December 6, Brussels- The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) held a half-day conference entitled “From Rhetoric to Action – Tackling Child Poverty and Promoting Children’s Health and Well-being in the EU.“ The debate, co-hosted by the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Jean Lambert (UK, Greens/EFA) and various MEPs (1) this week at the European Parliament in Brussels, brought together more than 15 anti-poverty experts and civil society representatives (2) along with several institutional actors (3). The conference assessed Europe’s impact on child poverty and raised awareness about issues of inequality, destitution and access to rights affecting children.
"Poverty, health and well-being are all linked, and never more so than in the case of children. The EU has a role in setting minimum social standards: it must therefore take action to require that member states set targets and publish action plans around reducing child poverty, and improving children’s health and well-being," pointed Ms Lambert (4) in her intervention.
The same message was shared by MEP Marian Harkin (5) (IRL, ALDE). “The ending of child poverty should be at the heart of EU policy, both social policy and economic policy. Too much emphasis is being placed on fiscal consolidation without an equal emphasis on the social outcomes of this austerity policy. The achievement of the EU 2020 targets, a reduction by 20 million of those at risk of poverty and social exclusion, and a decline in early school leaving would go a long way towards alleviating child poverty,” said Ms Harkin.
Jana Hainsworth,, Secretary General of Eurochild, also brought up the impact of austerity measures in low-income families. ”Decision makers should understand that social protection safeguards are not an expense by themselves, but an investment. It is wrong to look at children as mere, passive recipients of social assistance. By equipping them adequately at an early age, we will be building better societies in the future,” emphasised Ms Heinsworth.
”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. We must not forget the social character of the EU: its very identity,” stated MEP Sylvana Rapti (GR, S&D).
In this sense, MEP Edit Bauer (6) (SK, EPP) recognised that even if the EU has several social instruments in place to fight against child destitution, Brussels has little competence to alleviate child poverty in spite of it being one the “major issues the EU should be dealing with.” This was also emphasised by Stefan Schaefers, European Programme Advisor at King Baudouin Foundation, who stressed that ”policy makers cannot solve social inequalities all by their own.”
Monika Kosińska, Secretary General of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), put herself in the shoes of disadvantaged children when reminding the audience that ”poverty has many faces. Just to pick one, warm enough houses are essential. Children from cold homes less do well at school and find it harder to develop their full potential” she pointed out. ”Children are societies’ building blocks: we are failing as a society by not giving them the best chances for a start in life,” Ms Kosińska went on to say.
Dima Yared, Child Advisor with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, summarised the general mood of the seminar when arguing that ”the right to health is inclusive- not the mere absence of disease. Proper and accessible social, cultural, and educational standards are indispensable to the realisation of children’s other rights. ”
* Pictures of the event are available upon request
Note to the editors
(1) You can get the full list of speakers in the conference’s agenda.
(2) DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, DG Health and Consumers, DG Regional and Urban Policy, Committee of the Regions, European Economic and Social Committee,
(3) King Baudouin Foundation, Caritas Europa, European Child Safety Alliance, Eurochild, European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN), The Confederation of Family Organisations in the European Union (COFACE), EU Network of independent experts on social inclusion, University of Oxford, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
(4) Video interview with MEP Jean Lambert (UK, Greens/EFA) on child poverty and health
(5) Video Interview with MEP Marian Harkin (IE, ALDE)
(6) Video Interview with MEP Edit Bauer (SK, EPP)
Fact and figures
o Children under 18 remain more at risk of poverty or social exclusion than the overall population with a rate of 27.1% as against 23.5% (EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions)
o 1 in 5 children in the EU live at risk of poverty (Eurochild)
o Without social benefits, at-risk-of-poverty levels for children would be 40% higher (Eurochild)
o Only 42% of children aged 3 to school age are in full-time early education (Eurochild)
o 2012 EPHA Recommendations on Child Poverty, Health and Well-being (read Recommendations)
o European Commission’s Social Protection Committee’s report on Child Poverty and Well-being (Read report)
Javier Delgado Rivera, Communications Coordinator- +32 2 233 38 76 or firstname.lastname@example.org