With two major policy initiatives, the new comprehensive EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child and the European Child Guarantee, the European Commission has placed the protection of the children and the fulfilment of their rights at the centre of EU policy making in the social sphere.
On 14 June last year, EU Member States unanimously adopted the Council Recommendation establishing the European Child Guarantee. By calling on EU Member States to tackle child poverty within the EU, to guarantee access to basic rights and services for children in need, public social services gained a commitment for action from all 27 EU member states to break the cycle of disadvantage for vulnerable children.
National action plans outlining how EU national governments will implement this Council Recommendation up to 2030 have now been submitted by Estonia, Finland, France, Italy and Sweden, with many missing the Commission’s deadline of 15th March. As the recommendation requested, it would seem at first glance that the submitted current action plans have identified children in need within the target group, and the multifaceted challenges they face as well as providing targeted actions to ensure their access to key services. However, there would also seem to be a lack of detailed information on the list of stakeholders Member States have consulted, including public social services, to draw their conclusions. In this regard, Finland’s Action Plan is a good example of providing this information.
However, it is not clear when the outstanding action plans will be published. Some plans may have been delayed because of the need to deal with the current humanitarian crisis following the invasion of Ukraine. We hope that the plans still to be published will focus on guaranteeing care for children and will ensure the involvement of social services, particularly in plans to support the most vulnerable children.
Design and Implement National Plans with public social services, vulnerable children, and their families
Reinforcing ESN’s recommendations raised in our response to the European Commission’s consultation on the Child Guarantee, ESN reiterates the need to ensure consultation at national level on the development of National Plans includes all those concerned, in particular children, their families and those responsible for supporting them such as public social service authorities. In addition, a detailed list of the stakeholders consulted should be provided in the action plans. Ensuring that they are involved in identifying areas of reform and investment in care and support programmes for children and families is crucial to ensure success of this European initiative.
Successful implementation of the European Child Guarantee is also key to the achievement of Principle 11 of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which provides for children’s right to education and care and to protection against poverty to break the cycle of social exclusion. With the support of our national members, through our review of the European Semester process, ESN will monitor the progress of Principle 11 and issue, where necessary, country-specific recommendations, including on the implementation of the Child Guarantee.
Regarding the national plans which are still to be published, ESN calls on the European Commission and EU national governments to:
- Recognise the essential role of public social services to ensure equal opportunities for all children and invest in public social services
- Ensure National Coordinators have the necessary resources to accomplish their role and involve children and relevant stakeholders
- Develop national frameworks which involve stakeholders in data collection, and monitoring and evaluation. Children, relevant civil society organisations and regional, local and other relevant authorities should participate in all phases.
- Give priority to the children most in need and identify gaps in key services. Ensure access to public social services for the most vulnerable children and their families.
- Include targets which are both quantitative (numbers of targeted children in need) and qualitative (indicators on the quality of key services provided), on actual outcomes for children, related to their needs.
- Ensure budgets which are transparent and stipulate: the policy measure; location; timeline; and the number of children who will benefit.