Investing in Children: Preventing and tackling child poverty and social exclusion

Over 115 million people in the European Union are at risk of poverty and social exclusion, and more than 25 million of these are children, making them more exposed to the risk of poverty and social exclusion than the overall population. To address this concern, on 18-19 October 2012 the Cyprus EU Presidency held a Conference entitled 'Investing in Children: Preventing and Tackling Child Poverty and Social Exclusion, Promoting Children’s Well-Being'. ESN was represented at the event by Marie-Paule Martin Blachais, Managing Director of GIPED, National Child Protection Agency in France, Andonis Onisiforou, Lakatamia Municipality, and Alfonso Lara Montero, ESN Policy and Research Officer.

Two years after the call for an EU Recommendation on child poverty and well-being, Social Affairs Commissioner László Andor told participants in a video message that the Recommendation will be part of a wider social investment package that will be presented at the beginning of 2013 during the Irish EU Presidency. Cyprus Minister for Social Affairs Sotiroula Charalambous underlined the need for the future Recommendation to have a holistic approach, recognising the need to have both transfers and services, as well as mechanisms to evaluate the impact of policies.

In plenary session A, ESN asked Member State representatives from Spain, Hungary and Greece what measures have their governments introduced to promote quality services for vulnerable groups of children. Juan Manuel Moreno referred to the improvement of health conditions and the reduction of social inequalities in healthcare for Roma children. Katalin Langerne Victor responded by putting the emphasis on early childcare services for younger children. Eftychia Balta made a reference to measures undertaken in Greece to promote the deinstitutionalisation of children with disabilities.

During a workshop session, Marie-Paule Martin Blachais and Alfonso Lara Montero discussed the topic of access to quality services alongside Eurofound, the Cyprus Ministry of Education and the Greek Ombudsman. Lara Montero reviewed the services provided by ESN members working with vulnerable children and referred to some of ESN’s policy proposals in view of the future Recommendation: “There should be structural coordination between key services and individual cooperation between professionals. A particular duty for all services is to report cases of suspicion of neglect and abuse, and for specialist child protection services to assess the risk of harm and put in place the appropriate measures. In all these, services must have the legal requirement to record the voice of the child."

In line with our previous work on child poverty, ESN hopes that this conference and the future Recommendation will help to raise children’s visibility within the Europe 2020 Strategy, linking it with other policy work on children’s rights, education and early childcare services. The Recommendation should stand up for the most disadvantaged children, for whom having “access to quality services” is essential in reducing child poverty and promoting their well-being.