EPHA conference on 4 December 2012 in the European Parliament
On 4 December 2012, MEPs Jean Lambert (UK, the Greens), Marian Harkin (IE, ALDE), Edit Bauer (SK, EPP) and Sylvana Rapti (EL, S&D) hosted an EU policy makers and stakeholders debate in the European Parliament discussing the need for a comprehensive response to child poverty-health relation at an EU level. The seminar assessed the flaws of Europe’s fight against child poverty and raised awareness about the overlooked linkage between increasing levels of child poverty and austerity measures affecting children’s health in Europe.
Why here, why now?
Currently, one in four European children live in poverty and/or social exclusion. Europe’s future social, political and economic development depends on the extent to which its children grow up happy, healthy, well-educated, safe and self-confident. This can only be achieved from within a health-promoting social, economic and governance framework at the EU institutional level - with full commitment and participation of all relevant European policy makers and stakeholders, including civil society.
Goals of the conference
Through the involvement of experts from a range of child health and poverty organisations, the conference provided room for a constructive debate on the issues of poverty, inequality, health and well-being of children, forming a good basis for the ongoing and prospective work of the EU institutions, such as:
In the short term the seminar aimed to:
In a long term perspective, the event aimed to raise consideration for
1. Panel Discussion of Civil Society Representatives
In this panel, civil society representatives shared their concerns about child poverty, health and well-being. They made statements organised around the themes of vital socio-economic determinants of children’s health such as housing and environments, food and nutrition, care and education, rights and participation. These statements help to contribute to the EC Child Poverty Recommendations.
Joanne Vincenten, Director of European Child Safety Alliance : Impact of child poverty on children’s rights to safety
"The impact of poverty on children’s right to safety is enormous. The inequalities that exist for child injury are for the most part preventable and therefore avoidable; as such they are unfair, unjust and lead to inequality. Historically, investments in child injury prevention from relevant sectors at local, national and European levels have not been commensurate with the size of the problem. Increased investment is necessary to ensure children’s rights to health and safety."
See also European Child Safety Alliance’s article on the event here.
Jana Heinsworth, Secretary General of Eurochild : Ensuring rights and participation, preventing child poverty and promoting well-being from within
"Child poverty cannot be tackled without tackling family poverty, but it cannot be tackled by resolving only family poverty, either. Too often we we deal with the problem when a child is already abused. Prevention is always better then the cure."
Sian Jones, Policy Coordinator at European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) : Children as particular vulnerable group in the Europe 2020 strategy – civil society assessment
"Tackling family poverty is a prerequisite but it is not enough. Our research showed that although there was increased focus on child’s poverty in many member states, integrated strategies are still missing in many cases."
Agnes Uhereczky, Director of Confederation of Family Organisations in the European Union (COFACE) : Resilience building of children’s closest environments: family in the focus.
"We live in a “Sandwich generation’” where people have children late, which results in young children and very old parents at the same time. Some families do not have the possibility of bringing their children to doctors early enough and only the emergency service remains open for them when it is too late."
Question and answers session
In his contribution Alfonso Lara Montero (European Social Network) pointed out the relevance of the title (’Rhetoric to action’) since the civil society has been sending the same political message to the Commission for 3 years. The first step to improve the situation would be coordination between different service providers, and as a second step, a partnership has to be developed between the different stakeholders.
2. Panel Discussion of representatives of the EU Institutions
In this panel discussion, EU decision makers examinded the approach taken at the EU level towards tackling and preventing child poverty through addressing the health and well-being dimension of child population, families and communities they live in.
Elodie Fazi, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Directorate General for Europe2020: Social Policies
"The Commission will adopt the recommendations in the upcoming months as part of the social package. These Recommendations will reflect access to services, children’s participation in society and indicators on how progress or lack of progress can be measured. We are open for further propositions."
Andor Urmos, DG Regional and Urban Policy, Inclusive Growth, Territorial and Urban Development
"The financial sources of the structural funds are available but the question is how these funds are contributing to policy objectives. Inequalities must be much better prioritised in the next 2014-2020 period. We can use poverty mapping to better understand migrant groups."
John F. Ryan, DG Health and Consumers, Directorate General for Public Health
"Child poverty and children’s health are interlinked. Migrant groups are often socially isolated and as a result have no access to healthcare. The poor children of today will become the poor adults of tomorrow."
Doreen Huddart, Committee of the Regions
"What is increasing? Demand for services and advice. What is decreasing? Incomes, and availability of financial sources. Local authorities have strategies and practical solutions and they need to work together in close partnerships."
Brenda King, European Economic and Social Committee, Commission for Economic and Social Policy
"A child is the most important indicator/proof of the well-being of a society. In this time of economic crisis, child poverty is moving off the political agenda because of the current cuts. Tackling child poverty is a mark of a civilised society."
Question and answers session
Roberta Savdli (the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients Associations - EFA) stressed the importance of air quality, particuarly as 2013 has been designated the “Year of Air”. She mentioned that allergy is the most common disease among children, and due to environmental social determinants, such as air quality, the contribution of DG Environment to this debate would have been useful.
3. Panel Discussion of Experts
Hugh Frazer, Coordinator of the EU network of independent experts on social inclusion : Where are children in the EU’s poverty reduction target and social inclusion strategies?
"Child poverty has to be linked to the wider dimension of children’s well-being. It has to be at the centre of policy making (not only income but also other social determinants such as education, environment and housing)."
Naomi Eisenstadt, Senior Research Fellow at University of Oxford : End Child Poverty by Investing in Children’s Health
"The most important thing is political will and capabilities. Pensioners are not hit by governments’ actions because they vote. Make poor people willing to vote and there will be a change."
Dima Yared, Child Advisor with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights : The right of a child to health: what’s needed for full achievement.
"The child is a rights holder. A child is not an object but a subject of rights. The right to inclusive health is not only the absence of disease but it also includes social, cultural and educational well-being. Realisation to the right of health is indispensable to the realisation of other rights."
Mrs Yared announced that in March 2013, a report from the recent CSO cosultation on the right of children to health, held by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, will be launched with a major public event on the occasion.
Question and Answers
Deirdre de Burca (CARITAS Europe) emphasised that child poverty was inextricable from decreasing social expenditures. Due to the economic crisis and measures prescribed for states to consolidate their financement, social differences have been increased. Some consider that under the current economic model, the social welfare state cannot work properly if there is no economic growth. Therefore, there is a need for changing the economic model.
Conclusions and Main Messages
"Poverty, health and well-being are all linked, and never more so than in the case of children." - Jean Lambert MEP (UK, the Greens)
"Too much emphasis is being placed on fiscal consolidation without an equal emphasis on the social outcomes of this austerity policy." - Marian Harkin MEP (IE, ALDE)
”Child poverty requires a strategy able to properly identify the importance of prevention when it comes to the health and well-being of marginalised children and their families." - Sylvana Rapti MEP (EL, S&D)
MEP Edit Bauer (SK, EPP) recognised that "even if the EU has several social instruments in place to fight against child destitution, Brussels does not have the legal basis to boost children’s well-being. Nevertheless, child poverty is one of the major issues that the EU should be dealing with."
"There is a consensus over what has to be done, but child poverty is an issue which moves slowly and we cannot see the results. Policy makers cannot solve the problems but they can help to advocate further answers." - Stefan Schaefers, King Baudouin Foundation
We are waiting for the Commission recommendation on child poverty as part of the social package, which will contain concrete targets and measures for good quality services. Only a decisive political will can tackle child poverty. We need good monitoring systems at member states level since the main battlefield is the appropriate implementation. " Jorge Nuno Mayer, Secretary General Caritas Europe
Monika Kosinska, Secretary General of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), reminded the audience that ”poverty has many faces. Just to pick one, heated houses are necessary. Children in cold houses will find it difficult to realise their full potential,”. She also pointed out that ”children are societies’ building blocks: we would be failing as a society if we do not support them as they should be,”..
As part of the event, a lunch was provided sponsored by the King Baudouin Foundation which supports projects and citizens that are committed to creating a better society.
King Baudouin Foundation co-operates with UNICEF and aims to help families living in poverty:
On the occasion of the event, EPHA produced several video interviews with the following hosting MEPs:
Interview with MEP Jean Lambert (UK, Greens/EFA)
Interview with MEP Marian Harkin (IE, ALDE)
Interview with MEP Edit Bauer (SK, EPP)
Related EPHA articles