This is very exciting for me, as this is my first editorial as the new director of COFACE. The editorial for our monthly newsletter is a great opportunity to highlight each month the most important aspects of our work, and also to give it perhaps a little personal touch.
First, let me thank to you dear Reader for following the activities and work of COFACE so closely, and let me at this stage also encourage you to give us feedback, your opinion, ideas for what the newsletter could or should be about in your opinion. Any feedback is most warmly welcome, as it helps us to learn about the needs and interests of our readers, and thus helps us to tailor the huge amount of information we have every month to cater to your interest.
Last month saw a Giant leap forwards in our campaign for the 2014 European Year – which we now call, The European Year for Reconciling Work and Family Life. And when I say Leap, the quote jumps to mind: "Leap, and the net will appear!” And in deed, not only the net, but we see emerging a board support for our campaign, not only, and mainly from the COFACE Member organisations, but also from quite many members of the European Parliament, the European Women’s Lobby, and we did also start to receive positive feedback from other stakeholders and partners.
We have created an additional communication tool for the campaign, our Blog, which we hope you read and enjoy: http://eyf2014.wordpress.com/
If you do believe that we should have a European Year on Reconciling Work and Family Life, please get in touch with us at the COFACE Secretariat, as we are full of ideas on how pursue the campaign, and how you can help us achieve it together.
Enjoy this month’s newsletter, as usual packed full of interesting articles, analyses and reports from events.
COFACE calls for a European Year for Reconciling Work and Family Life in 2014
On the occasion of the United Nation’s International Day of Families, which takes place each year on 15 May, COFACE called for a European Year for Reconciling Work and Family Life in 2014.
During the last decades, several economic, social and demographic trends led to major challenges in finding the right balance between work and family life. The wellbeing of families is key to a healthy and well-functioning society. The different family members should not be put in a position where they have to make very difficult choices between their work commitments and family responsibilities, but together we should find a way to enable families to have time for each other, access to available and quality services while they are at work and benefit from sufficient financial resources to guarantee a decent standard of living.
Read COFACE’s MANIFESTO calling for 2014 European Year for Reconciling Work and Family Life
Read the full press release: COFACE calls for a European Year for Reconciling Work and Family Life in 2014
COFACE calls the European Commission to safeguard family life of migrants and refugees
COFACE, together with other 20 NGOs, recalls that family reunification is a fundamental human right under EU law and that families must be supported to fulfill it. Moreover, Member States have the obligation to properly implement the EU Family Reunification Directive.
COFACE calls on the European Commission to start infringement procedures against the Member States that are not complying with the current EU rules and encourage establishing an on-going mechanism to monitor Member States’ implementation of the Directive and its practical impact on migrant families.
Read the 20 NGO Statement
Read the full press release: COFACE calls the European Commission to safeguard family life of migrants and refugees
Presentation of the COFACE-Disability publication on ‘The Family Dimension of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’
On the occasion of the United Nation’s International Day of Families, which takes place each year on the 15th May, COFACE organised a conference in the European Parliament under the auspices of MEP Ádám Kósa, Chair of the Disability Intergroup. The event focused on family carers, the challenges they face and what family organisations can do. In addition, COFACE presented a book that was co-written by the Members of COFACE-Disability entitled The family dimension of the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.
With this publication, COFACE aims to highlight the family dimension of the Convention, contribute to its dissemination, and support the implementation of the European Commission's European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 as well as the European Parliament's report on mobility and inclusion of people with disabilities. It also aims at empowering European citizens living with disabilities and their families... Read the report of the meeting | See the pictures
COFACE calls to uphold ex-ante conditionalities relevant to the Structural Funds’ support of community-based alternatives to institutional care
The European Expert Group on Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG) is advocating for Structural Funds to facilitate the social inclusion of children, persons with disabilities and older persons, and their access to quality social and health care services in the community, as an alternative to the care provided in segregating residential settings.
COFACE and the EEG have welcomed the thematic ex ante conditionality regarding the objective "promoting social inclusion and combating poverty”, which foreseen that the national strategies for poverty reduction should include measures for the shift from residential to community based care; as well as the general ex ante conditionality requiring the effective implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
For this reason, COFACE, together with the EEG has addressed a letter to Members of the European Parliament and to the Council of the EU to call for the uphold of the ex-ante conditionalities relevant to the Structural Funds’ support of community-based alternatives to institutional care for children, persons with disabilities –including intellectual or psychosocial disabilities– and older persons.
To read the full letter, click here
More on the European Project "Common European Guidelines on De-Institutionalisation”
United Nations International Day of Families 2012: Ensuring work-family balance
The 2012 observance of the International Day of Families, with a theme: "Ensuring work family balance” is organized by the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in cooperation with the New York NGO Committee on the Family. COFACE's Vice-president Helena Hiila O'Brien was present at this important meeting. Read our Vice-president's report.
Among the main issues raised: Trends impacting work-family balance, the impact of work pressures on family life, the benefits of work-family balance for adults and children, gender equality and fair distribution of family responsibilities, the importance of quality childcare, family-oriented responses to ensure work-family balance, as well as examples of good practices.
Work-family balance lies at the core of the ability of the family to provide economically and emotionally for its members. A variety of strategies to help families cope with work and family responsibilities is being used around the world. In the majority of developing countries, however, reconciliation of work and family life policies competes with a large number of development priorities. Moreover, access to work-family balance support systems is chiefly in the formal and regulated labour markets while many workers in the informal sector face not only family-unfriendly but also dangerous work environments. Global employment protection is then needed to secure better working conditions, especially for poor working families.
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* The International Day of Families (IDF) is observed on the 15th of May every year. The Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly resolution in 1993 and reflects the importance the international community attaches to families. The International Day provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and increase the knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families.
Message of the Secretary-General of United Nations on the IDF 2012
Additional evidence that eating together as a family improves health
Aside from negative effects on the family budget, eating out has been shown to be generally associated with poor food choices and bad health. Of particular interest to public health experts is growing scientific evidence that fewer family meals may translate to increased obesity risk and poor nutritional status, especially among children.
To both summarize what is known about this timely topic and create a model that might be used to educate parents and other caregivers as to the importance of family mealtimes, American researchers specifically looked at how frequency or atmosphere of family meals was related to consumption of both healthy foods and those considered less desirable.
Although the researchers found only a weak link between family meals and obesity risk, children in families with frequent family meals tended to have lower body mass index than those who enjoyed fewer family meals.
Clearly, the scientific literature represents a vast store of valuable information that could help families make better decisions about food choices. However, many people do not have the time, inclination, or expertise needed to access, filter, and interpret these scientific reports. The authors of this new report hope that their "synthesis of the literature of the links between family meals and child health outcomes and creation of a parent-friendly image that visually summarized these findings will lead to interventions that benefit a wide range of children".
Meetings of the month
Promoting Internet Safety Globally: Connecting Generations
On the 14th, 15th and 16th of May, INSAFE held a conference in Larnaca, Cyprus, entitled Promoting Internet Safety Globally: Connecting Generations. The conference presented a unique opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the INSAFE network and look ahead to future work in the context of the EU2020 strategy and the new communication for a Strategy for a Better Internet for Children adopted earlier this May by the EU Commission. Several "world café" discussions contributed to collect all stakeholders' view on priorities within the Safer Internet Programme.
These discussions insisted, among other things, on the difficulty to reach schools, teachers and parents. More efforts need to be done in that respect since teachers and parents are key actors in transmitting key e-skills, values and ensuring child safety online by staying involved. Some gaps have been identified, namely the lack of specific user-centred products for different age groups for instance. Finally, making use of existing tools and good practices was seen as essential in order to multiply their effect.
Six workshops covered a wide variety of topics including: protecting your identity and your data, social media at the service of learning, working with very young users, connecting generations with parenting and grand parenting, technology and vulnerable users and online sexual behaviour of teens.
COFACE presented our paper on behavioural advertising during the workshop dedicated to parenting and grand parenting, underlining the importance of data protection, raising some of the key issues around behavioural advertising and tracking, and encouraging parents to set up tracking protection tools in their browsers.
BEUC’s 50th Anniversary
On the 10th of May, BEUC organised a conference entitled A Vision for a 2020 Consumer Policy Strategy to celebrate it's 50th Anniversary. The main objectives of the conference were to reflect on the achievements of BEUC as a consumer organisation since its creation and look forward at future topics to tackle in consumer policy, especially within the next consumer programme 2014-2020.
Whereas in the last decades, consumer policy has made a lot of progress, there were several areas where more needs to be done. Consumers are frequently subject to information overload thus informing the consumer without drowning him in information is quite difficult. Relatively new areas of concern in our digital world raise questions around data protection but also create many opportunities for better consumer involvement through the social media.
Enforcement and redress were identified by BEUC Director Monique Goyens as two key areas where the Commission should step up its efforts. Indeed, a better application of current consumer protection and access to legal instruments such as collective redress were seen as essential to guarantee the effective safeguard of consumer rights.
Card, internet and mobile payments
On the 4th of May, the Commission organised a conference on Card, internet and mobile payments. The aim of the conference was to explore the challenges and opportunities of new payment technologies in order to strengthen the internal market and enhance consumer confidence, especially in cross-border online payments.
Joaquín Almunia, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Competition, stressed that despite self-regulation from the industry, the more we examine the payment market, the more problems we see.
First, there is a question related to the cost of payments which amounts to €25 billion per year for merchants for digital payments; a cost which very often is passed on to consumers.Second, card payments are not integrated yet. There are no agreed standards of card payment and even at national level there are various payment systems which create obstacles for successful market integration.Third, the payment sector is not as innovative as the Commission would expect, especially when looking at the pickup of new technologies and payment methods such as mobile phone payments.
Payment via online banking was seen as a new opportunity to simplify and secure the payment procedure since the consumer could have the possibility to pay directly via his online banking debit account instead of having to use his credit card.
Commissioner Barnier insisted that before taking any further steps, the Commission will make sure that their regulatory measures are based on strong market studies and market actors' needs and provide a clear added value.
For economic growth and stability: affordable housing wanted!
CECODHAS (European Federation of Public, Cooperative & Social Housing) hosted a conference titled "For economic growth and stability: affordable housing wanted!" on 26 April at which Ligue des Familles Director Denis Lambert gave a presentation of the Ligue’s work on housing.
Ligue des Familles see three big issues for housing:
- Culturally, there is a need to get away from the idea of a house for life. Changing family patterns (lone-parent families, stepfamilies, large families, etc.) need appropriate responses from the housing market
- The aging population raises issues about housing for older people. There needs to be provision for including them in family homes, and a focus on values like "living together".
- Housing policies need to be flanked by policies on services and urban planning that factors in housing, employment and services. This for instance means planning for childcare facilities, schools, public services like post offices and banks, shops, and so forth.
All this makes the current crisis an opportunity to revisit, re-examine and adapt housing policies to families’ current circumstances beyond the individual aspects of housing.
More information on the CECODHAS and Ligue des Familles website.
COFACE Seminar on "Reconciling Work and Care responsibilities: a challenge for family carers in Europe"
26 June 2012 - 2 pm-5 pm, European Parliament, Brussels
Work-family balance policies are fundamental for families and for society as a whole. Reconciliation policies are, indeed, fundamental tools to enhance gender equality and women employment, but also lowering the risk of poverty for the most vulnerable families such lone parents and large families. Reconciling work and family becomes even more challenging, but crucial, for those family members who also have care responsibilities.
In Europe, family members are the largest provider of care for older, frail, disabled and chronically ill people of all ages. However, caring for a loved one often comes with a considerable personal cost to family carers, with many experiencing, financial, professional, health and social consequences. Policies enabling to reconcile work and care responsibilities are necessary to help to maintain and / or improve the quality of life of family carers and care recipients, to enhance family carers’ social inclusion and to foster quality care for persons with dependency needs.
The event will have multi-dimensional approach and speakers from NGOs, social partners, European Institutions and family carers themselves will explore and discuss policy challenges and proposals to support family carers reconciling their work life and their care responsibilities.
The discussion will be enriched also through the presentation of the results of a 2-year-project involving over 10 organisations which, looking at very practical aspects of the life of family carers, and exchanging good practices, have been able to identify common challenges across Member States and to formulate sets of specific policy recommendations.
List of forthcoming events