In order to support the implementation of the European Recommendation “Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage” (February 2013), since 2013 the European Social Network (ESN)maps the implementation of children’s services in 14 European countries. The ESN project ” Investing inchildren’s services, Improving Outcomes”focuses on 5 types of goals considered by the Recommendation:

  • Reducing inequality at a young age by investing in early childhood education and care
  • Improving education systems’ impact on equal opportunities
  • Improving the responsiveness of health systems to address the needs of disadvantaged children
  • Providing children with a safe, adequate housing and living environment
  • Enhancing family support and the quality of alternative care settings

Until now, three peer reviews (bringing together children services’ directors; national, regional and local government’s representatives with responsibilities on children’s services, and services providers from each country) were held to formulate specific proposals for the authorities of each country. The first one took place in Dublin in 2013 and featured the services of Ireland, France, Sweden and Bulgaria. The second peer review took place in Barcelona in 2014, analyzing Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain (Catalonia) and the UK (Scotland). And the third one, in May 2015, featured Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Portugal and Romania.

We synthesize below the main deficiencies and suggestions for the implementation of the Recommendation, identified for each country during the peer reviews:

Ireland the lack of inter-agency work and the need for acoherent national framework, which also allows local flexibility, aswell as the need to evaluate the outcomes of interventions for children in the long run.
Bulgaria the accessibility of services in all regions and the need to strengthen supportfor municipalities who play a key role in provision were highlighted as key issues.Furthermore, the development of multidisciplinary work was seen as essential especiallyin a setting where public authorities are trying to get significant changes in education,deinstitutionalization and social welfare in a very limited amount of time.
France the lack of intermediate structures to progress between residential care for

children and social protection for young people transitioning into adulthood was

identified as a particular issue. This is addedto the lack of clarity within the legislation: which are the rights of the child and which are the rights of the family?

Sweden monitoring needs improvementand planning services based on needs and outcomes to improvechildren services.
Catalonia The budget for social policies has been reduced 20% since the beginning of the crisis, whilst child poverty has increased during the crisis to more than 25%. Need to undertake an integrated approach to the development of children and family policies, while reducing some universal benefits and introducing more targeted allowances. Representatives from the local level raised concerns about the level of cuts in early childcare services provided by the municipalities, particularly in the 0-3 age range.
The Netherlands Under the slogan “One family, one plan”, Dutch municipalities will be given the statutory duty to provide children with support within their available resources. Whilst the system is moving towards a more family-based approach, families will also receive different services, which may trigger complaints.
Poland two main challenges for children services provision in Poland: the impact of demographic change on service demand and the lack of public investment. A significantly higher proportion of Poland’s GDP is directed towards elderly services instead of children services.
Germany fragmentationof the legislation, policy and practical implementation of children services.
Scotland social services have been unable to respond adequately to reports of child sexual exploitation and the need to do more in terms of raising awareness.
Hungary lack of capacity in childcare and social protection, and a risk of segregation of Roma children in general education. Limitations to ECEC for children (0-2) in rural areas and regional differences The decrease in financing for ECEC services and healthcare has negatively impact on local services.
Belgium A lack of services in urban centers. Current reforms on active labour market policies and the alleviation of child poverty should take into consideration the high social gradient in the uptake of childcare services, and the acute shortage of childcare capacity. Belgium faces additional challenges due to its complex social and institutional structure, which also creates difficulties in data collection across the two communities.
Italy There is a fragmented social protection system and large regional differences in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) provision with low work intensity and poor workers.Two main priorities regarding children’s services: poverty on health issues and the development of alternative family care to reduce the number of children in residential care.
Romania poor workers and children that live in the country while their parents work abroad cause high levels of children still in institutional care.
Portugal weak social protection system and low quality of childcare for children aged 0-3. need ofskilled professionals in the early childhood education


Download from ESN:

Investing in Children’s Services Improving Outcomes (Dublin+ Barcelona)

ESN Peer Review Budapest 7-8 May 2015