Public Policy Exchange Symposium

ESN participated in the Public Policy Exchange Symposium that took place in Brussels on 15th June and focused on tackling child poverty. This event took place three weeks after the Council of Ministers approved conclusions on early childhood education and care (ECEC) and just before its request to the Commission to bring forward a recommendation (i.e. detailed policy guidance) on child poverty in 2012.

Hugh Frazer, Adjunct Professor of Applied Social Studies at the National University of Ireland Maynooth analysed the interaction of multiple factors in child poverty and more broadly, in children’s well-being. He insisted on the need to ensure access to services and opportunities, such as early childhood services. Frazer recognised the importance of delivering services that are easily accessible, community- based and respectful of different cultural and religious backgrounds as well as the need to develop protection systems for children at risk.

Dominic Richardson, policy analyst on Child Well-being with OECD, stated that despite strong economies pre-crisis, no real progress had been made in child poverty reduction. He also focused on a broader approach and presented evidence suggesting that child poverty and well-being outcomes are persistently worse than those for other age groups. Richardson advocated for an improved knowledge base; for example, introducing indicators on early education and parenting support.

The Council adopted conclusions on the 20th May recognising the benefits of Early Child Education and Care (ECEC) for all children as well as the need for an integrated approach across different public services (health, education, social services). The conclusions asked the Commission to “broaden the evidence base in the field of ECEC, by building on and supplementing international research with EU-wide research and making the results of such research more easily available”.

In May 2011, the Council approved conclusions on child poverty and well-being in which they request the Commission a Recommendation outlining common principles and monitoring tools to tackle child poverty.

ESN welcomes these developments and will advocate for the planned recommendation to take account of the role of local social services in promoting child’s well-being. Such a recommendation should recognise the role of local authorities in planning services aimed at tackling the geographic concentration of deprivation, delivering accessible and quality early childhood services and specialist child protection services.