tackle child poverty and social exclusion in the European Union

ENOC 18th Annual Conference
The impact of austerity & poverty on the
realisation of children & young people’s rights
What do we need to do to tackle child
poverty and social exclusion in the
European Union?
Maynooth University
Coordinator, European Social Policy Network
Key Message
• A real moment of opportunity to make progress on
tackling child poverty and social exclusion and promote
children’s rights in EU
– Growing awareness of scale of challenge
– Growing fear for future of EU
• poverty is leading to rise in alienation, extremism, discrimination &
narrow nationalism
– Demographic imperative creates economic incentive
– A stronger EU framework than ever before
– Mid-term review of Europe 2020 Strategy - a chance to
change direction
But progress is not certain
• Key role for Ombudspersons for children in
ensuring that we do not miss the opportunity
Basis for presentation
• Work of EU Network of Independent Experts
on Social Inclusion
• Eurochild monitoring of the implementation
of Europe 2020 Strategy
• EAPN/Eurochild explainer on child poverty
• European Social Network work on child
• Extent and impact of child poverty and social
exclusion in the EU
• A stronger EU framework now exists for
tackling child poverty
• What needs to happen if real change is to
Extent and impact of child poverty and
social exclusion in the EU
Child poverty or social exclusion
high and growing
Overall over 1 in 4 children at risk
Children at greater risk (28% v 24.8%)
Wide range across EU (15%-52%)
Increase by 1.1pp between 2008 and 2012
Risk higher for lone parent & large families
Some children at very high risk:
Roma children
Children from migrant / ethnic minority background
Children with a disability
Children in institutional care
Homeless children
Persons at risk of poverty or social exclusion (AROPE),
Children (0-17) and total population, %, EU-28, 2012
Wide (& growing) divergence across EU
Children aged 0-17 at risk of poverty or social exclusion,
%, EU-28, 2012
Very high
FI (14.9), DK (15.3), SE (15.4), SI (16.4), NL
(16.9), DE (18.4), CZ (18.8), AT (20.9)
EE (22.4), FR (23.2), BE (23.1), LU (24.6), SK
(26.6), CY (27.5), PT (27.8), EU-28 (28.1),PL (29.3)
MT (31.0), UK (31.2), LT (31.9), ES (33.8), HR
(33.8), IT (33.8), IE (33.1), EL (35.4)
LV (40.0), HU (40.9), RO (52.2), BG (52.3)
Economic crisis increasing poverty
• 2008-2012 upwards trends in children at risk
of poverty or social exclusion (AROPE)
– 19 MS statistically significant increases in
proportion of children AROPE
• In 7 MS increases are in the range of 6-8pp
• BG, IE, HU, LV, EL, MT, CY.
– Only 3 MS recorded significant decreases
• DE (1.7pp), PT (1.7pp) and PL (3.6pp).
Children in EU at risk of poverty or social exclusion
Material deprivation among children according to the GuioGordon-Marlier index (2012), Children aged 1-15, EU-27, 2009
Source: EU-SILC 2009; Guio et al. 2012. Reading note: threshold set at three or more items
lacked out of the 18 items in index
Poverty damages children and puts
their rights at risk
• Causes poor physical and mental health
• Endangers right to secure & nurturing family
• Impacts on social life: networks &
• Limits emotional, social & intellectual
• Leads to educational disadvantage
• Affects future well-being & employment
• Reduces children’s expectations, hopes &
For a child living in poverty can mean
• not having enough to eat or a healthy diet;
• not being able to afford new clothes or decent shoes;
• not having the equipment that other children take for granted in their
country such as books and equipment for school or leisure equipment such
as a bicycle or skateboard;
• living in poor or overcrowded housing: sharing rooms and living in a
cramped space;
• living with inadequate heating and in a home suffering from damp;
• lacking a quiet place with enough room and light to do homework;
• not being able to afford proper health care or high-quality child care or to
go to a good school or to get help when needed;
• having little chance to play in decent non-vandalised playgrounds, to take
part in sports and creative/cultural activities;
• having little say in the decisions that affect daily life.
Children’s voices
• “I close the window every evening, the smell of cooking from
other flats makes me more hungry.”
• “My clothes are clean but old and others are laughing at me.”
• “I hate my birthday, because I never get presents like all the
• “You may be a bit shy to invite your friends over because when
they come in they’ll be freezing and they might want to leave
• “If I look at my mother, how much she is working, she has 3
jobs, I never want to grow up & become an adult, it is too bad.”
• “I do not want to go to a school trip because I do not want to
be a burden on my parents.”
• “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most
terrible poverty.”
• “There’s no point in dreaming because things don’t come true
[Children from EE, HU, SE, UK, PL, EL]
Child poverty damages society
• Undermines social solidarity & cohesion
• Results in increased social costs
– Higher demands on public services such as health
services, welfare, social protection,
– Higher unemployment
– More crime & anti-social behaviour
– Scottish study estimates ending child poverty save
€16 billion p.a.
• Reduces economic productivity
– Less skills lead to less productive jobs & more
– Lower revenues form taxes
Stronger European Framework for
Action on Child Poverty
Lisbon Treaty
• Lisbon Treaty (into force since 1 Dec 2009)
• Horizontal social clause, Article 9 (introduces the legal
basis for mainstreaming social protection and social
inclusion objectives across EU and national policies)
• ”In defining and implementing its policies and activities, the Union shall
take into account requirements linked to the promotion of a high level
of employment, the guarantee of adequate social protection, the fight
against social exclusion, and a high level of education, training and
protection of human health”
• Protection of children’s rights introduced among the EU’s
objectives for its internal and external policies
• EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (could be a first step towards
mainstreaming children’s rights in EU policies)
• EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child in 2011
Europe 2020 Strategy
• Overall objective: “smart, sustainable and
inclusive growth”
• Poverty target – reduce poverty & social
exclusion by 20 million
• European Semester
– Annual Growth Survey
– National Reform Programme
– Country Specific Recommendations and Staff Working
– Social OMC and National Social Reports
Social investment package 2013
• “Welfare systems fulfil three functions: social investment,
social protection and stabilisation of the economy. Social
investment involves strengthening people’s current and
future capacities.”
• Underlying principle: Social policies can be social
investments: preventing hardship, developing human
capital, and empowering and supporting people in crucial
stages in their lives.
• 3 integrated pillars
– Increase sustainability & adequacy of social systems through simplification
& better targeting
– Pursue activating & enabling policies through targeted & more effective
– Social Investment throughout the individual's life
Commission Recommendation
• Investing in Children – breaking the cycle of
• Horizontal principles
– Integrated strategies
– Children’s rights approach
– Child’s best interests
– Balancing universal and targeted approaches
– Special focus on children most at risk
– Sustain investment and assess impact of policies
7 advantages of a rights approach
1. Key to the prevention of child poverty
– if all children’s rights are respected and enabled then children are
unlikely to live in poverty
2. Puts the needs of the child at the centre of policy-making.
– becomes a core political obligation & not just a possible policy choice
3. Puts focus on addressing the specific needs of the child here and
now as well as improving position of their families & communities
4. Provides framework for developing a comprehensive strategy
– e.g. Sweden;
5. Links well-being of children with well-being of parents and families
– puts support for families at the heart of policies to tackle child poverty
6. Puts focus on importance of strong anti-discrimination legislation
7. Emphasises the right of the children to be heard and to
participate in the decisions that affect them
Commission Recommendation - 2
• Integrated strategies - 3 pillar framework
– Access to adequate resources
• Support parents in labour market
• Cash and in-kind benefits
– Access to affordable quality services
• Early childhood education & care;
• Education
– Preventing educational disadvantage
• Accessible health systems;
• Adequate housing & environment;
• Strong family support & alternative care
– deinsititutionalisation
– Children’s right to participate
• Play, recreation & cultural activities
• Participation in decision making
Failure of EU Framework to deliver
Economic austerity has undermined
focus on social policies
• Social policies on periphery of European Semester
Limited coverage of social inclusion issues in most NRPs
Few Country Specific Recommendations on poverty issues
Lack of social or child impact assessments
Social dimension of EMU remains underdeveloped
– Eurochild Assessments of European Semester
• efforts being made fall very far short of what is needed
• too narrow approach: not comprehensive and integrated
– Weak Social OMC
• Commission Recommendation still to make real impact
– Not mainstreamed in Europe 2020 Strategy
– Member States with biggest challenges often one where
implementation is weakest
10 most frequent barriers to implementing
Commission Recommendation
• Lack of integrated/multi-dimensional strategies
• Limited mainstreaming of children’s rights
• Weak balance between universal & targeted
• Limited involvement of stakeholders
• Lack of evidence-based policy making
10 most frequent barriers to implementing
Commission Recommendation
• Failure to protect children from impact of crisis
• Limited support for parents’ participation in
labour market
• Inadequacy (cut-backs) of income support
• Lack of/cut back in investment in affordable
services and poor access for most vulnerable
• Limited use of EU financial instruments
So what needs to happen now to
combat child poverty?
Better integrate the Recommendation
into Europe 2020
• Specific section in the Annual Growth Survey each
• All MS to include a specific section in future NRPs
outlining their key priorities for implementing the
Recommendation and reporting on progress
• Encourage MS to set specific sub-targets on child
poverty and social exclusion
• More composite Country Specific Recommendations
(CSRs) on child poverty and social exclusion
• Set an EU child poverty and social exclusion target
• Review implementation at of the European Platform
Against Poverty and Social Exclusion
Promote child well-being as a key part
of the social dimension of EMU
• the issue of child poverty and social exclusion
should be made a key part of reinforced
surveillance of employment and social
challenges and strengthened policy
Put child well-being at heart of the
Social Open Method of Coordination
• Social Protection Committee (SPC) and the
European Commission develop a multiannual
work programme to follow up on and
implement Recommendation and to institute
regular reporting and monitoring on progress
• all MS should elaborate in their National Social
Reports (NSRs) on policies and programmes
they are developing to implement the
Child proof austerity policies
• Member States should be encouraged to put
the issue of child poverty and well-being at
the heart of austerity policies and bail out
– use ex-ante and ex-post social impact assessments
– assess impact on children of packages in
programme countries
Enhance evidence-based policy
making and target setting
• MS should further improve the collection and timeliness of
statistical data on children, make full use of the unique
potential offered by administrative and register data, and to
complement quantitative data with (more) qualitative data
where needed, for example on the number and living
conditions of children in institutions;
• at EU level greater use should be made of the child-specific
material deprivation EU indicator & to develop indicators
and collect data for measuring child well-being as well as
child poverty and social exclusion in the EU10;
• encourage all MS to develop a survey of children
Strengthen children’s rights approach
• the Commission and SPC should give careful consideration
to how the implementation of the Recommendation and
the reporting process associated with it can be brought into
closer line with both the reporting processes that all
Member States are required to follow in relation to the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child and the
implementation of the Commission’s own EU Agenda for
the Rights of the Child;
• the Commission and SPC should consider preparing
guidelines for Member States on how a focus on children
as rights’ holders can in practice be used to inform the
development of policies for the social inclusion of children.
Improve the balance between
universal and targeted approaches
• make the issue of progressive universalism a
key theme in the exchange of learning and
good practice as a means of highlighting
positive examples in more successful Member
Enhance the exchange of learning and
good practice
• ensure that the Knowledge Bank gives a high priority to
issues of child poverty and social exclusion
• New European Social Policy Network should report
regularly on progress in Member States on the
implementation of the Commission Recommendation
• Commission monitoring could usefully identify
“clusters” of Member States facing similar child poverty
and social exclusion challenges which could then be
used as a basis for enhanced mutual learning (including
Peer Reviews)
Reinforcing stakeholder participation
• develop guidelines for the involvement of
stakeholders including people experiencing
poverty in the development, monitoring and
implementation of strategies and policies to
prevent and tackle poverty and social exclusion
– a specific section on involving relevant organisations
working with children and children themselves
– use guidelines to monitor Member States’
Maximise the use of EU Funds for
• Commission should challenge Member States,
particularly those with high or very high poverty or
social exclusion rates, to make the social inclusion of
children a programming priority in the use of EU funds
in the next programming period and it should stress
the need to target funds at most disadvantaged
children and families
• Commission should encourage Member States to use
Structural Funds in a strategic manner as part of an
overall strategy to tackle child poverty and social
exclusion and to promote child well-being
What should happen in each
Member State?
• See 28 country reports Investing in children:
Breaking the cycle of disadvantage – A study
of national policies, by EU Network of
Independent Experts on Social Inclusion.
• Available at:
• Let us raise our voices are raised to denounce the
scandalous social injustice that it is the most
vulnerable social groups and the most vulnerable
children who have had to bear the brunt of the
socialised costs for market failure.
• Let us all seize the opportunity and work together to
eradicate child poverty and social exclusion and
rebuild Europe as a social as well as an economic
• Let us insist on a Social Europe that is fit for all
children and which guarantees and protects their
rights and well-being
Some useful sources
• EAPN & Eurochild (2013), Towards Children’s Well-Being in Europe: Explainer on
child poverty in the EU. Available at: http://www.eapn.eu/en/news-andpublications/publications/eapn-books/towards-children-s-well-being-in-europeeapn-and-eurochild-s-explainer-on-child-poverty-in-the-eu-is-out
• Eurochild (2014), The 2014 National Reform Programmes and National Social
Reports from a child poverty and well-being perspective. Available at:
• European Commission (2013), Investing in children: breaking the cycle of
disadvantage. Available at:
• Frazer, Guio, Marlier, Vanhercke, Ward (2014) Putting the fight against poverty
and social exclusion at the heart of the EU agenda: A contribution to the Mid-Term
Review of the Europe 2020 Strategy. Available at:
• Frazer, Marlier and Nicaise (2010), A social inclusion roadmap for Europe 2020,
Garant, Antwerp
• Frazer & Marlier (2014), Investing in children: Breaking the cycle of disadvantage A
study of national policies. Available at:

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