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Investing in children

Definition

Children that grow up in poverty are more likely to suffer from social exclusion and health problems in the future, and also less likely to develop to their full potential later in life.

Breaking the cycle of disadvantage in early years and investing in children through a preventative approach allows reducing the risk of poverty and social exclusion.

This implies not just providing children with adequate living standards: it also means helping them live up to their full potential through an integrated approach bringing them the best educational and health outcomes.

Challenges

  • The economic crisis has caused increased rates of poverty in Europe. This has a particularly negative impact on children. In 2011, 27.1% of children were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared to 24.2% of the total population.
  • Investment in children must be stepped up and made more preventative, addressing challenges such as:
    • disincentives deterring parents from working
    • inefficient or inadequate child and family benefits
    • lack of access to quality services.

Policy response

The Social Investment Package and the Recommendation "Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage" stress the importance of early intervention and preventative approaches. They call on EU countries to:

  • support parents' access to the labour market and make sure that work 'pays' for them
  • improve access to affordable early childhood education and care services
  • provide adequate income support such as child and family benefits, which should be redistributive across income groups but avoid inactivity traps and stigmatisation
  • step up access to quality services that are essential to children's outcomes – improve access to early childhood education and care including for children under 3, eliminate school segregation, enhance access to health, housing, social services
  • support children's participation in extra-curricular activities and in services and decisions affecting children such as social services, education, alternative care.

The Commission will monitor and support the implementation of the Recommendation and in particular:

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