The European Public Health Alliance, the International Step by Step Association (ISSA), through its initiative the Romani Early Years Network, welcomes the European Commission’s commitment to strengthen the protection of vulnerable children through the development of the European Child Guarantee and Council Recommendations aiming to set up a policy framework to combat child poverty and exclusion.
Child poverty is a major concern preventing children’s optimal development, especially in the earliest years of life (0-3 years). This is particularly true for children with disadvantaged backgrounds, greatly vulnerable to inequalities in education, including early childhood development care and health – both identified as fundamental areas of intervention within the EU Child Guarantee.
Although it advances access to essential services of good quality for all vulnerable children, some population groups deserve stronger political commitment and social investment due to their greater exposure to poverty and social exclusion, such as Roma. This is the largest ethnic minority in Europe and it faces disproportionate rates of deep and generational poverty having long-term consequences on health, education and other social outcomes. A survey released by the Fundamental Rights Agency in 2014 revealed that 90% of Roma children live at risk of poverty and social exclusion. 40% of them face notable nutritional risks and suffer from malnutrition. The results of the recent study published by the Fundamental Rights Agency are also alarming: 38% of Roma and Travellers live in households where people struggle to meet their needs and 23% of them live in severe material deprivation.
Therefore, in its response to the European Commission consultation, EPHA, ISSA and REYN call for the expansion of the scope of the European Child Guarantee in order to provide a comprehensive and holistic framework for tackling child poverty and exclusion comprising measures targeting Roma children, especially those between 0 and 3 years of age. We reiterate our recommendations issued in July 2020 for integrated policies addressing the social determinants of health from the earliest years of life to achieve positive and sustainable results on poverty and social exclusion. We urge the European Commission to incorporate a number of measures to safeguard vulnerable children, including Roma enjoy stronger protection against poverty and exclusion.
- Developing a comprehensive and holistic policy framework for tackling child poverty and exclusion.
- Developing, implementing and monitoring integrated multi-annual strategies with annual action plans, including binding indicators and measurable targets.
- Allocating adequate funding to combat child poverty and social exclusion.
- Adopting a rights-based approach.
- Expanding the scope of the Child Guarantee.
- Implementing targeted measures for Roma children.
- Ensuring equal opportunities for child participation in policy and decision making.