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ESN Autumn Seminar

On 14-15 November ESN’s Autumn Seminar took place in Paris with the support of the French Association of Directors of Social and Health Services (ANDASS) and the National Observatory for Children at Risk (ONED). The seminar explored the relationships between early childhood and child protection services, and how they impact on child poverty and well-being with a view to input the future European Recommendation on Child Poverty.

In the first session speakers made the case for investment in high-quality early years services. From DG for Education and Culture, NóraMilotay highlighted the Commission’s efforts to improve both accessibility and quality of early childhood education and care. Edward Melhuish, Professor of Human Development at Birkbeck College London, argued that investing in high-quality early childhood education increases children’s educational attainment and job prospects. Dominic Richardson from the OECD questioned whether the 60% median income measure is a good measurement of child poverty since “we don’t know how well the money given to families is invested and that in addition to how much one spends it is necessary to look at how, where and when”.

Country profiles of early years services and child protection in France, the UK and Hungary made up the second session. Marie-Paule Martin-Blachais, the Director General of France’s child protection observatory underlined the importance of different services (schools, childcare, health service, police) working together, particularly when a child is at risk. Patricia Kearney, (SCIE, UK - England), noted that child protection issues can occur in all kinds of families, but poverty can be a stress on parenting. Both presentations briefly outlined particular practice examples of an integrated support centre for parents and children in France and early intervention (early notification of pregnancy) in England. MártaKorintus and FerencSidlovics, from the National Institute for Family and Social Policy in Hungary, stressed the important role of early childhood services in preventing, identifying and addressing risk situations and making referrals to appropriate services as necessary.

The first day was completed by a presentation by Prof. HenrikAndershed on behalf of the Nordic Centre for Welfare and Social Issues (NVC). He identified various risk factors (e.g. insufficient verbal abilities, parenting problems) and protective factors (e.g. positive pre-school experience, parents’ engagement). He argued that the framework for using these factors should be focused on prevention and that to do so the specific needs of the individual must be taken into account.

The final round table discussion the next day asked the panel (Maria Herczog, Eurochild; Edward Melhuish; Päivi Lindberg, THL Finland; Elisabeth Rahmberg, social director, Sweden; Julien van Geertsom, Belgian Government; Yvan Ferrier, president of ANDASS, France) how to ensure that the most vulnerable families and children benefit from investment in the early years. The panel stressed the need:

  • To understand the complex set of causes and effects of child poverty;
  • To ensure universal services to identify early on who the vulnerable children are that need particular support or protection;
  • To ensure that early childhood and child protection services enhance children’s rights;
  • To improve joint working across services and between levels of government;
  • To better monitor the outcomes of services to know what works best for vulnerable children and families.

ESN will follow up with a position paper on child poverty and wellbeing in Europe. The presentations from the event are available here.