Family supports are an important component of social policies (and essential to make social rights a reality) aiming to provide families with a mix of resources, services and time arrangements they need to raise their children and ensure their health and well-being.
This includes leave entitlements for working parents and carers, the provision of early childhood education and care services, cash benefits, flexible work arrangements – all essential to empower families and children. Additional family supports are essential in early childhood but also in late childhood during adolescence.
Parenting evolves with the children and will vary according to the children and their needs, and different agencies (public or non-profit) exist across all OECD countries to provide a wide range of supports.
In so many fields the solution begins at home. Families can be considered as natural social security systems, a made even more evident by the COVID-19 crisis which continues to negatively affect many families today. We at COFACE Families Europe are convinced that children will thrive if their family thrives and if the whole society cares enough to provide for them. Therefore, policies must prioritise investing in children and their families and ensure that adequate and quality support is provided through a systemic two-generation approach with a focus on empowerment, participation, and strengthening competences of families in their diversity and during their life course. An approach which is highlighted in our Child Compass 2030 providing a comprehensive, integrated and long-term strategy based on the interrelated wellbeing of children and their family.
COFACE actively mobilized its European networks to engage in the consultation for this OECD study on family supports, to show the diversity and nature of supports provided by civil society in Europe.
Now more than ever those NGO driven family support systems are crucial.
The compulsory lockdowns, care services and school closure and teleworking have pushed families into a new reality, and the vulnerabilities of families have been magnified bringing all inequalities to the fore.
COFACE members and other civil society organisations across Europe have been working tirelessly to help families get through this pandemic crisis. They have adapted and are adapting their methods to ensure continued support in the community and to provide services to families especially to the most vulnerable ones. We are putting the spotlight on some of these supports in our freshly launched European Family Lab through our “breakfast bytes” webinar series.
The OECD study highlights strengths and gaps, and formulates clear recommendations encouraging governments to strengthen family support services – namely to develop longer-term, structural responses to underpin families support services, make them more effective in reaching families in need, strengthen their quality and make good use of modern technology to enhance its reach as well speed of delivery.
Indeed, it would be impossible to mitigate the social and economic impact of Covid-19 without technology. This is a great opportunity but it makes the need for inclusive digital citizenship even more pressing!
Thanks to the OECD study, we also learned about initiatives and programmes on family supports in other world regions, using a wide range of approaches to similar challenges of families of today.
This study can provide great impetus to support global exchanges to review, rethink and boost national family support policies to meet the 21st century needs of children and their families. From a European perspective, we will use the conclusions of this study to feed into the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and especially the new EU Child Rights Strategy, as well as the implementation of the new European Child Guarantee initiative of the European Union. This new framework to be formally adopted in June this year will lead to the development of national action plans on child poverty including a wide range of measures including family supports, monitored closely by the European Commission.
Thank you to the OECD and the Bernard Van Leer Foundation, to all speakers today, and to all of you who tuned in from different horizons and world regions.
It is time to build back better and put the wellbeing of families and children first!
Let’s keep in touch and join forces, governments, market and civil society, and work together to build impactful supports for families of today.
This speech was given during the event “Looking beyond COVID-19: Strengthening the role of Family Support Services” – 30th March 2021 – when the OECD study was launched.