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 November 2020. 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.
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European Union: EU Strategy for LGBTIQ equality includes rainbow families
On 12 November 2020, the European Commission presented its first ever EU Strategy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, non-binary, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) equality, which includes a focus on protecting the rights of rainbow families. Rainbow families is a term used to describe families headed by same-sex or LGBTIQ parents. At present, Member States differ in their legal recognition of rainbow families, resulting in legal difficulties for some families as they move between Member States. The Strategy includes a commitment for the European Commission to bring a legislative initiative on the mutual recognition of family relations in the EU.
Bulgaria: Funding for new early childhood education and care facilities
The ministry with responsibility for education (Министерство на образованието и науката) announced funding for the construction or improvement of buildings for early childhood education and care (ECEC) centres and schools. Within the next three years, BGN 210 million (approximately €107 million) will be allocated to the project: this will include the construction of over 35 new ECEC centres and the renovation of over 50 existing ECEC centres. The ministry anticipates that there will be over 6000 more places in ECEC available as a result.
Denmark: Initiatives to support children with cognitive learning difficulties and other issues
The ministry with responsibility for social affairs (Social og Indenrigsministeriet) launched a number of initiatives that aim to support children with cognitive learning difficulties, mental health challenges, and other complex issues. The ministry will provide a total of DKK 15 million (approximately €2 million) to the initiatives between 2021 and 2023. These are part of the implementation of the development and investment programmes (Udviklings-og Investeringsprogrammerne) which were established with the goal of ensuring that social policy is knowledge-based and effective.
Denmark: More funding allocated to social policies
On 19 November 2020, the ministry with responsibility for social affairs (Social og Indenrigsministeriet) announced the allocation of DKK 470 million (approximately €63 million) to various social policies. Funding will be allocated to various initiatives aimed at vulnerable children and young people: including providing education for foster families and setting up centres of child involvement (which aim to support children’s participation in decision-making). The funding will be implemented between 2021 and 2024.
Finland: Launch of reading literacy campaign
The ministry with responsibility for education (Kulttuuriministeriö) and the national board responsible for reading (Opetushallituksen Lukuliikkeen) launched a campaign to improve literacy of children. Entitled “We Readers” (Lukukummit), the campaign targets pre-school and school-aged children and their families. The campaign plans to release a series of videos to raise awareness on the importance of reading and to support families in reading for enjoyment.
Germany: Changes to calculation of childcare allowance in 2021
On 18 November 2020, the ministry with responsibility for families (Familienministerium) introduced a bill to amend the way in which childcare allowance (Kinderbetreuungsgeld) will be calculated in 2021. The amount of childcare allowance is typically calculated by maternal income in the previous year. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, many people experienced income losses in 2020. As a result, childcare allowance in 2021 will be calculated using income from 2019, if this was higher than in 2020. The bill will now be considered by the German parliament.
Ireland: Update on progress in national strategy on children and families
The ministry with responsibility for children published a report detailing the progress made on the First 5 strategy during 2019. The First 5 strategy was launched in 2018 as a cross-government approach that aims to support babies, young children and their families during the first five years of a child’s life. The report finds that over 90% of the commitments set out in the strategy for 2019 were implemented. Key achievements so far include the introduction of new entitlements to paid and unpaid benefits and the introduction of new measures to promote healthier childhoods and to tackle child poverty.
Lithuania: Free meals for pupils learning from home due to COVID-19
The ministry with responsibility for social affairs (Socialinės apsaugos ir darbo ministerija) announced how its free school meals policy will adapt to include children who are learning remotely due to COVID-19. The revised policy will allow children who are entitled to free school meals but who are learning from home to still receive free school meals. Free meals are received by children in pre-schools and first year of school, as well as pupils from low-income families attending more senior years. Children’s parents or guardians can pick up the meal from the school or have it delivered at home.
Poland: Additional childcare allowance and support for children in foster care
The ministry responsible for families and social policy (Ministerstwa Rodziny i Polityki Społecznej) reinstated an additional care allowance for parents of children under the age of 8 and of children with disabilities. The allowance was first introduced at the beginning of the pandemic until 26 July to support childcare in the event of nursery and school closures. The allowance has now been reintroduced for three weeks in November, while schools remain closed due to COVID-19. Additionally, the ministry responsible for families and social policy (Ministerstwo Rodziny, Pracy i Polityki Społecznej) allocated PLN 130 million (approximately €29 million) to support children in foster care during the COVID-19 crisis. The funding is intended to allow these children to use computers to learn remotely and came from the state budget and the European Social Fund.
Slovenia: New programme to improve children’s wellbeing
On 5 November, the Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (Ministrstvo za delo, družino, socialne zadeve in enake možnosti) approved a new programme for children (Program za otroke 2020-2025), which sets out goals for improving children’s wellbeing and opportunities and strengthening their protection and rights between 2020 and 2025. The programme identifies four priority areas of focus: equal opportunities for children, participation of all children, safety of children in a digital environment and a life without violence, and child-friendly procedures. A working group of representatives from various ministries will monitor the implementation of the programme and evaluate its success.
Slovenia: New compensation for childcare obligations
The ministry responsible for family affairs (Ministrstva za delo, družino, socialne zadeve in enake možnosti) has guaranteed 80% pay compensation and the right to absence from work to parents caring for children with disabilities in roles where working from home is not compatible with childcare. This is part of a package that intends to mitigate negative consequences of COVID-19 (Zakonom o ukrepih za omilitev in odpravo posledic COVID-19). Employers and employees can also agree on alternative arrangements for work or absence that are in accordance with existing labour laws.
Europe: COFACE releases Child Compass 2030
On 20 November 2020, COFACE Families Europe released its Child Compass 2030, which sets out a goal of creating a Europe that shapes a healthy society, environment and economy fit for children. The Child Compass 2030 includes a framework that considers policies in the five thematic areas of education, community, digital technology, economy, and environment.
Council of Europe: Tools and guidance to support children and parents online
The Council of Europe launched two new tools and guidance to support parents and children in the digital age. The first is an awareness-raising tool called Kiko, which, through animated characters, aims to teach parents of young children about the importance of protecting children when online. This tool is part of the End Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse@Europe (EndOCASEA@Europe) project. The Council of Europe has also launched new guidance on parenting in the digital age which aims to help parents to support their children in the online world with positive parenting techniques.