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Is the essential role of public social services to ensure equal opportunities for all children being sufficiently recognized and accepted?

On 14 June 2021, EU national governments published the EU Recommendation establishing the EU Child Guarantee aiming to ensure that every child in Europe has access to key services such as education, healthcare and housing. They agreed a useful framework to support them in addressing child poverty and promote their social inclusion.

In our response to the European Commission’s consultation on the Child Guarantee, ESN reiterated the key role of public social services in delivering most policy areas covered by the Child Guarantee. 

The EU recommends that national governments design integrated measures to address specific disadvantages experienced by children in housing deprivation, children with disabilities or mental health issues, children with a migrant or ethnic background, in precarious family situations, and in alternative care. These are children with whom social services work on a daily basis. The aftermath of Covid-19 and the current war in Ukraine, which is disrupting the lives of millions of children and denying their basic rights, reminds us of the crucial role of public social services authorities to provide quality care and support to guarantee the social inclusion of the most vulnerable. Public authorities with responsibility for social services, in cooperation with the third sector, provide a safety net, ensuring access to essential support and promoting social inclusion in local communities across Europe.

Public social services also act as corporate parents for children in alternative care, whether in foster or residential care. The provision of essential services for children in vulnerable situations, children with disabilities, from ethnic or migrant origin amongst others is also covered by the Child Guarantee. Therefore, it is critical that the European Commission and national governments listen to their concerns and proposals.

Initial evidence suggests that social services are not involved or featured in the implementation of the Child Guarantee, or in the development and delivery of national plans. ESN Members continue to  express their hope that national coordinators will reach out to them to ensure that their views, concerns and proposals are taken into consideration in the process of delivering and monitoring its implementation.

The high-level presidency conference on the Child Guarantee taking place today and tomorrow in Prague would have been a great opportunity to discuss the key role of public social services in successfully implementing the child guarantee. Future similar opportunities at European level would benefit from the engagement of public authorities with responsibility for social services in sharing good practice, knowledge, and expertise, which is vital for the EU Child Guarantee’s successful implementation.

Further reading:

The EU Child Guarantee slowly starts to become a reality

How east Europe's social services cope with Ukraine refugees

An EU care strategy close to people

EU states are denying child migrants essential services