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 May 2021. 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.
European Union: Porto Declaration confirms the Social Summit’s partners commitment towards the European Social of Social Rights
On 7 May, at the Porto Social Summit, the Presidents of the European Commission, European Parliament, and Council of the EU, along with European social partners and civil society partners, signed the Porto Declaration. In doing so, they confirmed their commitment to take action to reach the three 2030 headline targets of the Commission’s European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan.
While the first two targets set commitments on employment and life-long learning, the third target specifies that the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion should be reduced by 15 million in the EU, including by at least 5 million children.
Czechia: Funding for children’s groups during COVID-19
The ministry with responsibility for social affairs (Ministerstvo Práce a Sociálních Věcí) introduced a new funding package for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other entities that run ‘children’s groups’ (dětské skupiny). Children’s groups are a special type of early childhood and education care (ECEC) facilities that are available to children aged between 1 to 6.
The funding (just over CZK 74 million or nearly €3 million) will allow children’s groups to apply for a grant to cover up to half of rent expenses and (additional operational costs related to COVID-19 (for example, costs for increased hygienic standards) during 2021.
Prior to this funding package, children’s groups in Czechia were not able to access COVID-19 financial support programmes.
Estonia: Temporary support for families affected by COVID-19
On 19 May 2021, the Estonian parliament (Riigikogu) passed an amendment that will provide temporary financial families that suffered a loss of income due to COVID-19. This amendment, to the Employment Contracts Act (töölepingu seaduse), will temporarily change how parental benefit is calculated to ensure that any periods of unemployment due to COVID-19 do not lead to lower parental benefits in future.
Finland: Launch of pilot to reduce absence from schools
The ministry responsible for education (Opetus- Ja Kulttuuriministeriö) allocated €6.8 million to fund pilot projects to fight school absenteeism. The funding is available to 25 pilot programmes that will encourage primary schools to focus on building a school community as a way of reducing the long-term absence and exclusion of pupils.
The grant can be used to fund interventions that aim to build a sense of community in schools, including by hiring extra staff, improving the coordination of teaching, and promoting learning emotional and interaction skills. Following the pilots, these interventions may be consolidated and rolled out nationally between 2022 and 2023.
France: Reform on governance of early childhood and education care
On 19 May, the President announced reforms to the governance of early childhood and education care. The reforms aim to update and harmonise regulations around ECEC in order to better meet the needs of families.
Changes include updated regulations on various aspects of ECEC: including the number of children, the number of ECEC staff, and the background checks on ECEC staff. The reform will enter into force in September 2021.
Ireland: New project to encourage reading amongst children
The ministry with responsibility for children together with the ministry with responsibility for development introduced a new project to support the literacy of young children. Called the ‘The First 5 Little Library’, the initiative aims to develop small libraries in ECEC services with the goal of encouraging an appetite for reading from an early age.
Under this initiative, ECEC services will be provided with free book bags and other resources from their local library. This initiative will also encourage both ECEC services and families to use libraries and their resources.
This initiative is part of the broader ‘First 5’ national strategy, which is a ten-year strategy setting out various initiatives relating to the lives of children and families in Ireland.
Lithuania: Changes to parental benefit calculation due to COVID-19
On 14 May, the Lithuanian parliament (Seimas) approved a proposal to calculate maternity (motinystės išmokas), paternity (tėvystės išmokas) and childcare benefits (vaiko priežiūros išmokas) based on parental income prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, rather than on income in the preceding year. This change in calculations will apply to both employed and self-employed people.
Lithuania: Funding for COVID-19 helpline for children
The ministry with responsibility for social security and labour (Socialinės apsaugos ir darbo ministerijos) has allocated funding of just over €600,000 to support helplines related to COVID-19. This includes a phone line dedicated to children (Vaikų linija) who are seeking support and counselling during the COVID-19.
Europe: COFACE launches consultation on ‘meaningful inclusion’
COFACE Families Europe, a network of European civil society organisations working in the interests of families, is launching a European public consultation that aims to gather good practices in achieving meaningful inclusion of persons with disabilities and their families.
COFACE define meaningful inclusion as giving people with disabilities the opportunity to take part in meaningful activities outside the home (including work, education and leisure) or ensuring their right to be involved in decision-making.
The consultation is available in 15 languages and will be open until 11 July 2021.