Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

European Child Guarantee

In 2019 Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced in her Political Guidelines the creation of a European Child Guarantee with a view to ensuring that every child in Europe at risk of poverty or social exclusion has access to the most basic of rights like healthcare and education.

On 24 March 2021, after consultations with key stakeholders including children themselves, European Commission adopted a proposal for Council Recommendation establishing a European Child Guarantee, along with the supporting Staff Working Document. The Council adopted the proposed Recommendation on 14 June 2021.

The objective of the European Child Guarantee 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

While most children in the EU already have access to these services, inclusive and truly universal access is vital for ensuring equal opportunities for all children, and in particular those who experience social exclusion due to poverty or other forms of a disadvantage.

In order to implement the Recommendation, the Member States have nominated their Child Guarantee Coordinators and are preparing national action plans, covering the period until 2030.

Member States with a level of child poverty above the EU average (23,4% - AROPE 2017 – 2019) should allocate at least 5% of their European Social Fund (ESF+) resources to tackle child poverty.

On the other hand, all the other Member States are required to allocate an appropriate amount of their ESF+ resources to combat child poverty.

Funding under the ESF+ may be used to test or upscale initiatives to improve access to these services or enable more effective use of national, regional, and local budgets. In addition, the ESF+ should be used to help Member States develop new or improved mainline services and programmes to better reach children at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

Preparatory Actions

On the request of the European Parliament, which called for a child guarantee that would help ensure that every child in Europe at risk of poverty or social exclusion has access to free healthcare, education, early childhood education and care, decent housing and adequate nutrition the European Commission designed a three-phase Preparatory Action to analyse the feasibility, financing, and implementation of such a scheme in the EU.

Phase I assessed the feasibility, efficiency and overall benefits of an EU Child Guarantee Scheme and made concrete suggestions for improving policies and programmes at EU and (sub-)national levels.

It focused on access by four groups of children to the five social rights identified by the European Parliament: children with disabilities, children residing in institutions, children with a migrant background (incl. refugee children), and children living in precarious family situations. The deliverables of Phase I include:

Phase II of the Preparatory Action produced a detailed study exploring costs and benefits of the free provision of:

  • education including school-based activities and full meals
  • early childhood education and care
  • regular health examinations and follow-up treatment to all children at risk of poverty or social exclusion, as well as of
  • providing services aimed at preventing and fighting child homelessness.

The deliverables of Phase II include:

For the Phase III of the Preparatory Action, the European Commission has partnered with the UNICEF. The aim of this phase is to test how the European Child Guarantee could work in practice and provide recommendations for its successful design and implementation.

As part of this engagement, UNICEF has been working since July 2020 with national and local governments from seven EU Member States (Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, and Spain) and key national and local stakeholders in these countries.

Notably, seven 'policy deep dive' country studies have been carried out, contributing to the development of the national action plans on implementation of the European Child Guarantee.

The deliverables of Phase III include:

National action plans

Article 11(c) of the Council Recommendation establishing a European Child Guarantee asks the Member States to submit action plans on how they will to implement the child guarantee.

The action plans should cover the period until 2030 and take into account national, regional and local circumstances as well as existing policy actions and measures to support children in need.

The main purpose of the national action plans is to describe the existing and planned national and subnational policy measures, which aim to improve access of children in need to the set of key services covered by the European Child Guarantee.

See the national action plans submitted by the Member States:

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