ELIMINATING CHILD POVERTY EQUALS DIGNIFYING AND PROTECTING EVERY CITIZEN NOW AND IN THE FUTURE

ISABEL CARVALHAIS
EURODEPUTADA S&D

In the European Union, around 23 million children in 2019 were at risk of poverty and social exclusion.

The risk of poverty and social exclusion of children is strongly linked to variables such as the level of education, the migrant origin and the parents’ work situation, housing conditions and the family structure itself – several studies show that single-parent families, for example, they are more vulnerable to situations of poverty.

We could add other variables, such as the quality and extent of social support networks, and the responsiveness of public policies to the phenomena of exclusion and poverty.

The longer a child remains in a condition of vulnerability, the greater the impacts on their integral development, in the physical, emotional, behavioural dimension, and the greater the difficulty in breaking with the cycle of poverty that will accompany them in adulthood. In the long run, the economic and social costs for the State and for society as a whole will also increase.

The European Pillar of Social Rights is based on 20 principles of action which, taken together, aim to guide Member States towards a fairer, more inclusive and more opportunities Europe. Among them is the Principle of Child Care and support for children. This principle tells us that children are entitled to affordable education and essential care, such as health care. Children have the right to be protected from poverty, and those from the most disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds must have the right to specific measures to increase equal opportunities.

Increasing the access of the most disadvantaged children to essential education and health services, ensuring the quality and inclusiveness of school equipment, at all stages of their socialization and learning process, are certainly important. We European socialists have been very clear in this regard and we point out that it is essential to guarantee equal universal access to education and care in early childhood. We also consider it crucial to move urgently towards the implementation of the European Childcare Guarantee, with a dedicated budget of EUR 20 billion in order to combat right now the poverty that affects children and their families.

The fight against child poverty, ensuring that the problems that support subsequent cycles of exclusion and poverty in adult life are eliminated, need to go beyond access to education and health. It needs measures to combat the material deprivation associated with the low income of its parents, in particular of parents in extreme poverty. This means that protecting the family, all types of families, is decisive and this implies that there are active policies for job creation and support for (re) insertion in the labor market. That is why we also advocate that emergency measures be maintained for as long as necessary, including the continuation of SURE and the launch of the Unemployment Reassurance Benefits Scheme, as a means to face the impacts of the pandemic on the labor market and generate the necessary stabilization of employment. We propose a European agenda for quality jobs, (including the elimination of zero-hour contracts), with a decent wage, job security and access to social protection, opportunities for lifelong learning, good working conditions in safe and secure places. healthy, reasonable working time with a good balance between professional and family life, with the right to organize and the right to negotiate collectively. We also advocate the adoption of the Directive on minimum wages in the Union. All of this is essential, I emphasize, so that families can earn a decent income, in order to provide their children with material and emotionally more balanced environments.

Battling against child poverty also requires strong commitment to integrated approaches, so that actions do not overlap, resources are dispersed, and the positive effects of measures when taken in isolation, are diluted. Articulation between education and social services at the local level is therefore essential. The future quality of public services must be part of the European priorities embodied in the European Semester. Of course, there are no turnkey solutions, and therefore, an enormous effort of articulation (of public policies, measures and concrete actions) and monitoring is required, as only on the ground can we afford to see the real impact of a plan by assessing and validating its concrete actions.

For the sake of the future of all of us, let us build today a dignified and happy childhood for every single child!

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