Implementation at the local level
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Alfonso Lara Montero, Chief Executive of ESN, spoke at the Preparatory action for a child guarantee conference on the 17th of February in Brussels. This meeting was an opportunity to present ESN’s position on a future EU Child Guarantee and how to ensure that it becomes feasible and it is implemented through the involvement of public social services.
With the financial crisis, there has been an increase in need with public social services having to either focus resources on the most vulnerable, having to react quickly to difficult situations or diverting resources towards addressing more immediate needs such as the rise in family homelessness. Despite the return of some economic prosperity in the EU, the demand for support services has not abated, with more children being put at risk. The feasibility and success of the Child Guarantee depends heavily on securing implementation at all levels of support and provision.
The responsibility for the Implementation of the Child Guarantee has not yet been clearly defined. Public social services already deliver on the protection of all children, but particularly the most vulnerable. To ensure that services are both holistic and focused on the best interest of the child it is vital that public social services are involved in the discussions on a potential Child Guarantee and decision making processes on how best to develop, deliver, involve children and evaluate the effectiveness of services. To achieve this there needs to be a concerted effort to reach out to public social services and to mid-level officials and involve them in the discussions.
“The Feasibility Study on the Child Guarantee focuses on building political support. This should be accompanied by the involvement of directors who make decisions about what services need financing. Strengthening synergies with public social services to build holistic and comprehensive interventions for vulnerable groups of children can increase buy-in, sharing of expertise, secure implementation and strengthen sustainability of a future Child Guarantee.” Alfonso Lara Montero – CEO, ESN
Ultimately any kind of Child Guarantee will need a roadmap on how it should be implemented. However, this does not detract from the fact that to implement a Child Guarantee, requires strengthening the synergies with public social services to build holistic and comprehensive interventions to protect and care for vulnerable groups of children. Access should be provided as part of an integrated strategy as acknowledged by the 2013 Commission recommendation including access to adequate resources, quality social and child protection services that are focused on the best interest of the child.
Building on this, implementation of the Child Guarantee and measuring its effectiveness requires the development of principles and indicators which are based on actual outcomes for children. In this respect, it is key to monitor the longer-term outcomes for those children most in need. For example, an outcome could be to ensure that every child lives with a family. Specific policy measures and indicators for children who require alternative care could relate to the development of foster care programmes, awareness campaigns and ultimately raising the number of foster parents for the most vulnerable children such as children with disabilities or unaccompanied children. Improvement should reflect what matters for children and young people. This is why it is key to measure the initiative with children and young people who are using services themselves.