The EU Child Guarantee
The objective of the European Child Guarantee is to prevent and combat social exclusion by guaranteeing the access of children in need to a set of key services. The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan sets a target of reducing the number of children at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU by at least 5 million. The European Child Guarantee is identified by the Commission as one of the key policy tools of achieving this target. Its purpose is to reduce the gap between children in need and their better off peers in terms of access to key services and address the high economic and societal costs of child social exclusion and the intergenerational transmission of disadvantages.
The aim is to prevent and combat social exclusion by guaranteeing effective access of children in need to a set of key services:
- free early childhood education and care
- free education (including school-based activities and at least one healthy meal each school day)
- free healthcare
- healthy nutrition, and
- adequate housing.
Member States should identify children in need and within this group take into account, wherever appropriate in designing their national integrated measures, specific disadvantages experienced by:
- homeless children or children experiencing severe housing deprivation;
- children with a disability;
- children with a migrant background;
- children with a minority racial or ethnic background (particularly Roma);
- children being in alternative (especially institutional) care;
- children in precarious family situations.
Member States are invited to build an integrated and enabling policy framework to address social exclusion of children, focusing on breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty and disadvantage and reducing the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
European Union funds through the European Social Fund Plus will been targeted towards the achievement of the Child Guarantee. Those EU members states who have levels of child poverty or social exclusion above the EU average (of which Ireland is one), must allocate at least 5 per cent of their European Social Fund Plus to tackling child poverty. The European Commission has also identified the European Regional Development Fund REACT-EU, Invest-EU, the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the Technical Support Instrument as funds which will equally support investments in enabling infrastructure, such as social housing and early childhood education and care facilities, as well as equipment, access to quality and mainstream services and implementing structural reforms.
The following policies should form part of Government’s National Action Plan to implement the European Child Guarantee:
- Ensure adequate income through the lifecycle, including adequate payments for children
- Ensure families have access to quality services, in particular childcare, early childhood education and care, healthcare and housing.
- Introduce State-led childcare. Affordable childcare and child-friendly employment arrangements are key requirements for greater labour market participation among young mothers
- Set ambitious headline national poverty targets and in addition set ambitious subsidiary poverty targets for vulnerable groups such as children, lone parents, jobless households, those in social rented accommodation.
- Carry out in-depth social impact assessments prior to implementing proposed policy initiatives that impact on the income and public services on which many low-income households depend. This should include the poverty-proofing of all public policy initiatives.
- Establish a minimum social floor of income and services below which no person or household should fall.