One step forward, two steps back?

The European Expert Group on the transition from institutional to community-based care (hereinafter: the “EEG”) introduces the Report on the Transition from Institutional Care to Community-Based Services in 27 EU Member States (hereinafter: the “Report” or the “Study”). This Study comes to mark 10 years since the publication of a first important report, mandated by EU-Commissioner Vladimir Špidla in view to address the issues linked to institutional care reforms and to find solutions for more humane, person-centred and individualised models of care.

In times of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, this new Report comes at a critical juncture, where the defining negative aspects of institutionalisation (the congregation of a large number of people in one building and the deprivation of social contacts etc.) are increasingly blatant and only tend to aggravate with exposure to the virus. The way this crisis is affecting those who need daily care and their support systems stems from structural underinvestment in the inclusion and well-being of all, and in the promotion of different models of support in the community. This is also reflected in the findings of this Report. If nothing changes, the consequences of this crisis are likely to be devastating to the most vulnerable, with long-term consequences on their well-being and development. 

Again upon a mandate from the European Commission and in consultation with the members of the EEG, the authors of the present Report, Jan Šiška and Julie Beadle-Brown, inquired how far the transition from institutional to family and community-based care and support has progressed in the past 10 years. This Report offers a broad picture on situations, solutions and trends in deinstitutionalisation (DI) and community-living in the EU for persons with disabilities, with mental health problems, experiencing homeless, children (including children with disabilities and unaccompanied or separated migrant children), and older adults in 27 EU countries[2]. The picture drawn in Europe highlights the following trends:

  • there are still at least 1’438’696 persons living in institutions;
  • the number of people in institutions does not seem to have substantially changed over the past 10 years;
  • the number of children in residential care has slightly decreased, with them moving to live with their families, being fostered, adopted, or reaching majority and therefore leaving residential care for children;
  • in all the 27 EU countries, people are living in residential care, with only a small number of it being primarily small-scale and community-based, e.g. dispersed among ordinary housing in the general community. Small-scale residential services still represent a minority of the care settings in most of the 27 EU countries;
  • in some of the countries, people stayed longer in prison and hospitals than needed because of the lack of accommodation in the community, while in others institutional care was the main form of care provision for children without parental care.
  • in many countries, and especially those who started the process of deinstitutionalisation (or DI) some time ago persons with intellectual disabilities and people with complex support needs are most likely to still live in institutional settings.

Based on these findings, the Report furthermore highlights key concerns and potential solutions that have emerged from its analysis, such as:

  • The importance of person-centred and individualised support for all, including people with complex support needs, is the only way to ensure full inclusion and participation in the community. The way careis being provided, the quality of support, and their outcomes in terms of quality of life are key indicators.
  • Although DI is also about the implementation of Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, there is very little information available on people’s lived experiences in terms of choice and control, inclusion, and participation. Understanding the impact of policies on the lives of people should be a key target. Clear definitions, shared terminology, and independent research are fundamental elements to achieve this.
  • In almost all countries, the lack of affordable community-based and social housing is one of the primary barriers to scaling up community living, and to combating homelessness; appropriate housing policies, strategies, and practices are crucial to sustaining deinstitutionalisation efforts.
  • Many of the so-called “small-scale” residential care facilities continue to accommodate large groups of people, making individualised attention and inclusion into the community rather difficult and, thereby, perpetuating a segregating culture, instead of promoting community-based alternatives.
  • Responsibility is an issue. In many of the countries where DI is one of the EU priority areas, the transition risks being perceived as an ”EU funded project”, lacking long-term sustainability, and scaling up of results beyond EU funding. Furthermore, there is a widespread transfer of responsibility from the national to the local level, not always accompanied by funding, with potential issues in terms of coordination, consistency, and competence of services. National leadership is essential in making widespread changes with multi-level and cross-sectoral coordination. National strategies on DI need to comprise adequate funding, concrete implementation, and monitoring mechanisms.

Since the European Semester, including Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs), provides the framework for continuous economic, employment, and social policy coordination in the Union, the EEG is pleased to see that this year social protection and social housing are prioritised in several CSRs. However, the EEG regrets that none of the 2020 CSRs addresses the need for DI transition. The most vulnerable population deserves adequate recovery response that would include development of prevention and community-based services.

The EEG welcomes the Commission’s intention of turning this crisis into an opportunity by investing in our future through the proposals of Recovery Plan and updated Multiannual Financial Framework. This investment must put at the centre children and adults in need of care and support, their families, informal carers, and the care and support systems which foster community, person-centred and family support.

The EEG and its members are committed to continue their advocacy efforts and to support the EU, its Member States and other key actors in their deinstitutionalisation efforts and strongly encourages them to ensure that the rights of persons in need of care and support are not to further compromised by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Report on the Transition from Institutional Care to Community-Based Services in 27 EU Member States (2020) Jan Šiška and Julie Beadle-Brown

[1] Ad Hoc Expert Group (2009)  Report on Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care.

[2]   Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherland, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

EEG Logo

The European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG) is a broad coalition gathering stakeholders representing people with care or support needs and their families, including children, people with disabilities, homeless people, and people experiencing mental health problems; as well as service providers, public authorities and UN organisations. The Group has as its mission the promotion of person-centred, quality and empowering models of services and formal and informal care that fully respect the human rights of all people with care or support needs. The Group supports national efforts to implement the necessary reforms, in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (in particular with Article 19), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

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For more information:

Report on the Transition from Institutional Care to Community-Based Services in 27 EU Member States (2020) Jan Šiška and Julie Beadle-Brown

www.deinstitutionalisation.com

Contacts: coordinator@deinstitutionalisation.com

EEG co-chairs (January-December 2020)

Irene Bertana ibertana@coface-eu.org

Aaron Greenberg agreenberg@unicef.org

Irina Papancheva irina.papancheva@wearelumos.org

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COVID-19 crisis: People living in institutions must not be written off

Joint Statement: “COVID-19 crisis: People living in institutions must not be written off”

The European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG) calls on EU leaders to ensure its response to COVID-19 takes into consideration persons living in institutions in Europe as they face increased risks of abuse, neglect, health issues and mental distress. Adequate funding to social and care sector is needed, as well as support to families and carers. This can prevent an increase in institutionalisation and a worsening of the conditions of those who are living in residential segregating settings.

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As the pandemic gathers pace, public authorities are struggling to protect the health and well-being of people in need of care and support and especially of those living in residential institutions.

Whilst governments have focused on addressing the health and economic aspects of the crisis, the social care sector is being left behind, with drastic consequences on service availability. Support services are adapting to respond to new needs; however the lack of flexibility in funding is putting many community-based services at risk of closure. Some services, including homeless shelters, are forced to stay open but lack public support for protective materials, and extra staff to compensate for sick staff and more users. Residential services are often the last receiving hygienic and personal protection equipment. This results in increased vulnerability for already vulnerable groups.

The current crisis also intensifies the problems of institutionalisation: the health risks are enhanced by the concentration of people, and countless are dying in institutions, isolated from their family members. Children, older people, persons experiencing homelessness, persons with disabilities and mental health problems who are segregated in short-term and long-term residential institutions are now more vulnerable to human rights violations than ever and face increased risks of:

  • Infection: overcrowding and sometimes unhygienic conditions, lack of personal protective equipment for residents and staff, and communal life typical of institutions mean that those inside are much more prone to becoming infected;
  • Abuse, neglect, lack of care, and forced placement: there are potential staff shortages, and the isolation and ban on visits aimed at protecting the residents, hinders the supervision by families or support networks and there is also the increased risk of trafficking and exploitation;
  • Forced medication and forced restraint measures: under the pretence of preventive measures, existing safeguards may be circumvented;
  • Mental distress: preventive measures, isolation, lack of clear information, forced confinement leading to a lack of contact with the outside world, albeit necessary, impact severely on mental health of persons living in institutions;
  • Denial of medical treatment, risk of severe and possibly lethal forms of the illness: many persons living in institutions have underlying health conditions with higher risk of health complications; in countries where health services are prioritising the provision of ventilators on the basis of a patient’s expected lifespan, they can be forced to forego life-saving appliances
  • Immediate and underprepared changes to care placements: residents risk being immediately moved to different placements with little preparation, monitoring and support, which can leave them in a more vulnerable position.

Families with members with care or support needs are losing their financial stability, physical and mental health; and increased incidence of domestic and gender-based violence has been reported. When the provision of care and support is interrupted, parents and family carers are left alone to cope with the needs of their family members (personal care, therapy and other) without adequate support, respite and social protection.

There are also families, with children with and without disabilities, who have previously not been in need of social assistance, who are now in need of support. However, as they are not currently supported by any service of EU programme, the system to support families and children is not aware of them. All of these issues may lead to increased family separation and abandonment, and enhanced risk of institutionalisation.

The European Union is based on common values which include equality, respect for human dignity, and human rights. This should not be forgotten in times of crisis. The EU must urgently act, by mobilising and directing funding to ensure the safety and respect of the human rights of persons with care and support needs, of family carers and staff.

We welcome that the EU took action to respond to the crisis coordinated by the European Commission, adapting its common fiscal and mobility rules to the current situation.

We welcome the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative that will provide resources to face the immediate consequence of this crisis. This budget will help strengthen healthcare systems, support SMEs and short-term employment schemes. We regret, though, that the social care sector, part of the frontline of this emergency, was not explicitly mentioned. We call on the European Commission and Member States to mobilise this budget to guarantee the continuity of care and support and to take the following measures:

  • Provide extra funding to support services and ensure they can meet the increased costs associated with this crisis (medicines, protective materials and staff costs);
  • Ensure services can keep on receiving their funding even in cases of online support forms which are currently not recognised by their contracts;
  • Continue the provision of family support services during the pandemic;
  • Designate providers of support services (including care, support workers and personal assistants) as ‘key workers’ who can safely work and travel to their workplace;
  • Ensure services receive personal protective equipment and other relevant medical material as needed;
  • Avoid new admissions in institutions and forced treatment by ensuring continuous access to community-based support services;
  • Introduce proactive, widespread testing and stricter preventive measures for people living in institutions, staff and support networks;
  • Ensure that persons living in institutions have equal access to treatment and ventilators;
  • Ensure that residents can contact their families and support networks outside the facility in privacy via to accessible means of communication (including for those who use non-verbal forms of communication);
  • Provide information to persons living in institutions on their rights and means to report violations, to avoid coercive measures and prevent abuse;
  • Carry out independent monitoring of the activities of institutional care facilities to ensure that residents are not abandoned or put in danger by staff shortages;
  • Support relevant agencies in developing continuity plans for situations in which the number of available staff may be reduced: reducing bureaucratic recruitment barriers and maintaining protection measures;
  • Include urgent measures to protect people experiencing homelessness living rough and in homeless shelters;
  • Allow all children and persons with care/support needs who can safely return to their families for the duration of the epidemic to do so, while providing the families with the support they need and allow children assessed for family-based care to move to their foster families;
  • Plan measures to identify emerging families at risk and contact them before family separation takes place due to increased risk of poverty, violence, mental health issues, etc.;
  • Apply emergency social security measures to families caring for people with long-term needs;
  • Involve persons in need of care or support, families and their representative organisations in the planning and implementation of emergency measures
  • Activate preventative measures to strengthen families, communities and marginalized groups of society, to avoid increases in institutionalisation.

We welcome that the Solidarity Fund can now be used for major public health emergencies and that it will be mobilized to support the most affected countries. We call on the use of part of this fund for the protection of the social and care sector:

  • To take measures to promote the prioritisation of personal protective equipment for professionals working in social services and residential facilities, in daily contact with Europeans most at risk;
  • To provide countries which lack personal protection kits with the equipment and materials they need to avoid infection, prioritising frontline employees, including staff of the social care sector;
  • To provide emergency housing, so that people are not forced into institutions.

We welcome the proposal for a Council Regulation for temporary Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE) to help protect jobs and workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Part of SURE should go to the social and care sector to keep in employment the staff of the services that had to suspend their activities, and to allow increasing income support, flexibility and take of leaves for family carers.

We welcome the actions from the European Central Bank and of the European Investment Bank to give loans to SMEs hit by the corona crisis. These funds should also be made available to the social care sector to comply with the new needs emerging from this crisis.

We remind the European Union and its Member States that they ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, legal instruments that need to be respected. The report Coronavirus pandemic in the EU – Fundamental Rights Implications, released by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, can be a good starting point for appropriate response to the impact of COVID19 on the most vulnerable people, including people in institutions. These are humanitarian steps to prevent immediate harm of the most vulnerable in society in addressing this health crisis. The EEG calls on the EU to use this crisis to continue its process of transition from institutional to community-based services.

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The European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG) is a broad coalition gathering stakeholders representing people with care or support needs and their families, including children, people with disabilities, homeless people, and people experiencing mental health problems; as well as service providers, public authorities and UN organisations. The Group has as its mission the promotion of person-centred, quality and empowering models of services and formal and informal care that fully respect the human rights of all people with care or support needs. The Group supports national efforts to implement the necessary reforms, in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (in particular with Article 19), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

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For more information:

 EEG scope www.deinstitutionalisation.com

EEG webpage on COVID 19 https://deinstitutionalisation.com/2020/04/24/eeg-members-are-collecting-resources-about-the-covid-19-health-crisis/   

Joint Statement: “COVID-19 crisis: People living in institutions must not be written off” (

Contacts: coordinator@deinstitutionalisation.com

EEG co-chairs (January-December 2020)

Irene Bertana ibertana@coface-eu.org

Aaron Greenberg agreenberg@unicef.org

Irina Papancheva irina.papancheva@wearelumos.org

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EEG’s main findings on the submitted Recovery & Resilience National Plans

Since the beginning of the year, the EEG has been following closely the work around the Recovery and Resilience Facility. We analysed several draft Recovery and Resilience National Plans[1], and shared country-specific recommendations with the European Commission based on each of the draft plans. Furthermore, in May the EEG published the statement “Recovery and Resilience Facility must support community inclusion, not segregation”, calling on the EU and its Member States to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the EU’s commitment towards deinstitutionalisation, and thus not allow for any investments in institutions to be included in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans (RRPs).

With the aim to verify whether the EEG’s recommendations were taken into account in the negotiations between the European Commission and Member States, and to assess whether the RRPs submitted to the European Commission still foresee investments into residential institutions[2], the EEG has analysed the final adopted plans. We hope our assessment will help the European Commission in its steering role during the implementation phase by identifying best practices and which parts require special attention.

EEG’s main findings

The EEG has identified several important measures in the final RRPs, such as improving access to the labour market of persons with disabilities (including vocational training and rehabilitation), as well as various measures to improve accessibility of the built environment and transportation, capacity building of preschool facilities for children, measures in the education system to tackle the digital divide and inclusive education that affect pupils with disabilities, and others. We have also identified measures in the area of prevention of institutionalisation, community-based services and deinstitutionalisation, but unfortunately also some investments which might contribute to institutionalisation.

Find here all countries analysed and EEG’s main findings on each of the submitted Recovery and Resilience Plans.


[1] The Recovery and Resilience Facility Plans analysed by the EEG are as follows: BG, CZ, FR, GR, HR, LV, PT, RO and SK.

[2] For people with disabilities, older people, children (including children with disabilities), people with mental health problems and homeless people.

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Online seminar about EU funds for independent living and deinstitutionalisation

On the 28th of June, the European Commission jointly with the European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care and Hope and Homes for Children organised an online seminar for desk officers from DG EMPL, REGIO, RECOVER, NEAR and REFORM. The aim of the webinar was to inform the European Commission about the tools and good practices supporting independent living and family-and community-based care in light of the new funding regulations and policies.

The event counted on the participation of several speakers from the European Commission, academia, and civil society organisations presenting main EU policies and EEG publications, as well as practical examples on independent living.

Mr Loris di Pietrantonio, Head of Unit at DG EMPL responsible for programming and implementation of the European Social Fund +, opened the event followed by Professor Julie Beadle-Brown, who presented the report on the Transition from Institutional Care to Community-Based Services in 27 EU Member States, which she co-authored together with Professor Jan Šiška.

ProfessorBeadle-Brown presented the main finding of the study. During her intervention, she also stressed the need to develop person-centred and individualised support, the lack of affordable community-based services and housing, and the sustainability of EU-funded projects that promote deinstitutionalisation.

Ms Inmaculada Placencia Porrero, Senior Expert on social affairs at DG EMPL, presented a broad overview of the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030, focusing on aspects connected to deinstitutionalisation and independent living. Among the actions foreseen in the Strategy, it was emphasized the guidance, which will be issued by the Commission by 2023, with recommendations to Member States aiming at improvements on independent living and inclusion in the community, in order to enable persons with disabilities to live in accessible, supported housing in the community, or to continue living at home (including personal assistance schemes). In addition, the speaker also presented the European Accessibility Act, in its connection with independent living.

Ms Michela Costa, Director of Global & EU Advocacy at Hope and Homes for Children,presented the updated version of EU funds Checklist to Promote Independent Living and Deinstitutionalisation. The purpose of the checklist is to ensure EU funds in the 2021-2027 programming period contribute to independent living and inclusion in the community. More specifically, the checklist supports EC Desk Officers to check the consistency of the measures with the legal and policy frameworks in the fields of:

  • Transition from institutional to family-based and community-based services for children, persons with disabilities, persons with mental health problems and elderly persons
  • Development of quality family-based and community-based services
  • Prevention of separation of children, including with disabilities, from their families
  • Prevention of segregation and institutionalisation of children, persons with disabilities, persons with mental health problems, older people and homeless people, regardless of the residence status.

Finally, EEG members presented practical examples of community-based services. Ms Irene Bertana, Senior Policy Officer at the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD), presented an EU-funded project on providing technical assistance on preparing of the deinstitutionalisation strategy in Greece. Ms Ines Bulic, Deputy Director at the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL), presented a practical example about personal assistance as one of the types of community-based support.

Participants posed questions to speakers, mainly regarding the implementation of community-based services given the obstacles related to the lack of accessibility of buildings in many EU countries and regarding the sustainability of investing in  deinstitutionalisation. They have also raised questions about residential care for children with disabilities, in particular how to ensure best care in family-based care, and how to develop family-based services and increase number of foster families. The European Child Guarantee was mentioned as a tool to address those needs. The online seminar provided a space for both desk officers and members of the EEG to discuss the persistent questions and share the good practices as well as challenges and opportunities intertwined with the deinstitutionalisation process.

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Stop EU funding of new institutions for people with disabilities in Poland, EEG says

In 2020 the European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG) contacted the European Commission to voice serious concerns about a large-scale institution for 100 residents with mental health issues in the city of Łódź, Poland. It was a clear example of EU funds being invested in an institutional care setting, something which the EU Regulations covering investments from this source outline as being de facto ineligible for funding. In August 2020, EEG Member ENIL, together with the Validity Foundation, filed a formal complaint.

Nearly a year on, the planned investment, known as “Wyjątkowy dom”, is still going ahead and there has been no substantive response to justify its continuation.

The EEG urges the Łódź Voivodeship Managing Authority to halt plans for the construction of this institution and, in the case where this does not happen, calls on the European Commission to suspend its funding and encourage investment in community-based services.

The EEG defines an institution as any residential care where:

• residents are isolated from the broader community and/or compelled to live together;

• residents do not have sufficient control over their lives and over decisions which affect them; and

• the requirements of the organisation itself tend to take precedence over the residents’ individual needs.

The three-story former school building being converted into a care home is not compatible with the right to live independently and be included in the community, as affirmed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), ratified both by Poland and the EU. Specifically, it represents an infringement of CRPD Article 19, as well as its General Comment 5 and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

While the project claims to aim at the “deinstitutionalisation of social services and care” – building a large-scale, congregated setting for persons coming from the whole region cannot be interpreted as deinstitutionalisation by any stretch of imagination. On the contrary, it contravenes the definition of a community-based service, and goes against the principles expressed in the EEG Common European Guidelines and Toolkit on the transition from institutional to community-based care.

Article 4(6) of the Common Provision Regulations (CPR) for the current funding period states that the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) have to be used in a manner which is compliant with the EU social inclusion policies and that ERDF should not be used to renovate or build new institutions.

This investment clearly fails to fulfil all the requirement above. It neither facilitates the rights of persons with support needs to choose where and with whom they live or to be included in the community, nor has the capacity to build support around each person’s individual requirements and preferences. The size of this setting alone raises alarm bells, clearly being an institution even in the most traditional sense of the term.

Beyond the infringement on the right to live independently and being included in the community, we also saw during the COVID-19 pandemic the tragic consequences of congregated living conditions. We therefore ask the Managing Authorities in Poland and the European Commission to look into this matter and take the necessary steps to ensure that the funding is redirected towards independent living, community-based and person-centred support, in compliance with the CRPD, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the CPR. Instead of the construction and extension of institutional settings, it is necessary to develop a range of services at community level, as well as to support personal assistance schemes.

About the EEG

The European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG) is a broad coalition gathering stakeholders representing people with care or support needs and their families, including children, people with disabilities, homeless people, and people experiencing mental health problems; as well as service providers, public authorities and UNICEF.

Contact: coordinator@deinstitutionalisation.com

The Statement is available in pdf here.

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European Child Guarantee prioritises children in alternative care

But a stronger commitment to end institutionalisation of children in the EU is required

The European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-Based Care (EEG) is a coalition representing children and their families, people with disabilities and their families, homeless people, people experiencing mental health problems, service providers, public authorities and UN organisations. The EEG members come together because we believe that the segregation and institutionalisation of all people must end.

Both the EU and its Member States are bound by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and all EU Member States are bound by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). To uphold the right to live independently and be included in the community, children have the right to grow up in a family.

EEG’s Reaction to the European Child Guarantee is available in pdf here.

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We welcome the adoption of the Council Recommendation establishing the European Child Guarantee that brings positive measures to lift children out of poverty and social exclusion. This is especially important considering that, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 4 children in the EU were living at risk of poverty. Disadvantaged children, including children with disabilities, children outside family care and at risk of losing parental care, homeless children and children of ethnic or migrant background, children living in precarious family situations deserve an adequate and targeted support. The European Child Guarantee must aim to break the cycle of disadvantage for those children.

Years of research show that institutions inflict long-term harm to children’s development. Children growing up in institutions tend to lag behind in their emotional development; many tend to have poor cognitive performance and lower than average IQs. In addition, children in these settings are at higher risk of abuse or neglect. Despite this extensive evidence there are still an estimated 345,000 children living in institutions in the EU today[1].

As a matter of clarification, an institution for children is understood to be any residential setting where ‘institutional culture’prevails. Institutional culture in terms of children can be defined as follows:

• Children are isolated from the wider community and obliged to live together;

• Children and their parents do not have sufficient control over their lives and over decisions that affect them;

• The institution’s requirements take precedence over a child’s individual needs[2].

While the EEG recognizes that the Child Guarantee will prioritise children in alternative (especially institutional) care as one of the target groups of the Recommendation and that it envisages to promote quality of family and community based care, the EEG would have preferred a stronger commitment through the Child Guarantee to end the institutionalisation of children across the EU.

In 2012, the European Expert Group developed the Common European Guidelines on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care aimed at guiding practitioners in implementing and supporting a sustained transition from institutional care to family-based and community-based alternatives for children, persons with disabilities, persons with mental health problems and older persons in Europe[3]. These guidelines attempt to clarify terminology related to institutional care.

Unfortunately, different interpretations of some of the key terms remain. Despite having the issue of deinstitutionalisation high on the agenda of EU policies as well as EU funding for nearly 10 years[4], the newly published European Child Guarantee states in  

Recital 24 that:

With the aim of the de-institutionalisation of children, quality community-based or family-based care should be promoted. Placing children in institutional care should be done only when it is in the best interests of the child, taking into account the child’s overall situation and considering the child’s individual needs.

And in

Article 10d:

“(d) take into account the best interests of the child as well as the child’s overall situation and individual needs when placing children into institutional or foster care; ensure the transition of children from institutional or foster care to quality community-based or family-based care and support their independent living and social integration”.

In accordance with the ‘Suitability’ principle of the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children[5], the care setting in which children are placed needs to be one that protects and promotes the child’s full and harmonious development and is suitable for the child’s individual needs. The most natural environment for a child’s healthy development is in a family. Therefore, placement in alternative family-based care, such as with extended family members (kinship care) or with non-related families (foster care) is the preferred option.

The Guidelines further stress that countries should move away from placing children in institutions: “where large residential care facilities (institutions) remain, alternatives should be developed in the context of an overall deinstitutionalisation strategy, with precise goals and objectives, which will allow for their progressive elimination[6].

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which has been ratified by the European Union and all Member States, recognizes that the best interests of the child are a primary consideration in all decisions affecting them (Article 7(2)), requires States to protect the right to family life (Article 23) and to ensure all children have the right to be included in the community (Article 19). According to the General Comment No. 5, on Article 19 of the Convention, “[f]or children, the core of the right to be included in the community entails a right to grow up in a family.” Full implementation of the CRPD is especially important, considering that children with disabilities are overly represented in institutional care, largely due to the lack of family support services and outdated beliefs that they are better cared for in institutions.

Recital 24 seeks to restrict the circumstances in which children could be placed in institutional care by reflecting the elements which form the basis of the suitability principle. However, by failing to frame it within the deinstitutionalisation strategy and Child Guarantee Action Plans leaves space to Member States to institutionalise children with no end in sight, under the argument that it is for their best interest and that the child’s individual needs were considered.

Both recital 24 and Article 10d in the Child Guarantee constitute a limitation in an otherwise progressive and ambitious instrument.

Moreover, the current text of Article 10d is an attestation of the difficulties which arise when there is no unified definition of key terminology in this area as well as a lack of consensus of which different types of alternative care for children are acceptable. The term ‘alternative care’ is broad enough to include all forms of care for children.

Specifically on foster care and family-based care, it is important to underline that family-based care includes foster care. Therefore, asking for  the transition from foster care to family-based care is actually asking for the same thing with different words[7].  It is necessary to ensure that, when implementing the Child Guarantee, Member States will observe the difference between “institutional care” and “foster care”. Furthermore, the current wording is not in line with the Common provisions regulation[8] and the enabling conditions 4.3 for ERDF and EFS+ that states that “A national strategic policy framework for social inclusion and poverty reduction is in place that includes: Measures for the shift from institutional to community-based care”.

In order to avoid similar situations as this one, it is important to work on common European definitions on alternative care for children and to agree on a  clear set of indicators which can be used to measure progress in the de-institutionalisation strategies of Member States. The EEG offers its expertise to be a part of this process to ensure that no child is placed in institutional care.


[1] Speech by Commissioner Dalli “Towards Inclusion 2020: What is the vision of the future of deinstitutionalisation and role of EU?” | European Commission (europa.eu)

[2] Further information can be found in Guidelines-new.indd (wordpress.com) and eeg-di-report-2020-1.pdf (wordpress.com)

[3] Guidelines-new.indd (wordpress.com)

[4] See: https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/policy/themes/social-inclusion/desinstit/. See also the “Špidla Report” available at: https://deinstitutionalisationdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/report-fo-the-ad-hoc_2009.pdf andUnion of equality: Strategy for the rights of persons with disabilities 2021-2030 – Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion – European Commission (europa.eu)

[5] Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children : (un.org)

[6] Ibid, p. 5.

[7] You can find the precise definition of alternative care for children here: https://www.unicef.org/eca/definitions.

[8] EUR-Lex – 52018PC0375 – EN – EUR-Lex (europa.eu)

Endnote

The Reaction has been also endorsed by the following oganisations, partners of the EU Alliance for Investing in Children:

  • Dynamo International
  • European Anti-Poverty Network – EAPN
  • European Parents’ Association
  • European Public Health Alliance – EPHA
  • European Roma Grassroots Organisations – ERGO Network
  • Make Mothers Matter
  • Save the Children

Contact:

EEG’s coordinator, Bárbara Oliveira Marcondes, coordinator@deinstitutionalisation.com.

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Impacts on the process of transition from institutional to family and community-based care in light of the Common Provisions Regulations, the European Regional Development Funds, and the European Social Funds + (2021-2027)

During the funding period 2014-2020, EU funds have played a crucial role in bringing persons with disabilities, children, older people and homeless people out of institutions. Despite this advances, progress still must be made, since there have been cases reported where the principles of deinstitutionalisation have not been respected and where money was invested in building or refurbishing institutional care settings.

In order to ensure EU funds are not used to promote institutionalisation in EU Member States, the EEG and its member organisations have advocated to influence the wording in the texts of the Common Provisions Regulation (CPR) and the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF).

The aim of this article is to highlight the successful advocacy work done by the EEG and its members, which were taken into account in the final texts of both the CPR and the ERDF and to point out some of the articles that are particularly relevant to the EEG.

The full article is available in pdf here.

What are the CPR, the ERDF, and the ESF+

The Common Provisions Regulation (CPR) is a piece of over-arching legislation that applies to various EU funding programmes, including the European Social Fund + (ESF+) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It outlines rules that must be followed for the use of funds. It also outlines the criteria by which projects must adhere to be eligible for EU funding. The CPR sets out common provisions for seven shared management: the Cohesion Fund, the European Maritime funds and Fisheries Fund, the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund Plus, the Asylum and Migration Fund, the Border Management and Visa Instrument and the Internal Security Fund.

The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) invests in infrastructure, innovation and research, the digital agenda, support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the low-carbon economy. The aim is to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the European Union by correcting imbalances between its regions.

As for the European Social Fund plus (ESF+), this is Europe’s main instrument to invest in people. The aim of the fund is to supports jobs, help people get better jobs and ensure fairer job opportunities for all EU citizens. The ESF+ finances the implementation of the principles from the European Pillar for Social Rights through actions in the area of employment, education & skills and social inclusion.[1] The fund is committed to building a socially inclusive society.

In 2018 the European Commission released its proposal for a new CPR, ERDF and ESF+ covering the period 2021-2027. In December 2020/January 2021 an agreement was reached between the European Parliament and the Council on the final wording of the Regulations.

The EEG and its members advocated extensively for the Regulations to include a number of provisions that would result in the Regional Development Fund being used more effectively for accessibility and deinstitutionalisation for persons with disabilities.

Relevant achievements to the EEG

We summarised the main advocacy achievements in the final texts of the CPR, the ERDF, and the ESF+. We will show you excerpts of the regulations to explain what the texts now look like. Writing in bold and italic indicated where new next has been added since the Commission’s original proposal was released. Where you see text in bold with a strike through, this shows text that used to exist but has been removed from the final version.

Common Provisions Regulation (CPR)[2]

  • Article 67, on the selection of operations by the managing authority, outlines the ways in which managing authorities shall go about selecting EU funded operations.

The final text states that the criteria and the procedures should be non-discriminatory. After advocacy work from the EEG, it also states clearly that the criteria and procedures must “ensure accessibility to persons with disabilities” as well as gender equality. This means that for all funding covered by the CPR, managing authorities must consider the impact it will have on accessibility for persons with disabilities and systematically turn away anything that perpetuates barriers. This is important because ensuring community living and inclusion means ensuring infrastructure and processes are accessible to all.

Final text of Article 67:

1. For the selection of operations, the managing authority shall establish and apply criteria and procedures which are non-discriminatory, transparent, ensure accessibility to persons with disabilities, gender equality and take account of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the principle of sustainable development and of the Union policy on the environment […]

  • Article 6 on partnership and multi-level governance explains how different stakeholders are included in selecting and monitoring how funds are used. It explains that this process should include “relevant bodies representing civil society, such as environmental partners, non-governmental organisations, and bodies responsible for promoting social inclusion, fundamental rights, rights of persons with disabilities, gender equality and non-discrimination”.

The EEG also successfully advocated for the article to mention that funds should be allocated towards capacity building for these stakeholders. This will mean that money should be able to be allocated to civil society organisations that want to be part of the partnership and multi-level governance process in their Member State, and to help them be better prepared for playing an active role.

Final text of Article 6:

1. For the Partnership Agreement and each programme, each Member State shall organise and implement a comprehensive partnership in accordance with its institutional and legal framework and taking into account the specificities of the Funds with the competent regional and local authorities. That partnership shall include at least the following partners:

(c) relevant bodies representing civil society, such as environmental partners, non-governmental organisations, and bodies responsible for promoting social inclusion, fundamental rights, rights of persons with disabilities, gender equality and non-discrimination.

2. The partnership established under paragraph 1 shall operate in accordance with the multi-level governance principle and a bottom-up approach. The Member State shall involve those partners in the preparation of Partnership Agreements and throughout the preparation and, implementation and evaluation of programmes including through participation in monitoring committees.

In that context, Member States shall, where relevant, allocate an appropriate percentage of the resources coming from the Funds for the administrative capacity building of social partners and civil society organisations. For Interreg programmes, the Partnership shall include partners from all participating Member States.

4. At least once a year, the Commission shall consult organisations which represent partners at Union level on the implementation of programmes, and shall report to the European Parliament and Council on the outcome.

  • Recital 5, at the beginning of the Regulation, gives an overview of the horizontal principles of how the funds covered by the CPR should be used. The Commission’s original proposal already stated that Member States should “respect the obligations of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and ensure accessibility in line with its article 9 and in accordance with the Union law harmonising accessibility requirements for products and services.” This has been retained in the final wording.

To this the co-legislators agreed to add the importance of respecting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. For persons with disabilities, the most significant additions were the mention that “the Funds should be implemented in a way that promotes the transition from institutional to family and community-based care” and that, when financing infrastructure, the funds “should ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities”.

Final text of Recital 5:

(5) Horizontal principles as set out in Article 3 of the Treaty on the European Union (‘TEU’) and in Article 10 of the TFEU, including principles of subsidiarity and proportionality as set out in Article 5 of the TEU should be respected in the implementation of the Funds, taking into account the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Member States should also respect the obligations of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and ensure accessibility in line with its article 9 and in accordance with the Union law harmonising accessibility requirements for products and services. In that context, the Funds should be implemented in a way that promotes the transition from institutional to family and community-based care. Member States and the Commission should aim at eliminating inequalities and at promoting equality between men and women and integrating the gender perspective, as well as at combating discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. The Funds should not support actions that contribute to any form of segregation or exclusion, and, when financing infrastructure, should ensure the accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Final text of the “Thematic Enabling Conditions” (Annex IV)

Policy objectiveSpecific objectiveName of enabling conditionFulfilment criteria for the enabling condition
4 -A more social Europe by implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights  ERDF: 4.3 increasing the socioeconomic integration of marginalised communities, migrants and disadvantaged groups, through integrated measures including housing and social services (…)National strategic policy framework for social inclusion and poverty reduction (…)A national strategic policy framework for social inclusion and poverty reduction is in place that includes:  (…) 3. Measures for the shift from institutional to community-based care   4. Arrangements for ensuring that its design, implementation, monitoring and review is conducted in close cooperation with social partners and relevant civil society organisations. (…)
4 -A more social Europe by implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights  ERDF: 4.4 ensuring equal access to health care through developing infrastructure, including primary care (…)Strategic policy framework for health. (…)A national or regional strategic policy framework for health is in place that contains: (…) 3. Measures to promote community-based services, including prevention and primary care, home-care and community-based services. (…)

As laid down in the table above, a more social Europe through the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights is one of the policy objectives listed. One of the ERDF specific objectives, it is to increase “the socioeconomic integration of marginalised communities, migrants and disadvantaged groups, through integrated measures including housing and social services”. This shall be done through a national strategic policy framework for social inclusion and poverty reduction in place that includes “3. Measures for the shift from institutional to community-based care”; and  “4. Arrangements for ensuring that its design, implementation, monitoring and review is conducted in close cooperation with social partners and relevant civil society organisations”.

Still on the policy objective for a more social Europe through the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, One of the ERDF specific objectives, it is to ensure “equal access to health care through developing infrastructure, including primary care”. This shall be done by a national or regional strategic policy framework for health that, amongst others, contain “Measures to promote community-based services, including prevention and primary care, home-care and community-based services.”

Important to note that table above only contains the most relevant information for the work of the EEG.

European Regional Development Funds (ERDF)[3]

Article 2 on Specific objectives for the ERDF and the Cohesion Fund outlines the objectives for the use of this fund and the Cohesion fund. It is an article of key importance giving direction to how the money will be used in the Member States.

The most crucial amendment the EEG wa able to get accepted into the text were the mention of the need to invest in “promoting the transition from institutional to family- and community-based care”.

Final text of Article 2:

  1. In accordance with the policy objectives set out in Article [4(1)] of Regulation (EU) 2018/xxxx[new CPR], the ERDF shall support the following specific objectives:

(iv) ensuring equal access to health care and fostering resilience of health systems, including primary care, and promoting the transition from institutional to family- and community-based care;

Article 6 on exclusion from the scope of the ERDF and the Cohesion Fund was one of the key areas of the EEG’s advocacy on the ERDF. One of the biggest issues we have seen with the use of funds over previous funding periods is that money is still invested in renovating and building institutions. In this article on what is excluded from the scope of the ERDF and the Cohesion Fund, we were successful in having a new recital introduced. This recital states that the ERDF should support deinstitutionalisation, prevent funding segregated living conditions and seek to ensure independent living conditions.

Article 6 final text:

new recital (x) The ERDF should support and promote transition from institutional to community or family-based care through supporting facilities that would seek to prevent segregation from the community, would facilitate the integration of people to the society and would seek to ensure independent living conditions.

European Social Funds Plus (ESF+)[4]

The EEG is pleased to see that 2021-2027 funding regulations for the European Social Fund plus (ESF+) have recognised the transition from institutional to family- and community-based care as the issue that deserve investments. Moreover, the ESF+ will become one of the main tools to trigger investments to tackle child poverty and social exclusion.

The greatest achievement among all, is the Council Recommendation establishing the European Child Guarantee. The agreement foresees that 5% of this budget will be used to tackle child poverty. This means that EU member states with an average of EU child poverty higher than the EU average of 23.4% will have to allocate at least 5% of their ESF+ financial resources to fight child poverty and social exclusion. Children in institutions, children with disabilities and homeless children are among the main target groups.

Although we have advocated for higher percentage the European Social Fund plus should invest 25% of its resources for social inclusion as indicated in Article 7 on thematic concentration:

Final text of Article 7 (3) – Consistency and thematic concentration

3.  Member States shall allocate at least 25% of their ESF+ resources under shared management to the specific objectives for the social inclusion policy area set out in points (vii) to (x) of Article 4(1), including the promotion of the socio-economic integration of third country nationals.

Article 7, (3)  is an important progress since no ring-fencing of ESF for social inclusion was in 2014-2020 funding period.

Finally, meaningful involvement of civil society in programming, implementation, and evaluation of ESF+ is key to deliver the best possible outcomes. Therefore, we are pleased to see that partnership is reiterated (Article 8) as well as support for capacity building of stakeholders including CSOs by 0,25% of ESF+ resources:

Final text of Article 8 – Partnership

  1. Each Member State shall ensure adequate participation of social partners and civil society organisations in the delivery of employment, education and social inclusion policies supported by the ESF+ strand under shared management.
  2. Member States shall allocate an appropriate amount of ESF+ resources under shared management in each programme for the capacity building of social partners and civil society organisations, including in the form of training, networking measures, and strengthening of the social dialogue, and to activities jointly undertaken by the social partners.

When capacity building of social partners and civil society organisations is identified by a relevant country-specific recommendation adopted in accordance with Article 121(2) TFEU and Article 148(4) TFEU, the concerned Member State shall allocate an appropriate amount of at least 0.25% of ESF+ resources for that purpose.


[1] https://ec.europa.eu/esf/main.jsp?catId=62&langId=en.

[2] Available at: https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-6180-2021-INIT/en/pdf.

[3] Available at: https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-6181-2021-INIT/en/pdf.

[4] Available at: https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-6182-2021-INIT/en/pdf.

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The EEG endorses the Manifesto on Child Poverty and Social Exclusion in the EU

The EEG has endorsed the European Parliament – EU Alliance for Investing in Children Manifesto on Child Poverty and Social Exclusion in the EU.

On the topic of deinstitutionalisation of children, the Manifesto calls on the Child Guarantee to not present the placement of children in institutional care as a last resort. Instead, EU Member States should invest in child protection, high quality support services starting from early childhood interventions to support families and prevent separation, and the provision of quality community- and family-based alternative care. Adequate services should be provided to prepare children leaving care in order to support their independent living and social integration, including for unaccompanied migrant children.

The placement of children in emergency shelters should also be avoided. To prevent and address homelessness, EU Member States should provide stable and adequate housing for children and their families, accompanied by social support services.

The full Manifesto is available here.

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Recovery and Resilience Facility must support community inclusion, not segregation

As some Members States have already submitted their National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs) to the European Commission and others will soon submit, the European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG) sees the need to re-emphasize that there should be no investments in institutions in the NRRPs. Focus should be given to forward social reforms to promote social inclusion and robust investments into family- and community-based care and support.

The EEG reminds that commitments have been made by the European Union and several Member States towards the deinstitutionalisation process in recent years, and they must be compliant with the UNCRPD. However, when analysing the National Recovery and Resilience draft Plans of 10 Member States, we found clear references of investments to build, refurbish and increase the capacity of institutions in some of these Plans.

Therefore, the EEG calls on the European Union and its Member States to not invest in institutions in the NRRPs.

Read the full statement here.

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The EEG endorses the EU Alliance Statement on the European Commission’s proposal for a Council Recommendation establishing the Child Guarantee

The European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG) has endorsed the EU Alliance for Investing in Children’s statement on the European Commission’s proposal for a Council Recommendation establishing the Child Guarantee.

Read the full statement below:

EU Alliance for Investing in Children statement on the European Commission’s proposal for a Council Recommendation establishing the Child Guarantee

On 24 March, the European Commission launched its proposal for a Council Recommendation establishing the Child Guarantee[1].

As identified in the European Commission’s proposal and press release, 18 million children or 22,2% of children in the EU were growing up at risk of poverty and social exclusion, before COVID-19. This figure will increase further due to the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic.

This means that almost 1 in 4 children in the EU are growing up without eating a daily hot, nutritious meal, or they live in inadequate housing conditions. 1 in 4 children are unable to fully attend school due to hidden and extra costs such as school trips or school meals, they cannot participate in sports or other activities like their peers and do not receive the healthcare that they need. 1 in 4 children in the EU grow up in vulnerable families that need support to break the cycle of poverty and provide for their children.

The EU Alliance for Investing in Children welcomes the European Commission’s ambitious proposal on the Council Recommendation establishing the Child Guarantee. The Alliance particularly welcomes the proposal for national Action Plans, the enabling policy framework that will allow EU Member States to take a comprehensive approach in tackling child and family poverty when implementing the Child Guarantee as well as the strong reference to the use of EU funds (ESF+, ERDF, REACT-EU, RRF, InvestEU and the Technical Assistance Support) and national budgets in implementing the measures outlined in the Child Guarantee Action Plans.

It is now up to the EU Member States to prove that the EU’s youngest population gets the support they need to thrive and reach their full potential.

The Alliance calls on the Council of the EU to:

  • Adopt the Child Guarantee Council Recommendation as a matter of priority.

Child poverty is unacceptable as it is a condition that severely violates the rights of children. It is even more unacceptable in one of the world’s wealthiest regions. Therefore, the EU Alliance calls on EU Member States to prioritise child poverty reduction as a matter of urgency and to adopt the Child Guarantee Council Recommendation under the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU.

  • Ensure that the Child Guarantee starts being implemented within six months from the adoption of the Child Guarantee Council Recommendation.

The Alliance welcomes the European Commission’s proposal that each EU Member State submits a Child Guarantee Action Plan covering the period until 2030, within six months from the adoption of the Child Guarantee Council Recommendation. The Child Guarantee Action Plans will allow the Council Recommendation to become implementable and will showcase the challenges, as well as the measures that EU Member States will take to tackle child poverty at the national, regional and local level.

The Alliance also welcomes the proposal for Child Guarantee National Coordinators equipped with adequate resources and mandates, who will effectively coordinate and monitor the implementation of the Recommendation.

The Alliance calls on EU Member States to adopt the Commission’s proposal and to ensure that the Child Guarantee starts being implemented within six months from the adoption of the Child Guarantee by having the Child Guarantee Action Plans submitted and the national Child Guarantee coordinators in place. Child Guarantee Action Plans must be reviewed on a regular basis in consultation with relevant stakeholders.

The Alliance also calls on the Council to strengthen the following parts of the European Commission’s proposal, ensuring that:

  • Stakeholders as well as children and parents participate meaningfully in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Action Plans.

The Alliance welcomes the European Commission’s proposal that EU Member States should consult stakeholders, including civil society organisations and children in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Child Guarantee Action Plans.

The Alliance calls on EU Member States to further strengthen this proposal to ensure that children participate meaningfully in the action plans’ development, including through dedicated outreach measures targeting the most vulnerable of them. Specifically, we call on the Council to include a new part calling EU Member States to:

“Put in place mechanisms that promote children’s meaningful and rights-based participation in decision-making that affects their lives and in particular in relation to the fulfilment of the Child Guarantee. Develop structures to promote the meaningful participation of children in need in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Child Guarantee Action Plans and relevant frameworks developed as part of these plans as well as in the annual reporting of EU Member States to the European Commission”.

In addition, the Alliance for Investing in Children calls on the Council to also include parents among the stakeholders to be consulted on the Child Guarantee Action Plans.

  • Access to healthy nutrition should not be only linked to school settings. 

The Alliance welcomes the emphasis given by the European Commission’s proposal to ensure that children in need have adequate, sustainable access to healthy nutrition, in particular considering that, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of schools, many children have suddenly been deprived of a reliable source of nutrition.

However, considering that children, from age 0 to 18, only spend 20% of their lifetime in formal settings, the Alliance calls on the Council to strengthen the European Commission’s proposal and add a new paragraph emphasising the necessity to support access to healthy meals also outside of the school system.

“EU Member States should set up a comprehensive framework regarding children’s access to healthy nutrition and ensure where needed direct distribution of free meals to children and their families such as soup kitchens, social cafeteria and door to door deliveries. Parents must also be empowered to provide healthy and nutritious meals for their children, including through in-kind or financial support”.

  • Children have equal opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities – not only in school-based activities.

Sport, leisure and cultural activities play a crucial role in the personal and social development of children. Yet, children in need often face financial barriers to participate in these activities, or non-financial barriers such as the lack of proper infrastructures, language obstacles, discrimination or lack of qualified personnel. The Alliance welcomes the European Commission’s proposal to ensure equal and inclusive access to school-based activities. On the other hand, it is important to consider that in numerous Member States schools do not have the capacity or the infrastructure to ensure such activities, that it would be important to ensure children’s access to such activities also on days in which schools are closed, and that there are children who are receiving different kinds of education outside of the national school system and that would consequently be excluded.

Hence, the Alliance calls on the Council to strengthen the European Commission’s proposal and to include in the Recommendation children’s effective access to also sports, leisure and cultural activities organised outside of the school system and the school curricula.

  • EU Member States set ambitious targets in their fight against child poverty. 

The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan sets a target to lift at least 5 million children out of poverty by 2030. Although the target goes in the right direction, it could have been more ambitious.

The Alliance welcomes the European Commission’s proposal that each EU Member State should present qualitative and quantitative targets in their Child Guarantee Action Plans. It calls on EU Member States to adopt ambitious targets that will exceed the European Commission’s target by taking into consideration the impact of COVID-19 and their commitment to implement the Sustainable Development Goals which call on States to half poverty in all its forms by 2030.

Sub-targets covering regional and local disparities also should be developed for each area of the Child Guarantee Council Recommendation, i.e. children’s effective free and access to early childhood education and care, all forms of inclusive education, healthcare, including maternal health care, effective access to sufficient and healthy nutrition, and effective access to adequate housing.

  • The Child Guarantee is properly monitored and feeds into the European Semester annually.

An efficient system of monitoring and evaluation will be essential to ensure the Child Guarantee is an implementable instrument that triggers concrete reforms within the national and local systems.

The Alliance welcomes the European Commission’s proposal to monitor the implementation of the Recommendation in the context of the European Semester and the revised Social Scoreboard, including through the development of relevant monitoring indicators.

The Alliance stands ready to support the European Commission and the Social Protection Committee in this important task and calls on these two EU bodies to ensure that indicators are disaggregated and take into account children in need, including homeless children or children experiencing severe housing deprivation; children with  disabilities; children with a migrant background; children with a minority, racial or ethnic background (particularly Roma); children in alternative (especially institutional) care; children of single-parent families; as well as children in precarious situations as defined in the European Commission’s proposal on the Child Guarantee Council Recommendation.[2]

In addition, all relevant indicators should be disaggregated to better align with the areas identified by the European Commission’s proposal, i.e. children’s free and effective access to all forms of education, early childhood education and care, healthcare, effective access to adequate nutrition and decent housing, as well as children’s access to leisure, sports and cultural activities within or outside the school settings and school curricula. Finally, all relevant indicators should be disaggregated at local level, where it is possible, to have a clearer figure of the territorial differences and to better plan and monitor the implementation of the Recommendation.

The Alliance calls on the Council to adopt the European Commission’s proposal and to ensure the monitoring of the Recommendation through the well-established policy coordination framework of the European Semester. To further strengthen this proposal, the Alliance calls on EU Member States to annually report to the European Commission on the progress made in implementing the Recommendation and this reporting to feed into the annual Country Specific Recommendations.

  • Support a child rights approach in tackling poverty and the fight against all forms of discrimination, segregation and bullying of children and their families when trying to access key rights, resources, and services.

The European Pillar of Social Rights reaffirms the commitment to mainstream equal opportunities in all relevant policy fields, and to build a Union of Equality, where children should reach their full potential.

The EU Alliance also welcomes the rights-based approach taken by the European Commission in the Child Guarantee proposal.

However, for all categories of children in need identified by the proposal for a Child Guarantee Recommendation, discrimination is an important deterrent to wellbeing, both in itself, leading to emotional distress and isolation, as well as in impeding effective access to income and services.

Segregation in housing, education, healthcare, and other aspects of life also breeds a sectioned view of society, which fuels inequalities and poverty. Stigmatization based on ethnic or racial origin, disability, socio-economic background, and other criteria significantly contributes to non-take-up of benefits and services by those who most need them.

We call on EU Member States to take a bold stance against all forms of discrimination on all grounds, including intersectional discrimination, and concerning all groups of children. Preventive, targeted and proactive measures are needed to alter public perceptions and prevalent misrepresentations, through comprehensive anti-bias measures and specific training for services and local authorities, as well as through ensuring diversity in the staff.

  • Ensure that no child is placed in institutions and reinforce the transition from institutional to community-based care.

The Alliance wants to emphasise that all language and activities as described in the European Child Guarantee should be in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), and all EU policies and legislation.

In this regard, EU Member States should not allow the placement of children in institutional care or emergency shelters even as a last resort (wording proposed by the European Commission in recital 24). Extensive evidence shows that institutions can inflict long-term harms to children’s development and expose them to all manner of human rights abuses.

Therefore, to reinforce the proposal and to ensure it is in line with the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, the Alliance calls on the Council to amend Recital 24 as follows:

“Aiming at ensuring adequate protection and care for all children without or at risk of losing parental care, family support, quality community and family-based care should be promoted and the transition from institutions to quality alternative care should be actively pursued. Adequate services should also be provided to prepare children leaving care in order to support their independent living and social integration, including for unaccompanied migrant children”.

The Recommendation and national Action plans should thus promote the development and funding of high-quality family and community-based care and support services with a family-centred, community-based model of support.

The Statement is available in pdf here.

Endnote

The EU Alliance for Investing in Children has been advocating for a multidimensional, rights-based approach to tackling child poverty and promoting child well-being since 2014. This statement was endorsed by the following partner organisations of the EU Alliance for Investing in Children:

  • Alliance for Childhood European Network Group
  • ATD Quart Monde
  • Caritas Europa
  • COFACE Families Europe
  • Don Bosco International
  • Dynamo International – Street Workers Network
  • ERGO Network
  • Eurochild
  • Eurodiaconia
  • EuroHealthNet
  • European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities – EASPD
  • European Anti-Poverty Network – EAPN
  • European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless – FEANTSA
  • European Parents’ Association
  • European Public Health Alliance – EPHA
  • European Social Network – ESN
  • Inclusion Europe
  • Lifelong Learning Platform
  • Lumos
  • Mental Health Europe
  • Make Mothers Matter
  • Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)
  • Roma Education Fund
  • Save the Children
  • SOS Children’s Villages International.

The statement was also endorsed by The European Expert Group on the transition from institutional to community-based support (EEG).

If you would like to get in touch with the EU Alliance for investing in children, please contact
:

[1] Commission proposes action to uphold child rights and support children in need – Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion – European Commission (europa.eu)

[2] ‘children in precarious family situations’ means children exposed to various risk factors leading to social exclusion, such as: living in a single-parent household; living with a parent with a disability; living in a household where there are mental health problems or long-term illness; living in a household where there is substance abuse, or domestic violence; children of a Union citizen who has moved to another Member State and who themselves remained in their Member State of origin; children having a teenage mother or being a teenage mother; children having an imprisoned parent.

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EEG’s Response to the EU Disability Strategy 2021-2030

The European Commission has recently released the new EU Disability Rights Strategy for the period 2021 to 2030. This follows up to the previous ten-year Strategy that was launched in 2010.

In light of the recently published document, the EEG has written a Response to the EU Disability Rights Strategy 2021-2030 highlighting what the new Strategy brings in relation to deinstitutionalisation, as well as some reflections and recommendations.

The new Disability Strategy proposes several actions that are connected to deinstitutionalisation, such as:

  • issuing guidance recommending improvements for Member States on independent living and inclusion in the community,
  • presenting a framework for Social Services of Excellence for persons with disabilities,
  • conducting a study on social protection and services for persons with disabilities,
  • issuing a toolkit for inclusion in early childhood education and care.

For each of these actions, the EEG has drafted recommendations to both the European Commission and Member States to consider in their implementation of the Strategy.

The full version of the EEG’s Response to the EU Disability Rights Strategy 2021-2030 with all EEG’s recommendations is available here.

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EEG’s reaction to the Social Pillar Action Plan

The European Commission has published in March of 2021 the long-awaited European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, which aims to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights by 2025.

In light of the recently published document, the EEG has written a reaction highlighting the progress brought up by the Action Plan in bringing people out of institutional care, as well as the points in which the Plan could has aimed at more ambitious targets.

An important point to raise is that the Action Plan does not include any reference to the continuation of deinstitutionalisation. Given that more than 1,4 million people still live in institutions, the EEG calls for the continuation of the processes of transition from institutional to family and community-based care.

The Action Plan touches upon several areas that are connected to deinstitutionalisation, namely employment, annual training of staff, and poverty and social exclusion, the work-life balance, homelessness and investments in health and care workforce.

As for the Revised Social Scoreboard, the EEG welcomes indicators regarding the ‘disability employment gap’, the ‘housing cost overburden’, and ‘the at-risk-of-poverty rate or exclusion for children (0—17) indicator’. We regret, however, that a ‘deinstitutionalisation indicator’ has not been added to the Action Plan.

The EEG will keep its commitment to monitor and assess both the implementation of the Action Plan as well as the use of EU funds. We want to ensure no money is spent on building new institutions or ‘greening’ existing institutions for adults and children. Rather, social rights will be fulfilled by the development and the deployment of qualitative affordable, accessible community-based services.

Read the full statement here.

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