The Child Guarantee: Phase III – “Testing the Child Guarantee in the EU Member States”
UNICEF pilots innovative approaches aimed at breaking the cycle of child poverty and social exclusion
Poverty and social exclusion can have a profound impact on the lives of children, preventing them from accessing basic services such as healthcare, education, nutritious food, quality housing and childcare. For the poorest families, including those who do not have access to social protection, the situation is dire. Children suffer poverty differently from adults and they are more likely to experience lifelong consequences from it. Malnutrition can last a lifetime, having long-term consequences on children’s physical, social and emotional development. And losses in learning at a young age can result in children falling behind in school, finding it difficult to ever catch up. Without access to health care, children could miss out on vaccines that could be life-saving in later years and the treatment necessary to grow up healthy and thrive.
The Child Guarantee aims to ensure that vulnerable children have access to these quality services. UNICEF, in partnership with the European Commission, is working with national and sub-national authorities and select civil society organisations, children and young people to design and implement services and interventions that reduce the effects of poverty and social exclusion on children in need of support and protection. This includes the most vulnerable children, such as Roma children, children in institutional care, children with disabilities and refugee and migrant children.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly one quarter of Europe’s children were at risk of poverty and social exclusion. The impact of the COVID-19 crisis has been felt across countries—from the economic and social impacts of national lockdowns, to the near collapse of overburdened health systems, to the loss of learning opportunities for children due to school closures, and to the strains felt by families both financially and psychologically.
Poverty and social exclusion are expected to rise in the coming years as the crisis continues to impact the socio-economic situation in Member States across Europe. The causes and impacts of child poverty are multidimensional as access to health, education, childcare, leisure, food, health and housing are all interlinked.
UNICEF is working to address the underlying causes of child poverty and social exclusion, by examining policies needed to accelerate change and modeling innovative approaches. The aim is to ensure that the most vulnerable children can break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage, and are given an equitable chance in life. Addressing child poverty and social exclusion has clear benefits for children now and in the future, and for society as a whole.
Poor children often lack access to basic quality services
Building a more resilient Europe starts with children. The post-COVID-19 recovery plans must foster resilience and strengthen systems so that they are resilient to future crisis. For the most vulnerable and excluded children, addressing material deprivation will not enough. High quality, inclusive, accessible, affordable social services are critical to reaching the most vulnerable and breaking intergenerational cycles of disadvantage.
In response to these challenges, UNICEF, in partnership with the European Commission – Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion (DG EMPL) is implementing a 2-year project to support the implementation of Phase III of Child Guarantee Project in Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Germany, Italy, Lithuania and Spain. These countries will be testing innovative approaches to inform the developments of national Action Plans to reduce child poverty and address systematic disadvantages for particularly vulnerable groups of children and ensure that these vulnerable children and their families have access to quality services. Working in consultation and close partnership with national and sub-national authorities and civil society organisations, children, families and communities. UNICEF will design and implement services and interventions that have demonstrable impact on child poverty and social exclusion.
UNICEF advocates for policy frameworks to trigger actions and investments for vulnerable and excluded children
In this Phase III of the Child Guarantee, the focus will be on strengthening the capacity of national and sub-national authorities to deliver services, care and support to vulnerable children and their families, including improving access to education, healthcare, education, nutritious food, quality housing and childcare. Best-practices as well as concrete, localized policy-interventions that contribute to providing children with access to healthcare, education, childcare, decent housing and adequate nutrition will be identified. In parallel, UNICEF will support strengthening the capacity of Member States to regularly collect, analyse and submit data on indicators relating to child poverty and social exclusion.
The Child Guarantee will introduce innovative approaches
to national budgeting and planning
Evidence generation and analysis of existing national policies, frameworks and tools for addressing child poverty and social exclusion will inform the development of an EU-wide framework for addressing poverty and social exclusion.
In collaboration with the European Commission and Ministers from Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania and Spain, UNICEF’s Europe and Central Asia Regional Office organized an online event on 12th of November to launch Phase III of the Preparatory Action for a Child Guarantee.
The overall goal of the launch event was to share insights and approaches to shape how the Child Guarantee can be translated systematically into concrete and sustainable results for children across the European Union. It made so by highlight how countries analyse the situation of the children and families and strategize on effective approaches for addressing child poverty and social exclusion. The discussion provade an opportunity to learn from best practices, models and services across Member States to combat child poverty and social exclusion.
The Panel discussion consist of high-level speakers from the participating countries and was chaired by Mr. Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights; and Ms. Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia (ECA), and Special Coordinator for the Refuge and Migrant Response in Europe.
The specific objectives of the event was to :
1. Discuss the framework for Phase III of the project.
2. Secure high-level political commitment from participating countries for the Child Guarantee rollout across the European Union.
3. Identify and share models and services which present the most compelling evidence that investing in the poorest children is the most effective way of breaking the cycle of poverty and disadvantage across Europe.
4. Provide insights into how the participating countries will be integrating these approaches into their national strategies and action plans – and how the process of national integration can inform the roll out of the Child Guarantee across the European Union.
"We will be extremely happy if Bulgaria could contribute to the future proposal of the Commission for steps to implement the Child Guarantee at the European Union level," said in her address during the meeting Zornitsa Rusinova – Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Policy.
Bulgaria highly appreciates the initiative of the European Commission to ensure the welfare of children. This goal is also a priority of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy. In the last 10 years, thanks to European solidarity, Bulgaria has made significant progress in the reform of deinstitutionalization of child care and investment in early childhood development, emphasized Ms, Roussinova.
The Deputy Minister further noted that the pilot project that will be implemented by Bulgariawithin the initiative will be focused on programs and services providing support and care for 6,410 children, 6,900 parents from 10 pilot municipalities and will strengthen the capacities of more than 600 professionals.
The Deputy Minister expressed her special gratitude to the UNICEF Country Office in Bulgaria and the Regional Office in Geneva, as well as to the European Commission for the support provided to Bulgaria for the implementation of this project. "This is extremely important for us, especially in the context of the extremelydifficult socio-economic situation related to the pandemic," Rusinova said.
The online event brought together participants from relevant UNICEF country level implementation teams, and Representatives of key line Ministries in seven participating countries as well as senior representatives of the European Commission – Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion (DG EMPL) and UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia.
The information and views set out in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.