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Child poverty is a badge of shame for Europe and the European Union

Date

22 Jun 2012

Sections

Global Europe

The European Union must increase assistance to children in poverty and their families in the financial framework of 2014-2020, says Caritas Europa

Brussels, 22 June 2012 - Greater visibility must be given to children in poverty and their families in the EU’s Multi-Annual Framework (2014-2020). This should be done with comprehensive measures which can be traced and monitored, and by linking direct and indirect support to families facing poverty.

This is one of ten recommendations that Caritas Europa presented at its seminar on Child poverty on 19 June 2012. At the seminar, the network organisation of 49 European Caritas organisations from all corners of Europe presented two in-depth reports on child poverty, which were produced with an extensive ground-knowledge from some of the European Caritas members.

The recommendations are both aimed at European decision makers and national governments in Europe. Informed by the wide experience of its member organisations working with children in poverty and their families, Caritas Europa also calls on the EU to “strengthen the ‘inclusive growth’ elements of the Europe 2020 Strategy, in particular the strategy’s flagship initiative ‘European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion’ which identifies child poverty as an issue of concern for Member States. As child poverty continues to increase at a greater rate than poverty amongst other groups, it  is important that a sub-target for child poverty is set within the European Platform Against Poverty’s overarching target of reducing poverty and social exclusion by 20 million by 2020.”

The EU Member States should “set annual targets for tackling child poverty as part of Member State’s National Reform Programmes . Member States should also be required to set specific sub-targets relating to child poverty in their National Reform Programmes, in consultation with all of the relevant national and local authorities, as their contribution to the headline European poverty-reduction target. Progress towards achieving these child poverty reduction targets should be monitored in the evaluation of the implementation of the Member State’s National Reform Programmes (NRPs).”

Read all the ten recommendations here.

“Child poverty is a badge of shame for Europe”

The Seminar gathered child poverty experts from across Europe whose valuable inputs could contribute to achieving a Europe free of child poverty. Caritas organisations in Europe have put child poverty in the centre of their anti-poverty actions. Since the start of its European campaign Zero Poverty. Caritas Europa has been periodically producing materials on child poverty.

In an exclusive interview with Caritas Europa, Member of the Parliament Jean Lambert (UK) agrees with Caritas Europa, that “poverty is a badge of shame for Europe and should be eradicated.”

Ms Lambert adds: “I chair a one of Parliament’s delegations dealing with some of the poorest countries in the world. We’re concerned about child poverty there. We want to eradicate it in those developing countries. We also have to be determined to eradicate child poverty in our own countries, some of the richest countries in the world. We should not have children living in poverty.”

When asked about the level of awareness among MEPs of child poverty being a priority in the Europe 2020 strategy, MEP Lambert answered “I don’t think that all Members of the European Parliament are aware that the European Council has put poverty as a priority in the Europe 2020 strategy. Even within the 2020 itself, it was a struggle, as you know, with some of the Member States to even get the poverty targets in there. And I think that a lot of MEPs are more interested in the competitive sides of the 2020 strategy, rather than actually looking really at the poverty reductions.”

Jean Lambert was among the key-note speakers at the Seminar, together with Elodie Fazi from the European Commission, Niki Odysseos, Social Affairs Attachée of Cyprus Permanent Represenation to the EU (precedency of Council), Begoña Kalliga, Athens correspondent for ABC and volunteer at Caritas Athens Refugee Center, and Dr Rosemary Keenan, CSAN (Westminster Catholic Children’s Society), UK. This was followed with panel discussions with Jana Hainsworth (Eurochild) Verena Knaus (UNICEF) Robert Urbé (Caritas Luxembourg), Sian Jones (EAPN) and Catherine Mallet (Eurodiakonia). Caritas Europa can provide you with their presentations.

Dr. Rosemary Keenan, key-note speaker, from CSAN (Westminster Catholic Children’s Society), UK:

“Across Europe we are facing a crisis; a crisis which is hitting those in poverty hardest and those who are most vulnerable. Our children are not expendable. They only have one childhood and that is being lived here and now. They live in families who have no spare income and who have no savings to protect them from the horrors of the crisis. The future of Europe is quite literally in their children’s hands. If we do not support them now, the cost of doing so when they are adults will cost more – whether they are: a) using health services because of chronic ill health; b) receiving benefits because of poor educational outcomes, unemployment or in low paid employment; c) homeless because of poverty; d) in prison through being sucked into crime as a way of getting by.

We will be the generation that failed them.  For this reason, the Caritas 10 pack recommendations calling for a more integrated approach with greater inclusion, participation and visibility focused on child poverty - matters. We need to make a difference and we need to make it now.”

Jorge Nuno-Mayer, Secretary General of Caritas Europa:

“It’s a blatant shame. With 20 million of children suffering poverty, it’s a shame to open a newspaper and read on one page the cutbacks in education, social protection, social services and development policies, while on next page we read about billions of euros being poured into the financial system. It’s a shame that in spite of the fifth objective of the Europe 2020 strategy – to bring 20 million people out of poverty by 2020 – Europe is heading towards the opposite direction with more people in poverty than before.”

Some facts on Child Poverty in Europe:

·  In crisis Europe, poverty and child poverty is rising. The consequences of austerity measures on vulnerable families and their children are very negative and, in certain cases, of extreme gravity.

· There are at least 27 Million children out of 100 million at risk of poverty (ie the number of children living in a household in which disposable income is 60% or less of the national median income) in the European Union (Eurostat February 2012). This number has grown as a direct result of the economic crisis.

· The burden of poverty has shifted from the elderly to children across many European countries since the mid-1980s

· Children (those under 18) remaining more at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU than the overall population with a rate of 27.1% as against 23.5%

In 2008, EU leaders were very quick to react to the financial crisis. They showed unprecedented political will when they approved billions of euros of tax-payers’ money being directed to banks and other institutions to save them from bankruptcy. Caritas Europa believes that the eradication of child poverty in Europe is possible if the same political will is shown once again.

While Caritas Europa warmly welcomes the decision of the European Commission to issue a Recommendation on Child Poverty by the end of this year, we are alarmed that many EU Member States are not acting towards the same direction. Caritas Europa hopes that its ten-pack of recommendations will be taken seriously into consideration in this process.

Read the “live-blog as it happened”, including all the presentation, here.

For further information, please contact:

Thorfinnur Omarsson, Communication Officer, tomarsson@caritas-europa.org, +32 (0)4 73341393.

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