The European Platform for Investing in Children (EPIC) presents a round-up of the latest developments in child and family policy in EU member states in December 2019.
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Each piece of news contains a link to the original source, which may be in a language other than English. In most cases, they are press releases from the relevant ministries.
Croatia: Increase in parental leave compensation
The Croatian parliament has passed a bill that will increase the amount of compensation that parents accessing parental leave can receive from 120% to 170% of the minimum wage.
The bill also shortens the length of time during which the parent must have held insurance prior to the child’s birth in order to be eligible for parental leave compensation.
Czechia: Increase in parental allowance
On 19 December 2019, the Czech government finalised an amendment to a law which will increase the amount of parental allowance that can be received. Families with children under the age of 4 will now receive CZK 300,000 (approx. €11,800) each year, with a higher amount available for families with more than one child aged under 4.
With this amendment, the government aims to facilitate work-life balance in the Czech Republic.
Denmark: New initiatives to support young people with disabilities
The Danish parliament has announced funding of DKK 90 million (approximately €12 million) for five initiatives designed to support people with disabilities which will be run between 2020 and 2023.
Several of these initiatives focus on children and young people, including projects helping children who have high levels of school absence, young people with substance misuse problems, and young people and adults with attention disorders.
Denmark: Measures to help vulnerable children made into law
The Danish government, in collaboration with other Danish political parties, has passed the Social Finance Act which involves several measures designed to help children and young people who are particularly vulnerable.
The Act includes a new child allowance for the most deprived families, funding for services that support children who have been affected by domestic violence, and funding to support young people with disabilities into adulthood.
Finland: Increase in some child benefits
The government has announced an increase in some child benefits in Finland from 01 January 2020 onwards. This includes small monthly increases in parenthood allowance, in child benefits for families with several children and for families with a single parent, and in the child maintenance allowance
Finland: Proposal to reduce size of ECEC groups
The Finnish government has proposed an amendment to a regulation that aims to reduce the size of class groups in early childhood education and care. If passed, this amendment would mean that there would be one member of staff for every seven children instead of one member of staff for every eight children. The amendment would also a maximum amount of 21 children in each group.
Germany: Youth Strategy approved by government
The Federal Government’s new youth strategy ‘Shared Responsibility: politics for, with, and by youth’ (In gemeinsamer Verantwortung: Politik für, mit und von Jugend) has been approved by the Federal Cabinet, marking the first time that a cross-departmental youth strategy has been accepted.
Developed by the Federal Ministry for Youth (Bundesjugendministerium), with inputs from young people, the strategy examines nine fields of action relevant to young people, suggests areas where action is needed and includes possible measures to be undertaken
Ireland: Toolkit to support children’s role in decision-making at schools
The Ministry for Children and Youth Affairs have launched an online toolkit for use in schools to support the involvement of young people in decision-making. Entitled ‘Our Voices Our Schools’, the toolkit was developed following concerns raised that young people did not have enough opportunities to participate in decisions at school. The resource includes worksheets, exercises, research articles and other resources to develop better participation by children.
Ireland: Funding for more childcare and ECEC places
The Ministry for Children and Youth Affairs have announced an additional €8.1 million that will be used in childcare capital grants in 2020, with the majority of funding (€7.2 million) to be spent on early childhood education and care services. Service providers will be able to apply for funding to create new early childhood education and care places, as well as childcare places for children of school age.
Lithuania: Increase in child benefit
The Lithuanian government (Seimas) have approved an increase in child benefit (vaiko pinigus) for all children in 2020, as well as increases for children with disabilities, children in large families and children from deprived families.
Slovenia: Changes to leave and benefits systems
On 18 December 2019, the national assembly (Državni zbor) of Slovenia passed an amendment that included several changes to the leave and benefits system for families. Following this law, foster carers will now be eligible for 30 days of parental leave when taking care of a child who has not yet completed their first year of school and fathers will receive an additional 10 days of paternity leave in the case of twins or multiple births, and an increase in the amount of childbirth allowance.
In addition, the law includes a provision that raises the minimum level of maternity, paternity and parental leave to the basic minimum income.
UK: More funding to support adoptive families
The government has announced additional funding of £45 million (approximately €53 million) to support the Adoption Support Fund. Launched in 2015, this Fund supports families at all stages of the adoption journey in the United Kingdom and provides therapies and activities for adopted children, with the overall aim of reducing the number of children in the care system and supporting adoption.
The government has also committed to providing more funding to regional adoption agencies, which focus on finding adoptive families for children from minority ethnic backgrounds.
Europe: Council of EU adopts conclusions on gender equality
On 10 December 2019, the Council of the European Union adopted conclusions on gender-equal economies in the European Union. These conclusions include an acknowledgement of progress made in implementing the United Nations Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action over the last 25 years (including in the adoption of the Work-life balance Directive).
However, the conclusions also recognise areas where gender inequality continues (including as gaps in affordable and high quality early childhood education and care).
The conclusions include some proposals for measures to further address gender inequality.
OECD: Publication examining non-traditional family arrangements
In November 2019, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a new policy brief examining the rise in children who live in non-traditional family living arrangements (including in single-parent families, families with informally cohabiting parents or families with non-cohabiting parents), which can affect the tax or benefits that a family receives.
The OECD publication suggests that countries’ tax and benefit systems need to become more responsive to changes in children’s living arrangements to ensure that these children do not become financially vulnerable.