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Three key documents were published by the European Commission this month to help with implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), a set of 20 principles to advance towards more inclusive European societies.

The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan

On 4 March, the Commission published an action plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) to translate generalist principles into actions.

The Commission proposes three headline targets for the EU, to be reached by 2030:

  1. At least 78% of people aged 20 to 64 should be in employment.
  2. At least 60% of all adults should participate in training every year.
  3. The number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion should be reduced by at least 15 million, of whom 5 million should be children.

Implementation progress will be monitored through the European Semester and a revised Social Scoreboard of indicators. This will include new headline indicators on adult learning, child poverty, disability employment gap, and housing cost overburden.

The overall targets of the proposed action plan may seem modest compared with covil society proposals and past targets in the fight against poverty (e.g. the previous EU commitment was to lift 20 million people out of poverty by 2020.

European Disability Strategy 2020-2030

This ten-year strategy is structured around three main themes:

  • EU rights: building on the experience of the ongoing pilot project in eight countries, by the end of 2023 the European Commission will propose a European Disability Card for all EU countries that will facilitate mutual recognition of disability status between Member States.
  • Guidance for Independent living and autonomy: to support independent living and inclusion in the community, the Commission will develop guidance and launch an initiative to improve social services for persons with disabilities.
  • Non-discrimination and equal opportunities in access to justice, education, culture, sport and tourism,  health services and employment.

Under these three objectives, the Commission, together with its partners, will propose a series of legislative changes and policy recommendations to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. From a social services perspective, the most significant proposal is the creation of a framework for Social Services of Excellence for persons with disabilities by 2024 that aims to improve service delivery for this group and to enhance the attractiveness of jobs in this area.

European Child Guarantee & Child Rights Strategy

The EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, alongside a proposal for a Council Recommendation establishing a European Child Guarantee, aim to promote equal opportunities for children at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

The Strategy is focused on six thematic areas in children’s rights:

  • realising their full potential regardless of social background;
  • participation in democratic life;
  • freedom from violence;
  • ensuring child-friendly justice:
  • safe and effective navigation of the digital environment;
  • having their rights protected across the globe.

As for the Child Guarantee, Member States should ensure effective access for children to:

  • early childhood education and care;
  • education and school-based activities;
  • at least one healthy meal each school day;
  • healthcare;
  • healthy nutrition;
  • adequate housing.

In terms of implementation, it is up to the Member States to decide what specific steps need to be taken to reach the set goals. To this end, all stakeholders can use the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+). The Commission proposes that Member States with a rate of children at risk of poverty or social exclusion higher than the EU average in 2019 earmark 5% of their ESF+ allocation to combat child poverty and social exclusion.

ESN involvement in implementing EPSR

The values and principles embodied in the EPSR have always informed ESN's activities. Therefore, together with its Members, ESN has worked tirelessly towards the successful implementation of the Pillar's objectives. In our response to the EPSR Action Plan Consultation, we emphasised that accessibility, coverage and quality of public social services and work, is an essential condition for achieving the ambitious objectives of the Pillar. In our Response to the Child Guarantee Consultation we stressed the need to prioritise care for vulnerable children through the implementation of National Child Care Plans and the importance of consultation and inclusion of regional and local authorities with responsibility for child protection, and children themselves.