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The EU Child Guarantee

The EU Child Guarantee

May 31, 2021

Last week, the Children’s Rights Alliance held a webinar focusing on how Ireland can address child poverty by implementing the European Child Guarantee. The Child Guarantee aims to break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage. It provides guidance for Member States to support children in need by guaranteeing free and effective access to five key service areas set out in the Guarantee.

  1. Free healthcare
  2. Free education
  3. Free childcare
  4. Adequate nutrition
  5. Decent housing

The issue of child poverty has become prevalent in Ireland with a higher percentage of children at risk of poverty than the EU average. The Child Guarantee provides a unique opportunity to galvanise action to tackle child poverty here compared to other better performing countries in this area.

The Child Guarantee has progressed significantly at an EU level since 2015 when the European Parliament put forward the first resolution for free access to key services for every child at risk of poverty in Europe. There was initial scepticism about its feasibility, but the key political turning point was when Ursula Von Der Leyen, in her bid to become Commission President committed to implementing a child guarantee for Europe. There were also ongoing negotiations for additional EU funds in support of the Child Guarantee and significant advocacy work from civil society organisations such as Eurochild. This culminated in the concrete proposal from the European Commission in March 2021.

Since then a period of negotiation between Member States has been commenced which will lead to the adoption of the recommendation by the EU Council in June 2021. The next phase will be the actual implementation of the recommendation by 2022 preceded by 6 months from July to December to develop an action plan.

 

The Strengths of the EU Child Guarantee

The over-arching strengths of the EU Child Guarantee are in its ambitious goals of free healthcare, education, childcare, adequate housing, and nutrition. It is based in the children’s rights approach in the context of the European Pillar of Social Rights and was launched in conjunction with the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child. It combines a strategic approach which can be integrated with the existing polices of member states with some very specific actions that need to be achieved by all member states in terms of child poverty. It stresses emphasises the importance of firstly identifying children in need, followed by outreach and early intervention.
It also emphasises the importance of implementation by each member state. The Commission has outlined the need for published action plans to implement the Child Guarantee and for member states to appoint National Coordinators to ensure the implementation is reflective of the goals in the Guarantee. There is also a strong recognition of the impacts of COVID-19 on children in terms of highlighting existing inequalities and exacerbating the levels of poverty experienced by children. This recognition may increase the urgency.

 

The Challenges

It is important that what is proposed in the goals of the Guarantee is not watered down in the process of negotiation within Member States. Objections from Member States have included whether children with no status such as migrant children should be included, whether the appointment of a National Coordinator to implement the Guarantee is feasible in every country, and the frequency of reporting on the progress of the actions outlined in the Guarantee.

It is important that Ireland plays a leading role in supporting the adoption of the EU Child Guarantee. In order for Ireland to do this, our representatives must support the Child Guarantee at an EU level, The Minister and Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth must recognise the Guarantee as a powerful tool to advance the rights of children in need and Ireland must appoint a senior official as the National Co-ordinator for the EU Child Guarantee.

Early Childhood Ireland will be responding to the next phases of the EU Child Gurantee as part of our policy and advocacy work and we will keep members up to date about any developments.  If you would like to share your views about the new strategy, please email us.  

 

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