CESI welcomes the European Child Guarantee: For children, with children – and teachers and carers

The European Commission this week adopted the first comprehensive EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, as well as a proposal for a Council Recommendation establishing a European Child Guarantee, to promote equal opportunities for children at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

In preparation of both initiatives, the European Commission, in association with leading global child rights organisations, had collected the views of over 10,000 children. In a first reaction, CESI Secretary General welcomed the Strategy and the proposed Guarantee.

The European Child Guarantee complements the second pillar of the Strategy on the Rights of the Child. It is also a key deliverable of the European Commission’s European European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, adopted on 4 March 2021, and answers directly to the Pillar’s principle 11: ‘Children have the right to affordable early childhood education and care of good quality; children have the right to protection from poverty. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds have the right to specific measures to enhance equal opportunities.’ In this context, the Action Plan already proposes a target for the EU to reduce by at least 15 million the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by 2030, including at least 5 million children.

This week’s EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child is built around six thematic areas, and as part to the second thematic area on socio-economic inclusion, health and education, a Child Guarantee is proposed which recommends to Member States to provide free and effective access for children to:

• early childhood education and care – for example, avoid segregated classes;
• education and school-based activities – for example, adequate equipment for distance learning, and school trips;
• at least one healthy meal each school day; and
• healthcare – for example, facilitating access to medical examinations and health screening programmes.

The Strategy and Guarantee stress the importance of these services being free of charge and readily available to children in need.

In a first reaction, CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger welcomed the Strategy and the proposed Guarantee: “It is in the whole society’s interest to invest in affordable and quality for all children, leaving no one behind, let alone the most vulnerable. It is essential to provide a favourable environment to guide children into becoming the responsible citizens, and workers, of the future.”

He added: “If implemented by the Member States, the measures set out by the European Commission should translate into more investment in affordable and quality childcare. According to CESI, this must also mean investments in the initial education and further training of teachers and care workers in early childhood education and care, as well as in their employment and working conditions, in order to attract and retain a motivated, dedicated and well-trained workforce. Free care and education is important, but quality is equally important. We must be aware that care and education can only be as good as those providing the service are well-resourced, well-trained, well-equipped – and well-supported by the public, the parents and politics. This all starts with societal appreciation and the right employment and working conditions. This is a topic dear to the many teachers and child care workers which CESI represents across Europe.”

Photo credit (CC BY-SA 2.0) to pml2008 on fickr