The project "PIECES–Policy Investigation in Europe on Child Endangerment and Support" was coordinated by the European Child Safety Alliance in partnership with experts in Austria, England, France, Lithuania, Romania and Spain.
The project aimed to conduct in-depth investigations of select policy issues in violence against children in the EU28 and Norway, in order to provide a better understanding of how those policies are being implemented, monitored and evaluated.
The specific project objectives were:
- To develop and implement an effective communications and dissemination plan to ensure maximum exposure of project activities and results to key target audiences and relevant stakeholders across the EU including increase awareness and knowledge of evidence based good practice policies related to child violence in Europe.
- To systematically select 6 child intentional injury prevention policies for detailed assessment and develop a database of key informants across all EU Member States with knowledge of selected policy areas to respond to policy surveys.
- To conduct detailed assessment surveys on 6 targeted child intentional injury policies in countries in the EU where they are in place.
- To analyse and synthesise survey results, prepare related case studies for each of the policies and develop a final public document that includes gaps in policy implementation, lessons learnt and recommendations for action for effective transfer to other EU Member States.
PIECES consisted of four main activities to gather data and report on the selected policy areas:
The in-depth investigations explored the following six policy areas:
For each of the six policy areas explored information was also collected on whether children were consulted on policy/programme development and implementation (child participation) and whether child poverty and other inequalities were considered during policy/programme development, implementation or monitoring (child inequalities).
The target audience envisioned for the results of the project were national and European governments and agencies who assess, set policy and invest in the prevention of violence against and by children as well as researchers in the field of child maltreatment, aiming at ultimately preventing violence against all children in the EU with a focus on the most vulnerable children.
Governance and coordination
EU Member States should review the breadth and scope of policies on violence against children to ensure they address all aspects of violence comprehensively. While most EU Member States have policies on child maltreatment, significant gaps were found which need to be addressed in the areas of prevention of school and community based violence and in child suicide and self-harm.
Standardised definitions of violence against children need to be harmonised across Europe and within each EU Member State so that there is a common language used to describe the problem.
EU Member States should ensure, regardless of governance structure, that coordination of activities against VAC occurs at three levels - national (standard setting to provide a framework and guidelines for effective action for both prevention and protection), regional (to meet specific regional needs drawing together available services) and local (providing coordinated services to meet the needs of individual children and their families through effective case management across the continuum of care), with effective monitoring at each level. Policies and plans should set out clearly the roles and responsibilities of different sectors and how these can be coordinated.
EU Member States need to invest adequate resources in training and resources to support professionals in the identification of potential cases of VAC, in assessment processes, in supporting victims, in ensuring more effective interagency cooperation and collaboration and in implementing prevention programmes (e.g., home visiting and parenting programmes). Without adequate resources, the quality of implementation and monitoring of policies in place to prevent and respond to violence against children will suffer and this will have direct impacts on children’s well-being.
The EU in conjunction with EU Member States should invest in mechanisms to share and build further knowledge on evidence-based multi sector methods of working, especially identification, assessment and response to violence against children between child protection systems in EU Member States. The results of this project and others indicate there is considerable scope for such activities. This could be supported by further cross European research on effective responses to prevent and respond to violence against children. Research priorities on VAC should be regularly reviewed to aid knowledge sharing across EU members.
EU Member States should invest in enhancements to existing data systems and ensure collection of data to support prevention and protection activities, including exploring possible linkage mechanism. It is difficult to design, implement and monitor an effective response to VAC with insufficient knowledge on the prevalence, trends and progress in implementation. Considerable gaps were found in national data on violence against children in our survey, a finding confirming other research.
EU Member States should establish indicators and statistical systems for monitoring and evaluation as part of a national coordinating framework that is effectively regulated and independently monitored, ensuring accessible, quality data on violence against children. The EU and international organisations such as WHO and UNICEF can support such efforts, encouraging standardisation and harmonisation to support international monitoring.
On-going work on European indicators by organisations such as the FRA could contribute to the development of pan European indicators to measure progress and change in levels of VAC. Pan European violence prevention activities would be enhanced if trends in VAC could be monitored more effectively across EU Member States. A holistic approach to measure outcomes for children and child wellbeing overall is vitally important as experiences of violence clearly have a significant impact on children’s health, development and overall life chances; however, specific indicators are needed to measure VAC.
EU Member States should ensure that resources and capacity are made available to ensure adequate monitoring of all policies to prevent and respond to violence against children. Evaluation methods exist and considerable progress has been made in developing them. This knowledge should be widely shared and built into plans and budgets for this important step in the policy cycle.
EU Member States need to continue to work to apply effective and authentic methods to achieve meaningful child participation in the planning and monitoring of policies on violence. The findings across the PIECES surveys indicate that in the six policy areas examined, child participation is limited and there is great scope for improvement. Mechanisms to share and build further knowledge regarding violence prevention and child protection should include good practice in the area of child participation.
EU Member States should ensure that prevention is a key focus of national plans and that there is an appropriate balance between universal and targeted provisions to prevent violence to ensure that the most vulnerable children can be safe. There is the likelihood of co-wins for areas such as early childhood development and reduction of inequities through greater investment in parenting and home visiting programmes.
The evolving nature of policy both in the area of violence against children and in terms of governance structures impacting the sectors involved in its prevention and management have resulted in fragmented and uncoordinated child protection systems.
The results have identified gaps and good practices within each of the six policy areas explored and highlighted differences in approaches that warrant further exploration both in terms of research and the creation of mechanisms to facilitate sharing of approaches and impacts between Member States. While the results of the six surveys also suggest that progress is ongoing, they clearly highlight that further action is required in each of the policy areas to reduce violence against children and its impact.
The synthesis of survey results has increased awareness of key issues impacting across the six policy areas explored and highlighted cross cutting challenges that are currently impacting EU Member States’ efforts. Some of these challenges relate to measurement, some to capacity and resourcing, some to the need for further research, but all start with the need for strong national leadership. Developing and maintaining a national framework and national oversight in the context of devolution and decentralisation of responsibilities for services is essential to keep the priority status of action to combat all forms of violence against Europe’s children.
Specific recommendations address:
The findings from this independent project are consistent with findings from other investigations, increasing the evidence upon which recommendations and future decisions regarding areas where cross-national project funding could support strengthening of national responses. For example, there is a need for more mechanisms to share experiences in a number of the areas explored and there is a need to better understand the implications of the various governance structures and service delivery models being used.
- project webpage and brochure, sharing regarding the PIECES project and what we were attempting to achieve through sharing at meetings and conferences, sharing with relevant DAPHNE funded initiatives (e.g., CAN-MDS) and involvement of key organisations at various stages throughout the project and dissemination of the results in the form of six working papers (one per survey).
- final project report summarising the project results with a particular focus on the cross-cutting issues identified, an executive summary of the final report available in five languages and five good practice case studies available in five languages.
Specific efforts to get the results into the hands of the target audience include dissemination of the project results to the survey participants (key stakeholders involved in violence against children in the participating countries and representing government, arms length government funded organisations, NGOs and academics). Dissemination of project results through the networks of key organisations whose mandate includes the prevention of violence against children and/or children’s rights, along with the request that they further disseminate the findings within their own countries.
Response during the project to what we were attempting to achieve was positive and there was interest in the project results being shared. Feedback from presentations of results (e.g., BASPCAN 2015 and 14th ISPCAN European Regional Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in September 2015) and the expert consultation with key European organisations during the development of the final recommendations indicated that the information was relevant and would be useful moving forward.