together experts in the field of child poverty from the European Parliament, national local governments and civil society. ESN director John Halloran spoke at the round table and presented the social services perspective.

Drawing insights from the ESN's review of National Strategy Reports[1], Mr. Halloran expressed serious concern that the work of social services addressing the exclusion of children was not properly reflected in these strategies. "It fails to recognise the role of social services, not only as service providers for the most vulnerable children in our society, but as key players when it comes to bringing together other agencies dealing with education, health, housing, employment and culture" Halloran said.

This omission of social services from the picture is partly due to the lack of their involvement in drafting of the national strategies. "In some countries the national plan is not familiar below levels of senior government officials and departments," Mr. Halloran said. He further expressed ESN’s support for future involvement of social services in policy making at the European level, highlighting the need to:

Recognise both challenges and achievements of social work with childrenSupport skilled and committed carers and families of vulnerable childrenHelp social and health services work together with local schoolsRaise quality standards through evidence-based social work in the area of child protectionSupport cross-border cooperation of local social services within EU to help children from non-EU countries seeking asylumSupport community care in new EU member states and ensure the integration of children after the closure of large institutions

ESN working group on children and families had a chance to meet the following day with Marie-Anne Paraskevas from the European Commission Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. Mrs Paraskevas presented to the group current developments of family policy at the EU level, mostly focusing on the balance of work and family life and the provision of childcare to children below school age.

The working group will have its final meeting in late April and will focus on the issue of cooperation between different agencies delivering services for children and families.