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 February 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.
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Austria: Extension of COVID-19 support for families
The ministry with responsibility for family affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit, Familie und Jugend) extended the support available to families who are experiencing financial difficulties due to COVID-19. The family hardship fund (Familienhärtefonds) will be increased by additional €50 million (reaching a total of €200 million) and extended until the end of June 2021. This fund aims to support families in which at least one parent has lost their job or had their working hours reduced due to COVID-19. In addition, the ministry will continue to provide family allowances to a wider pool of families: all families that were entitled to the family allowance for at least one month between March 2020 and February 2021 will now be entitled to the allowance until March 2021.
Denmark: New initiative for safeguarding vulnerable children
At the end of January 2021, the ministry with responsibility for social affairs (Social og Indenrigsministeriet) proposed a new initiative to support particularly vulnerable children. The Children First (Børnene Først) initiative includes a number of actions which ultimately aim to ensure that fewer children grow up in abuse by supporting earlier intervention. The initiative also proposes reforms to the current foster family system and the Children’s Act (Barnets Lov) to improve child participation.
Finland: New action plan to prevent bullying and harassment in schools
The Ministry of Education and Culture (Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriö) introduced an action plan that aims to prevent bullying, teasing, violence and harassment in schools and in other educational institutions. The action plan covers the next three years and includes measures to tackle bullying both inside and outside of schools. It also outlines preventive arrangements to be taken at early childhood and education care (ECEC) stage, which aim at strengthening children’s emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills.
Finland: Draft reform of family leave policy
On 16 February 2021, the Finnish government (Hallituksen) introduced a proposal on family leave reform (perhevapaauudistuksesta). Building on the EU Work-Life Balance Directive, the proposed reform would extend the duration of family leave by giving each parent an entitlement to 160 days of leave per child. The proposed reform also would also provide more flexibility to parents in how they can make use of their leave entitlements. The reform aims to improve the wellbeing of children and to encourage a more equal distribution of leave between parents.
Ireland: Awareness-raising campaign about particularly vulnerable children
The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth introduced its second iteration of the Supporting Children campaign which promotes support to particularly vulnerable children, young people and their families. The aim of the campaign is twofold: to encourage society to be mindful of particularly vulnerable children and to promote access to information on what assistance is available to them and their families. More information is featured on the official website of the campaign.
Slovenia: Simplification of and extensions to childcare allowance
The ministry with responsibility for family affairs (Ministrstvo za delo, družino, socialne zadeve in enake možnosti) has increased the childcare allowance that is provided to families in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ministry has also simplified the process of claiming childcare allowance for elderly people who are unable to adequately provide for children in their care. This allowance is part of the rights that vulnerable populations in Slovenia have to claim benefits from public funds.
International: Launch of report on policy tools to support inclusive education
The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education published a new guidance report on promoting inclusive school-level leadership on 3 February 2021. The report provides a framework and guiding principles to help decision-makers review national and local-level policies at all levels of education. The aim of the document is to support decision-makers to make education more inclusive and equitable. The policy framework was developed by the Agency in collaboration with the Supporting Inclusive School Leadership project and partners from Ireland, Malta, Hungary and Sweden.