New report on use of ESIF funds for institutionalised children

MEP Maried McGuinnes

The Opening Doors Campaign today released a new report assessing the extent to which EU Member States have used European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF) to catalyse reforms of child protection systems focused on strengthening families and ending institutional care.

Leading experts in childcare reform met in Brussels today at the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children Campaign report launch on the use of European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF) in eight EU countries.

MEPs, European Commission officials and CSOs discussed ways in which EU institutions and national civil society can leverage one another to achieve deinstitutionalisation (DI) reforms.

“We don’t want houses that are institutions, we want homes” said MEP Mairead McGuinness (EPP), Vice-President of the European Parliament. “We know that there are economic issues, but we can’t forget about deinstitutionalisation, which is often forgotten and ignored. Institutionalisation is a problem of all Member States and it is not correct to point just at some states. We are all responsible” she concluded.

The report assesses the attention paid to deinstitutionalisation for children and the involvement of children’s organisations in the ESIF implementation process across eight EU Member States.

It is based on a consultation of eight civil society organisations (Opening Doors National Coordinators) implementing the campaign at EU Member State level – countries include: Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. Opening Doors National Coordinators presented their review of DI in ESIF Partnership Agreements (PAs) and Operational Programmes (Ops) in their countries.

The report results

Overall the results show an encouraging trend. Deinstitutionalisation (DI) remains a priority for investment and is explicitly mentioned in the Partnership Agreements (PAs) and Operational Programmes (Ops) of the eight countries surveyed except Greece. However, only two Opening Doors National Coordinators (in Bulgaria and Romania) were fully satisfied by the level of attention accorded to DI in the PAs and OPs.

Call to the European Commission 

The report calls on the European Commission to adopt an own initiative policy position to increase the level of awareness and Member States engagement in DI reforms. In particular, it calls on the Commission to highlight how the transition to community-level services and family-based care contributes to better use of public money in the long term.

Some worrying results 

There is an overall danger that the current climate of austerity discourages investment of public resources in ending institution-based care systems. For two National Coordinators, the ESIF budget allocation for DI was still unclear at the time of consultation (Hungary and Lithuania), whilst the National Coordinator in Poland felt the budget allocated was insufficient.

According to the National Coordinator in Greece, there is not specific budget allocation for DI. Perhaps, it is not coincidental that Greece is the country where there are the most concerns on DI reforms. The National Coordinator in Greece reported no explicit attention in relevant documents and no earmarked budget for DI due to the singular focus on austerity.

In Poland, the National Coordinator evaluated the wording of the documents as ambiguous, leaving open the possibility to invest in forms of institutional care.

Are CSOs involved in the implementation process?

The extent to which National Coordinators had been consulted during the negotiations of the PAs and OPs varies significantly. In Bulgaria and Romania the National Coordinators appear to have had quite significant involvement and influence, whilst elsewhere the links with government during the negotiation phase were weaker.

In Hungary, for example, involvement of civil society organisations (CSOs) was limited to an online questionnaire.

The National Coordinator in Greece reported a total lack of engagement with children’s CSOs; in Estonia too, organisations representing children were not consulted.

Download the report here

Photo gallery of the launch event