The country-specific recommendations (CSRs) released last week by the European Commission fail to take into account the inclusion of institutionalised children.
We regret to acknowledge that the European Commission, mostly focused on the ‘growth and jobs’ paradigm, failed to take the opportunity to address the need to invest in children. None of the EU Member States have received CSRs on ending institutional care, despite the fact that at least 500.000 children in the EU are growing up in institutions, where their physical and psychological development is damaged.
Deinstitutionalisation (DI) – the process of replacing institutions with a range of quality care alternatives and measures supporting families – is an ex-ante conditionality for the use of European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) by Member States. Given that the Common Strategic Framework for ESIF makes a strong link to the European Semester Process, and that DI is identified as an issue in Country Reports, we would have expected CSRs to reflect this.
“Realising European sustainable reforms will require rebalanced efforts towards both social and fiscal responsibilities. This means, tackling child poverty, including recommendations to end institutional care and invest in quality family- and community-based services”, says Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General of Eurochild, Opening Doors Campaign leader.
We welcome the reference to the integration of disadvantaged children, particularly Roma children. However, the CSRs are inconsistent in referring to quality of services. Furthermore, while in the past, Romania, Bulgaria and Latvia have received CSRs specifically mentioning, or indirectly relating to DI; this year there are none.
“Despite some achievements with the deinstitutionalisation process in Bulgaria, the overall number of children in formal care has not decreased in the last year. It is not acceptable in the 21st century that in some EU Member States children are placed in institutions because of poverty1. There is an acute need to step up prevention, early intervention and family support so that we prevent unnecessary separation of children from their parents” says Dani Koleva, Policy Director of the National Network for Children, Bulgaria and Opening Doors coordinator.
In autumn 2015, the Opening Doors campaign partners will be contributing with a more detailed assessment report, highlighting where governments and EU institutions must focus their efforts in the next European Semester.
1 According to EU-SILC data, 51.8% of the children in Bulgaria are at risk of poverty and social exclusion, while 78.2% of families with three or more children are living on less than 140 Euro per person per month.