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Put Children’s Well-being at the Heart of our Policy Choices

Date

26 May 2020

Sections

Social Europe & Jobs
The European Commission’s Country-Specific Recommendations attention to social is a welcome step. But child poverty must be prioritised in the recovery.

On 20 May 2020, the European Commission presented its country-specific recommendations (CSRs) providing policy guidance to EU Member States. As we look towards recovery, the strong emphasis on the social impact of the pandemic is a welcome step. The Spring Package outlines the need to translate the short-term efforts to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic into long-term policies.

The Commission’s Communication prioritises fighting inequalities and recognises the “interconnectedness of economic, social and environmental spheres and the need for a holistic strategy to recovery”Eurochild appreciates the European Commission using the European Semester to steer recovery efforts. The Commission has issued a recommendation to mitigate the employment and social impact of the crisis, notably by ensuring adequate social protection and minimum income, for all countries except for Czechia and Denmark.
 

  • Focus on education and the digital divide

As temporary disruption of schooling threatens to widen existing inequalities in children’s outcomes, Eurochild commends the increased focus on education. The lack of access to widespread high-speed internet access in households has come to the fore, preventing equal chances for teleworking and distance learning particularly amongst vulnerable groups, such as students from disadvantaged families or those with disabilities. The Commission recommended 11 EU Member States to improve access to inclusive quality education; three-fourths of the CSRs outline the need to address the digital divide to ensure that disadvantaged learners have access to quality education. Recognising the need to support workers with care responsibilities and to facilitate women’s return to the labour market, six CSRs highlight the need to promote investment in childcare, slightly fewer than last year.
 

  • Child protection reforms not given due attention

Eurochild regrets that the Commission issued no recommendations to fasten the progress in deinstitutionalisation reforms across several countries. Reforming child protection systems with reinforced family and parent support services to prevent separation of children should remain a priority to ensure the recovery rebuilds better services in the community and redirects vital public resources away from institutional care. Only the Slovak CSRs refer to the need for systemic coordination of social and healthcare services while raising the lack of community and home-based care services due to underfunding.

Several CSRs raise concerns over poor housing conditions and homelessness of people including children including Czechia, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Ireland and the UK. Eurochild welcomes that the EU gives this the necessary attention and urges an appropriate response.

 

  • Eurochild calls for prioritising tackling child poverty in the recovery

In 2018 there were still 22.8 million children at risk of poverty in the EU. The epidemic and ensuing crisis will likely increase these figures. Therefore, Eurochild regrets that child poverty was mentioned only in six CSRs; only Spain received the recommendation to improve coverage and adequacy of family support. Previous recessions have exacerbated levels of child poverty with long-lasting consequences for children's health, wellbeing, and learning outcomes. Prioritising tackling child poverty in the recovery is crucial to build  more resilient societies.

Today, as the EU is facing one of the most serious downturns since the 2008 financial crisis, Eurochild and its partners are calling for the adoption of coherent long term social and sustainable Europe 2030 strategy to replace the Europe 2020 strategy coming to an end this year. If Covid-19 has taught us anything it is the danger of delayed action. This crisis should be our wake-up call to put children at the heart of all our policy choices.

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