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The EU Multi-Annual Financial Framework Post-2020: Will the EU budget support Europe’s most vulnerable families?

As part of COFACE Families Europe’s effort to work towards a more equal and just society for all families, we are following closely the current negotiations about the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework. Undoubtedly, the European Union is facing new political, economic and social challenges. Taking into account the effects of forthcoming Brexit, digitalisation, the refugee crisis, or the growing ageing population, heads of states in the EU are at a crossroad to decide to what priorities the EU should invest money post-2020.

One thing is clear: There is an important EU added value of investing in the social inclusion of the most vulnerable people, in line with human rights and European values. The European project is about people. More than that, the EU has obligations under the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ensure the dignity, equality and human rights for all. With more than 1 million children, persons with disabilities, people with mental health problems, homeless and older people living in long stay residential institutions and segregated from society in Europe, more has to be done collectively for poverty reduction and social inclusion in the future Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) of the European Union (EU).

In the 2014-2020 funding period, the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) have already brought positive changes to the lives of thousands of European for instance through the creation of new jobs, or by triggering transition from institutional to community-based care for children, or persons with disabilities in some Member States. However, 80% of care is still provided by informal carers – mostly women –, who are left without adequate financial compensation, social rights, or a pension scheme, and face long-term unemployment and poverty (See COFACE’s study on the challenges and needs of family carers in Europe). This is simply not sustainable, nor acceptable for a Europe we want to see. More investment in 21st century community-based support services and family support measures, with special regard to work-life balance policies, would contribute greatly to the social inclusion and well-being of all families.

Therefore, COFACE Families Europe has been actively participating in discussions on the future EU budget, mostly calling for:

  1. Coherence between funding priorities and key policy priorities, namely linking the future EU budget to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and to the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  1. Strengthening alignment/cooperation between funds, for instance by linking the European Social Fund (ESF) and the EU fund for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), through a common framework. These are very different funds, but complementary. While the ESF targets change at local level, EaSI drives change and innovation through transnational dynamics, it is more about creating bridges between countries, and between the local and European level.
  1. Emphasising the need for consolidating EU cohesion policy and the post-2020 European Structural and Investment funds, to ensure a continuation of current investment priorities on supporting more women into employment, piloting flexible work arrangements, investing in childcare and community-based support services for families. Both boosting professional development and the workforce through the ESF, while using the ERDF to develop service infrastructure. While there may be possibilities for blending with the European Fund for Strategic Investment, there needs to be clear ESIF ring-fencing of grants and subsidies for all the rights-based services which support families and generate societal changesnotrevenue.
  1. Supporting the use of ex-ante conditionalitieswhich we believe are essential to ensure the funds are spent in line with human rights and EU values outlined in the Treaty and the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights. Continued investment to the shift from institutional to community-based settings is essential for COFACE. Families are users of community-based services, their family members are users. Furthermore, ex-ante conditionalities must be implemented correctly supporting transformation at all levels (policy, service provision, funding models, legislation) and monitored correctly both at the regulatory and programming level. Shifting away from institutional to community-based care and support is essential to support the social inclusion of people with support needs and their families. The European Commission has shown leadership in this, and we would urge them to continue championing deinstitutionalisation across EU funding policies.
  1. Calling for investments in social policy and social service innovationthrough the EaSI programme. European networks like COFACE are also EaSI-funded, to make links between local and EU level, to serve as society watchdogs, to monitor the impact of EU legislation and much more. Social innovation is essential to make Europe future proof – it allows for continuous testing, reviewing, adapting policies/services to emerging needs, and can help prepare governments to tackle current/future challenges. The EU added value of such investments in transformative actions of Member States is clear.
  1. Strengthening the Partnership Principle in the future ESIF and guarantee the efficient implementation of the European Code of Conduct on Partnership (ECCP), making sure that all its provisions are applied in practice, with the meaningful involvement of civil society organisations in the development, implementation and monitoring of EU projects.

Please find here COFACE’s answers to the Public Consultations on EU funds in the area of cohesion

COFACE Families Europe co-signed a number of Joint statements with our partners and allies on the future EU budget:

For further information please contact Dr. Magdi Birtha, Policy and Advocacy Officer at mbirtha@coface-eu.org