In the month of February COFACE Families Europe attended two important events on poverty and family policies: the 15th Fourth World People’s University and the 14th Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) Network Meeting.
The Fourth World People’s University is organised by ATD Fourth World and allows people experiencing deep poverty to become active citizens by bringing their insights on different topics. This edition took place at the European Parliament where delegations from Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, and Romania addressed three topics:
- Indicators of poverty and social exclusion in Europe: In 2017 the European Union adopted a Pillar of Social Rights and a Social Scoreboard of dimensions and indicators to monitor implementation of this agreement. Do they adequately assess the multiple forms of poverty and exclusion?
- The impact that national and European policies have on family life for citizens in poverty: Family policy itself is outside the jurisdiction of the European Union. However, European level policies in many other areas have an impact on citizens’ family life, e.g., policies related to economics and society, work and jobs, housing, health, and education.
- Legal Status as a Person: Many people living in Europe currently do not have a recognised legal status for reasons including unstable housing, or not possessing the basic documents necessary to obtain their rights. This lack of legal status can limit access to housing, work, health care, vote and exclusion from official statistics.
The picture for families is not bright: poorest families are stigmatized and isolated. Due to the current European housing crisis most of their income is spent in house-related expenses while social housing is limited and temporary. The way income support is designed does not always help families get out of their difficult situation and save money for the future, but just to survive, in a constant fear of having their children put into placement. Several proposals were formulated to address these and other issues; they will be part of a memorandum that ATD Fourth World will publish soon.
The 14th FEAD Network Meeting focused on child poverty, a condition affecting to-date almost 25 million children in Europe. The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) consists in material aid such as meals, food packages, clothes, school supplies for the poorest families and children are its biggest recipient. However, it is clear that lifting children out of poverty needs a combination of actions helping parents to get jobs with wages that can sustain the family expenses, combined with income support measures when their work-related income is not sufficient and with decent housing, health, work-life balance for working parents, high quality and affordable services including early child education and care. The merit of the EU has been to set a rights-based integrated framework defined by the European Recommendation “Investing in Children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage” and monitored through the European Semester mechanism. Member States have taken various actions to comply with the recommendation. The results however are small, and linked to overall macroeconomic tendencies on the one hand and of the lack of integrated actions on the other hand.
You can find COFACE presentation “The role of family policies and programmes to address child poverty” here.