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 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: Joint Declaration on mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable families
On 11 December 2020, the Ministers of the Employment, Social Policy, Health, and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council signed a Joint Declaration on mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and families at risk of poverty and social exclusion.
Proposed at the initiative of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU by the current presidency trio (Slovenia, Germany and Portugal), the Joint Declaration acknowledges the severity of the pandemic impact on vulnerable children and families and calls on the European Commission to tackle child poverty through the European Child Guarantee and by including a strong social dimension in the upcoming Europe 2030 Strategy.
European Union: Action Plan for inclusion of people of migrant background
The European Commission published a new Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion for 2021-2027 that aims to address the barriers for the inclusion and participation of people with migrant background in the EU.
The action plan, among others, encourages the Member States to increase the number of migrant children and children with a migrant background participating in ECEC while ensuring that general ECEC programmes are equipped to support culturally and linguistically diverse children. The implementation of the Action Plan will be supported by EU funds such as European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund Plus, Asylum and Migration Fund and Invest EU.
Belgium: Belgium extends paternity leave provision
Paternity leave (congé de paternité) in Belgium will be 15 days for fathers of any child born from 1 January 2021. On 8 December 2020, the parliamentary committee with responsibility for social affairs (la Commission des Affaires sociales/de commissie Sociale Zaken) passed the extension of the leave from 10 to 15 working days. All new parents whose partner gave birth (“co-parents”) and who are employed or self-employed are eligible for this leave. From January 2023, paternity leave will further increase to 20 working days.
Belgium: Adoption of new Action Plan for children’s rights
The government of Wallonia-Brussels adopted a new five-year action plan for children’s rights in December 2020. The Action Plan centres around nine principal objectives, including combating poverty, preventing violence and abuse, facilitating children’s participation, protecting the most vulnerable, and training professionals on the rights of the child.
Czechia: State to provide maintenance payments for single parents
On 16 December 2020, the Czech senate (Senát) passed a law that introduces financial support to single parents whose former partner fails to provide the maintenance payment (alimenty). This benefit aims to offset income loss caused by unpaid alimony up to maximum of CZK 3000 (approximately €114) per month. Single parents can apply for the benefit from 1 July 2021 onwards.
Czechia: New national strategy to protect the rights of the child
On 14 December 2020 the Czech government (Vláda ČR) introduced a new multi-year strategy that aims to protect the rights of the child, ensure all children have a safe family environment, and provide equal opportunities to all children and their families between 2021 and 2029.
The strategy (Národní strategie ochrany práv dětí na období 2021-2029) was developed by the ministry with responsibility for social affairs (Ministerstvo Práce a Sociálních Věcí) in collaboration with other ministries, regional institutions, and civic society. The strategy has six main elements, for instance integration of policy approaches to protect children’s interests, the creation of efficient infrastructure of services for children and families, and an active approach to social inclusion of vulnerable children.
Germany: Increased spending for families and social inclusion in 2021
The Federal parliament (Bundestag) approved an increased budget for the ministry with responsibility for family affairs (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen and Jugend) on 10 December 2020. The ministry was allocated a budget of €13.1 billion for its 2021 expenditures: representing an increase in the funds available for family affairs in previous years. The funds will be used to increase child allowances, support the maintenance payments system, and to implement programmes to promote democracy and to prevent extremism.
Germany: Legislation to improve child participation and opportunities of young people with special needs
On 2 December 2020, the federal cabinet (Bundeskabinett) passed a draft law that aims to strengthen the participation of and promote equal opportunities for children and young people with special needs. The law (Das Kinder- und Jugendstärkungsgesetz) includes five strands:
- improving child and youth protection
- providing support to children growing up in foster families or educational institutions
- consolidating child and youth welfare support for children with and without special needs
- providing assistance and support for parents of children with special educational needs and
- strengthening participation of children, the youth and their families
Ireland: Increased funding for inclusion of children with disabilities in ECEC
The ministry with responsibility for children and youth announced that, from January 2021, additional funding will be made available for supporting the inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood education and care (ECEC).
The funding will increase the weekly payments provided to ECEC providers by 7%: rising from €195 to €210 per week. These payments aim to reduce the number of children per adult in a class. This is an increase made to the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM): a programme that was introduced in 2016 in order to facilitate the meaningful participation of children with disabilities in classes.
Latvia: Court judgement recognises right to paternity leave for same-sex couples
On 12 November 2020, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia passed a judgment that recognises the right of same-sex couple to take the equivalent of paternity leave (paternitātes atvaļinājums). The current legislation in Latvia allows ten days of leave that can be taken only by fathers. From 1 June 2022, this legislation will be repealed.
Latvia: Increased financial assistance to children in alternative care
As of January 2021, children without parental care will receive more financial support, after the cabinet of ministers (Ministru kabineta) approved a rise in benefits. Eligible children will now receive €218 (or €327 for those with disabilities with the goal that this will support them in independent living. In addition, the additional monthly benefit for children in alternative care who are studying has increased to €109 (and to €163 for those with disability).
Romania: Paid days off for parents affected by COVID-19
The Romanian government (Guvernul Romaniei) has extended remuneration benefits for workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic until 30 June 2021. This includes paid days off for parents during children’s online classes, for which parents will be entitled to receive 75% of their gross salary.
Slovakia: New plans to build pre-school care in universities
The ministry with responsibility for education affairs (Ministerstvo školstva, vedy, výskumu a športu) announced plans to establish pre-school centres in universities. This project aims to expand pre-school care capacity and to support young families in reconciling their family and work life at university. The facilities will be accessible for both students and university staff.
Europe: COFACE publishes report on Child Guarantee meeting
COFACE Families Europe, a network of civil society organisations representing the interests of families in Europe, published a report of proceedings from a seminar held on 29 September 2020 on the Child Guarantee. In the seminar, EU and national stakeholders debated the pending European Child Guarantee and put forward recommendations. Representatives from the European Platform for Investing in Children attended and contributed to this meeting.
Council of Europe: Guidance on digital rights and child participation
On 10 December, the Council of Europe published a handbook on the rights of the child in the digital environment for policy makers. The handbook includes guidance on creating national frameworks and policies on respecting children’s rights online.
The Council of Europe will also launch a handbook on children’s participation for professionals working for and with children (entitled Listen – Act – Change) on 21 January 2021. This handbook aims to support professionals in implementing the Council of Europe Recommendation on the participation of children and young people under 18 and Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.