EU Child Guarantee presents an opportunity not to be missed
Why a Child Guarantee is needed?
Child poverty is one of the biggest challenges Europe is currently facing. According to the latest Eurostat data, in 2018 24.3% of the population aged 0 to 17 years were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in Europe, meaning that these children were living in households with at least one of the following three conditions: at-risk-of-poverty or severely materially deprived or living in (quasi-)jobless households (i.e. households with very low work intensity (below 20%). That percentage raises up to almost 45.9% in some EU countries like North Macedonia. In addition, risk of poverty and social exclusion is higher for children living in vulnerable situations and disadvantaged groups such as Roma children, children in migration, children with disabilities, children living in institutional care, and children of single-parent or large families.
Acknowledging that children growing up in poverty and social exclusion are less likely to do well in school, enjoy good health and realise their full potential later in life, when they are at a higher risk of becoming unemployed, poor and socially excluded, the European Parliament has been advocating for the introduction of a Child Guarantee that would help to alleviate poverty and social exclusion for children in Europe.
What is the Child Guarantee?
The Child Guarantee aims at supporting Member States to implement the Council Recommendation on Investing in Children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage. The Recommendation offers countries guidance on organizing and implementing policies to address child poverty and social exclusion, promoting children’s well-being, through multi-dimensional strategies, based on three pillars:
- access to adequate resources,
- access to affordable quality services, and
- children’s right to participate.
The Recommendation on Investing in Children has provoked some action from Member States but only a minority of Member States could be said to have a comprehensive anti-child poverty strategy in place and significant numbers of countries with the highest child poverty rates have no strategy.
The Child Guarantee calls for both a better implementation of the Council Recommendation mentioned above and for the establishment of an additional instrument. In the latter regard it calls on the Commission and on the Member States to ‘introduce a child guarantee so that every child in poverty can have access to free healthcare, free education, free childcare, decent housing and adequate nutrition, as part of a European integrated plan to combat child poverty’. Further, it recommends ‘that all children have access to good quality services at this crucial stage in their development.’ The proposal follows the model of the Council Recommendation on establishing a Youth Guarantee (2013), a hugely innovative labour market policy to provide all young people under the age of 25 with a good quality offer of employment or continuing education within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education.
What steps have been made by the European Commission so far?
In order to foster the uptake of this mechanism, in 2017, the Parliament requested that the European Commission 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 in order to analyse the conditions for its implementation. The inception report was published in 2018. It was carried out by a consortium consisting of Applica and the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER), in close collaboration with Eurochild and Save the Children, and with the support of nine thematic experts, 28 national experts and an independent study editor.
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, identified as presenting urgent and acute needs in terms of accessing services:
- 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 study’s conclusion gives preliminary indications about how the conclusions and solutions identified for the four groups of vulnerable children could be instrumental for the design of a Child Guarantee policy for all children in the EU.
An intermediate report with the initial conclusions and recommendations of the feasibility study was published in January of this year and discussed in Brussels on February 17th, during the conference closing the first preparatory phase, where ISSA was represented.
Concerning the funding envisaged for the Child Guarantee, the European Parliament’s adopted mandate on the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) has amended the regulation to establish this new mechanism and has proposed an additional budget of 5.9 EUR billion under ESF+ to deliver it. At the same time, Member States are expected to allocate at least 5% of ESF+ resources to the European Child Guarantee scheme.
It is important to note that the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the 2021-2027 EU funding period is expected to be adopted by June 2020 and the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) as well as other EU Funding instruments (ERDF, AMF) are due to be finalized by autumn 2020.
At the beginning of her mandate, the European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen declared that realizing the Child Guarantee will be a priority for her Commission. Von der Leyen entrusted the development and the coordination of the Child Guarantee to Commissioner Nicolas Schmit and to Vice President Dubravka Šuica.
Prioritizing children in Europe
With the current political and financial momentum, the EU Child Guarantee represents a significant opportunity that cannot be missed.
ISSA joins its voice to the EU Alliance for Investing in Children in welcoming the EU’s prioritization for the Child Guarantee and in calling on the EU to ensure that the Child Guarantee Council Recommendation is launched in 2020. This will ensure actions are in line with the next EU long-term budget and the programming of these financial resources by the EU Member States.
To learn more about the Child Guarantee:
 European Parliament Resolution of 24 November 2015 on reducing inequalities with a special focus on child poverty