More than a quarter of all children in the EU are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. In 2015 the European Parliament called for a child guarantee that would help ensure that every child in Europe at risk of poverty or social exclusion has access to:
- free healthcare,
- free education,
- free early childhood education and care,
- decent housing and
- adequate nutrition.
In 2017, the European Parliament requested the European Commission to implement a preparatory action on establishing a possible child guarantee scheme. In this context, the Commission has commissioned a Study on the feasibility of a child guarantee for vulnerable children. The key overall objective of the study is to explore how a child guarantee scheme could contribute to:
- combating poverty and social exclusion, particularly amongst the EU’s most disadvantaged children and
- ensuring the access of these children to the five areas identified by the European Parliament.
The study provides a thorough analysis of the design, governance and implementation of existing schemes and compare these to the added value of a child guarantee scheme focusing on the following target groups:
- children living in precarious family situations,
- children residing in institutions,
- children of recent migrants and refugees and
- children with disabilities and other children with special needs.
The concluding part of the study gives some preliminary indications as to how the conclusions and solutions identified for the four groups of vulnerable children could be extended to larger groups and eventually all children in the EU. Four thematic workshops, one on each of the four target groups of disadvantaged children, took place in September and October 2019. These workshops provided the opportunity for discussions with a wide range of stakeholders and policy-makers. Each of them was informed by an in-depth discussion paper and the responses to an online consultation to gather the views from key stakeholders. An intermediate report with the initial conclusions and recommendations of the feasibility study was published in January 2020 and was discussed at a conference in Brussels on 17 February 2020. Following this, a final report on the whole project will be completed and published. The publication of the Child Guarantee is to be expected end 2020-early 2021, mostly likely in the format of a Council Recommendation based on the approach of the 2013 European Commission recommendation for investing in children, even if different speakers at the 17th February conference referred to other potential instruments including legal instruments like regulations or directives.
From a COFACE Families Europe perspective, the future child guarantee should include as a minimum the following dimensions:
- A two-generation approach, providing support to both children and their family or kinship carers;
- A guarantee to early childhood education and care;
- A family support stream, ranging from light to heavier forms of support (parental, work-life balance, services) at key moments and transitions along the lifecycle;
- A holistic approach to building universal welfare systems with specific targeted support for families and children in vulnerable situations.
The COFACE network will further discuss this in Berlin on 28th September, with a 1-day seminar on the European child guarantee where organisations from Germany and across Europe will analyse the child guarantee through the “families” lens and consider ways to boost its implementation to make a real difference in the lives of vulnerable children and their families.