A historic opportunity for one of our most shameful realities. Almost one in three minors in Spain lives at risk of poverty. Homes that cannot renew their glasses or where they get cold in winter. The fourth euro economy is third on the podium for child poverty in the EU. Brussels has launched an unprecedented measure, the European Child Guarantee, by which Spain must invest against this problem “at least 527 million euros” of the money it receives from the European Social Fund Plus until 2027, they advance to this medium from the Ministry of Social Rights. The Government now faces the challenge of designing a National Action Plan on the matter, for which it will work with regional administrations.
Carmen Molina (Unicef): “True equality happens by giving opportunities to all children”
The European Child Guarantee has been in the making for many years, but now the time has come for it to be rolled out and put into practice. Brussels raised with this measure the importance of the fight against poverty in the EU countries, by which it obliges Member States with poverty rates higher than the European average to dedicate at least 5% of what they receive from the European Social Fund Plus to combat this problem that weighs on the future of millions of minors. Spain, a bronze medalist in child poverty from the EU, is one of these countries.
That 5% in Spain reaches 527 million euros in the period 2021-2027, they explain in the Ministry of Social Rights, led by Ione Belarra, to this medium. This minimum amount can be increased, both from the European Social Fund Plus itself, if Spain wanted to allocate more money to combat this problem, and from other funds and budget items. “How you are thinking of doing”, they also explain to this medium in the High Commission against Child Poverty, created by President Pedro Sánchez, who is also involved in the development of this program in Spain.
The launch of the European Children’s Guarantee could not be more timely, after the crisis unleashed by the pandemic. Although we still do not have official data that rigorously show the impact of the coronavirus on poverty, there are already some figures that reveal its increase. NGOs specialized in children, such as Unicef and Save the Children, and entities such as Cáritas insist that this is the tip of the iceberg and have triggered all the alarms about the worsening of the daily lives of people with fewer resources. Above all, one of the poorest, in a country that before the pandemic already had many people at risk of poverty and a large ‘bag’ of the precarious.
The Spanish strategy must be ready in March
The Ministry of Social Rights is the one that coordinates the development of the European Child Guarantee in Spain. The task is carried out in particular by Violeta Assiego, general director of the Rights of Children and Adolescents, who coordinates the preparation of this National Plan of Action since the recently created Sectorial Conference on Children and Adolescents. The High Commissioner, the Ministries with responsibilities for children and the rest of the regional administrations are present there. The deadline that Brussels has given countries to deliver their strategies is March 2022.
“At the Sectoral Conference we are going to start working on agreements on what specific policies, what measures can be deployed. Communities have to draw up their operational programs. They have many competencies in the field of childhood, such as Education, and what we want is to be able to walk in the same direction with the National Plan “, Assiego explains to elDiario.es.
The general director underlines the importance of children having this new Sector Conference, the result of the Child Protection Law, which will allow for a cross-cutting discussion, both in terms of issues and in competent administrations, a coherent National Plan with common objectives . The High Commissioner also points out the relevance of incorporating the Local Administration into the deployment of this strategy, through the FEMP (Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces), since local entities also have powers in matters related to vulnerable children.
First: a baseline analysis
Next week, the Children’s Guarantee will already add an important milestone. On Wednesday, Unicef presented, together with the Ministry of Social Rights and the High Commissioner, an initial status report commissioned by the European Commission, as preliminary groundwork for Spain to prepare the National Plan. The Unicef evaluation, whose authors are specialists from the University of Alcalá and the CSIC, is not binding, but it will be an indispensable reference for developing the Spanish strategy, Assiego points out.
As a result of this report, the Childhood Sector Conference will begin its work to detect which vulnerable groups are going to be protected with the Child Guarantee Plan, with what measures and which indicators will be measured to verify the effectiveness of the policies and to comply with the monitoring required by Europe. “Spain will propose its indicators with other national coordinators from other countries and it will be decided how to monitor the Guarantee, which the Commission wants to evaluate with the 2030 horizon to see if the recommendations are being met”, explains Albert F. Arcarons, deputy director of the High Commissioner.
All the actors involved insist on the unique opportunity that Europe has given Spain to tackle a problem that has been entrenched for years, even in those of economic prosperity, and that hampers the development of future generations. Now, the time has come to design the plan and ensure effective execution, Carmen Molina, from Unicef, highlighted in this interview. “Although each community has its powers and can deploy the policies it sees fit, we are going to work to achieve a common umbrella of strategies,” says Assiego.