Child poverty figures on the rise. Commissioner Andor: “Member States must invest in children”
On the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Commissioner László Andor recalls the EU measures which can help Member States reduce child poverty. Effective use of policy guidance and EU funds can make a difference. Listening to children and young people, and organisations working with them, would be a good place to start
By Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General of Eurochild.
A shocking 26.5 million children (28%) are growing up at risk of poverty and social exclusion across the EU. Behind the statistics are individual children who are witnessing their parents struggling to make ends meet, children who can’t afford to participate in extra-curricula activities, children being bullied at school for wearing second-hand clothes, children whose family is threatened with eviction, children who are simply going hungry. Poverty is not a number; it is an experience, an experience that limits opportunities and inhibits development. Children who grow up in poverty are much more likely to experience poverty in adulthood.
The crisis has hit children and families particularly hard. Even more worrying is the fact that too many member states are pursuing austerity policies which cut vital safety nets for the most vulnerable and entrench social inequalities.
In February 2013, under the leadership of László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, the European Commission published its Social Investment Package. It sent a clear message to member states: spending on social protection is not a cost but an investment. It advocates an integrated and life-cycle approach. The only ‘Recommendation’ within that Package – the Recommendation on Investing in Children – recognizes that by prioritising children governments can help break the cycle of disadvantage and help build more resilient, inclusive societies in the long-term.
On the eve of the end of his term in office, Eurochild asked Commissioner Andor to reflect on his legacy and how this can be taken forward (watch video). In his response, he considers that the poverty reduction target of Europe 2020 is an important hook and should be pursued with greater vigour. The EU can use the target to apply pressure on member states, in particular through the County Specific Recommendations. The social scoreboard is another tool he championed to ensure greater parity between economic and social goals. He also referred to funding tools, the EaSI Programme, Structural and Investment Funds, and the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived, as important means to leverage greater investment in member states.
Finally, Commissioner Andor recalled the need to engage with all stakeholders and in particular civil society. The European networks involved in the Alliance for Investing in Children are uniquely placed to ensure these EU tools make a difference to children and young people, by mobilising their national members to influence policy reform an investment.