Tackling child poverty and social exclusion in the EU
How EU funding mechanisms can help
Disadvantage in early life can have significant impacts on opportunities later in life, ranging from material deprivation as an adult, being unemployed or earning lower wages, spending time in prison or becoming a lone parent. Nonetheless, the problem is a complex one, and many socioeconomic circumstances play a role in determining a child’s success later in life, such as access to critical services including health, education and social inclusion measures. As outlined in the 2013 European Commission Recommendation on Investing in Children: Breaking the cycle of disadvantage, the policy... response will necessarily be equally multifaceted. However, child poverty still remains a challenge across many EU countries. As of 2016, 26.4 % of children in the EU were at risk of or experiencing poverty or social exclusion, ranging from 13.8 % of young people aged 17 years or younger in Denmark, to 49.2 % of the same age group in Romania. In addition, despite progress in reducing child poverty levels in some Member States, in others there has been an increase in the share of young people at risk of poverty and exclusion Social policy and welfare initiatives at Member State level are still the most significant policy instruments to tackle child poverty. Governments and other actors in the Member States have a number of policies they can employ to support disadvantaged children and families. These may include routine social transfer programmes; the direct provision of services and resources, such as subsidised or free childcare or food packages; national-level grants to social partners; and targeted intervention programmes. EU-level funding is also available to stakeholders to support key social priorities. The Recommendation sets out expectations for the provision of services to children and recommends that Member States ‘mobilise relevant EU financial instruments’ in order to maximise available funding for child-centred initiatives. Nonetheless, in 2015 the European Parliament noted that ‘the majority of Member States so far have given little attention to using EU structural funds to fight the alarming and still growing rates of poverty among children in the EU and promote their social inclusion and general well-being’, and recommended greater emphasis on the use of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) to support implementation of the Recommendation.