UNICEF and EU pilot innovative approaches aimed at breaking the cycle of child poverty and social exclusion
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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.
Poor children often lack access to basic quality services
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.
UNICEF advocates for policy frameworks to trigger actions and investments for vulnerable and excluded children
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.
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.
The Child Guarantee will introduce innovative approaches to national budgeting and planning
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.
In Greece, UNICEF, with the support of the European Commission and in collaboration with the Greek government, will implement the project aiming at addressing systematic disadvantages for particularly vulnerable groups of children (children in institutional care, children living with disabilities, refugee and migrant children, children from minority groups).
A Steering Committee comprised of representatives from relevant government and independent bodies with expertise in childcare systems, inclusive education, youth employability, poverty reduction and social inclusion, established to provide guidance to the planning and implementation of the Child Guarantee programme in Greece, met for the first time today.
The Steering Committee, co-chaired by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and UNICEF, will provide valuable input to the overall strategy of the program, in line with Greek national objectives, while reviewing progress on implementation
The two-year Child Guarantee programme in Greece is comprised of six integrated actions/pillars:
Pillar 1: Supporting deinstitutionalization and strengthening community-based care
Pillar 2: Strengthening the foster care system
Pillar 3: Introducing supported independent living to support children’s transition to adulthood
Pillar 4: Investing in life skills and job readiness for vulnerable youth
Pillar 5: Strengthening inclusive education
Pillar 6: Research to inform and strengthen child-focused national poverty reduction strategies and social integration efforts