This policy instrument aims to help ensure that every child at risk of poverty or social exclusion in Europe has access to free healthcare, free education, free early childhood education and care, decent housing and adequate nutrition, as part of a European integrated plan to combat child poverty.
The final report of the feasibility study for a Child Guarantee for vulnerable children commissioned by the European Commission was released in June 2020. In 2015, the European Parliament called on the European Commission and the European Union Member States to introduce this policy instrument aimed to help ensure that every child at risk of poverty or social exclusion in Europe has access to free healthcare, free education, free early childhood education and care, decent housing and adequate nutrition, as part of a European integrated plan to combat child poverty. The feasibility study is part of the Preparatory Action to explore the establishment of a potential Child Guarantee scheme that the European Commission is undertaking at the request of the European Parliament.
This initiative is of particular relevance for EURoma:
- On the one hand, there is a high percentage of Roma children among the more than a quarter of all children in the EU who are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. This is reflected in the fact that Roma children are considered under two of the groups of vulnerable children included as target groups of the study (children living in precarious family situations and children residing in institutions) and the large number of references to them in the study.
- On the other hand, the role that ESI Funds can play to support children in vulnerable situations. Aware of this, the study devotes a specific chapter to the use of EU funds, including ESI Funds (notably ESF and ERDF), to support policies and programmes in favour of children in the four target groups considered.
EURoma Network has been following the process and took place in some of the initiatives.
About the Feasibility Study
Launched in September 2018, the main objective of the study was to explore how a Child Guarantee scheme could contribute to:
- combating poverty and social exclusion, particularly amongst the EU’s most disadvantaged children and
- ensuring the access of these children to the five areas identified by the European Parliament.
To this end, it 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 in the EU Member States, based on what is in place and feasible for the four groups of particularly vulnerable children considered:
- children living in precarious family situations. Roma children is one of the sub-groups considered as potentially at risk of living in this type of family situations.
- children residing in institutions. Children with ethnic-minority or recent migrant background, including Roma, are one of the groups of children still over-represented in the alternative care system, and especially in residential care in all Member States where disaggregated data are available. As regards Roma children, there are disproportionate numbers in institutions across Europe compared with their share of the total population.
- children of recent migrants and refugees; and
- children with disabilities and other children with special needs.
In relation to the four groups of children, the study provides an overview of their situation in relation to their access to the five key social rights under scrutiny; provides an overview and assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of existing EU and other international legal frameworks in relation to each group and their access to the five key social rights under scrutiny; documents the main gaps and challenges which the four groups of children in vulnerable situations are facing in trying to access these rights; explores some of the possible solutions for establishing a Child Guarantee.
The study also attempts to explore the possibility of extrapolating and learning from the insights found for the four groups to larger groups of, or eventually all, children in the EU.
This Final Report synthesises the findings from various outputs developed in the context of the Feasibility Study:
- 28 Country Reports;
- one report on each of the five key children’s social rights (or policy areas) identified by the European Parliament: free healthcare, free education, free early childhood education and care, decent housing and adequate nutrition;
- one report on each of the four target groups singled out by the European Commission: children residing in institutions, children with disabilities, children with a migrant background (including refugee children) and children living in a precarious family situation;
- an online consultation with key stakeholders;
- eight case studies highlighting lessons from international funding programmes;
- four consultations with children (focus groups);
- four fact-finding workshops on each of the four target groups of disadvantaged children that took place in September and October 2019. These workshops provided the opportunity for discussions with a wide range of stakeholders and policy-makers. Each of them was informed by an in-depth discussion paper and the responses to an online consultation to gather the views from key stakeholders.
- the closing conference organised on 17 February 2020. Key stakeholders discussed the intermediate report of the Feasibility Study presented, bringing together all the work undertaken since the process was launched in September 2018.
EU Funds support to children in vulnerable situations
A specific chapter of the report (Chapter 8) focuses on the use of EU Funds, including ESI Funds, to support policies and programmes in favour of children in the four categories considered. It provides some insights into how extensively and in what ways EU funds have been used to this. Furthermore, it assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the way these funds have been used in the past to support children in vulnerable situations, highlights the main lessons that can be drawn about effective funding arrangements from the eight Feasibility Study case studies, and identifies challenges and makes concrete suggestions as to how EU funding could be better used in future to support access by children in vulnerable situations to the five social rights under scrutiny.
As regards ESI Funds, it is stressed that although ESF and ERDF Thematic Objectives do not refer specifically to children at risk of poverty or social exclusion, regulations give many opportunities to invest in them (e.g. support to improve education, health/social infrastructure and access to affordable and high quality services, including: out-of-school care and childcare; interventions preventing early school-leaving; and promoting equal access to good-quality early-childhood, primary, and secondary education) and allow the Member States to draft their respective Operational Programmes according to their needs and priorities in agreement with the Commission.
In addition, as regards future Regulations, in its resolution on the ESF+, the European Parliament calls for the allocation of 5.9 billion for measures falling under this initiative and proposes that ‘Within the specific objectives for the social inclusion policy area (…) MS shall allocate at least 5% of their ESF+ resources (…) to targeted actions aiming at implementing the European Child Guarantee’. In line with this, in its recently presented revised proposal for the ESF+, the Commission calls for further consideration of child poverty and proposes that Member States allocate at least 5% of the ESF+ resources under shared management to address children in poverty (for: early childcare, education, access to services, healthcare and housing).
The connection between funds and policies is also referred to as a key element to ensure that projects are effective, as EU funds are aimed at supporting policies and contributing to their effective implementation. This includes policies at national, regional and local levels (including the National Roma Inclusion Strategies).
- Child Guarantee for vulnerable children
- Feasibility Study for a Child Guarantee:
– Final Report (2020) (only available in English)
– Children’s voices (2020) (only available in English)
– Case studies on the effectiveness of funding programmes- Key findings and study reports (2019) (only available in English)
– Target Group Discussion Paper on Children in Alternative Care (2019) (only available in English)
–Target Group Discussion Paper on Children Living in Precarious Family Situations (2019) (only available in English)