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Promoting children rights by supporting families and women

A vast group of actions have been initiated by the Italian government, in order to implement the laws adopted in the last years and aiming to supporting  employment. Special target of these measures is female participation in the labour market: in the first semester of 2014, 14,000 women found a job, mainly due to the governmental promoted policies.
Wellbeing of children is related with the social and economic status of their parents and communities: therefore the main road followed by the Italian government is the focus on social and family environment in which children are raised up.

Actions supporting parents’ participation in the labour market

Female employment’s rate shows a steady increase for women aged 15 to 64 years (9.3 million women in 2012). In 2012 about one in three working women actually had a part-time job, a rate which has tripled in the last twenty years.

The main Italian laws regarding the promotion of participation in the labour market are the Law 8 march 2000, Law n. 92/2012 and correspondent executive decree DL n. 179/2012 (then Law 221/2012) and Law 228/2012 (2013 Stability Law).

The Law 92/2012 aimed at giving benefits to companies who employee  women: in year 2014 6.500 women have been recruited thanks to this political measure, 4,500 out of the total in the South of Italy, where the unemployment rate is usually higher.

Following the Decree 76/2013 on incentives for companies recruiting young people, 18,000 requests have been submitted to the National Social Security Agency (INPS), and 38% of them concerned women under the age of 29. Another investment on employment has been the Decree 76/2013 for sustaining recruitment of unemployed people in their very first period of loss of job.

Another field of intervention is the access to microcredit as opportunity for creating small enterprises. In September 2013 the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies launched the campaign “Riparti da te! Bella impresa essere donna” (Re-starting from you. Being a woman: a nice business): a good example of active policy, that together with the institution of a special fund of 15 million euro in 2014 (20 million in 2015 and 2016) represents an alternative way to social benefits.

In the program of European Year for Reconciliation a further project “LaFemMe” is concentrated on female employment providing training and counselling services.

The executive decree of Law 92/2012 established financial contributions to women for purchasing educational services for young children.

Different benefits for improving living standards

The Italian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is in line with the European one, as they are respectively € 25,700 and € 25,600. The share of GDP allocated to families and children has been increasing, going from less than 1% in the early years of this decade to 1.4% in 2011. However, it remains substantially low and below the European average of 2.3%.

The Department for Equal Opportunities - National Bureau against Racial Discrimination launched in July 2014  the "Experimental intervention program for the promotion of the employment of discriminated and disadvantaged people " - DJ Project - Diversity on the job, financed with funds from the National Program NDP "Governance and system actions" for 2007-2013 - Convergence Objective. The program is implemented by the governmental agency Italia Lavoro and aims to achieve the objectives of capacity building of non-profit associations and the empowerment of people at high risk of social exclusion.

The project consists in the creation of trained agencies for the mediation in job recruitment, in 4 Italian regions (Campania, Puglia, Calabria and Sicily) which are part of the convergence objective regions. In the same territories it promotes the employment of disadvantaged individuals at high risk of discrimination, through guidance and coaching and implementation of training courses.

In January 2013, the Interministerial Decree of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy with the Ministry of Economy and Finance provided for the experimentation of the new “social card”, the so-called SIA (Sostegno per l'Inclusione Attiva:  A support for active inclusion). The project involves the 12 biggest Italian cities - Bari, Bologna, Catania, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Rome, Turin, Venice, Verona - and it will last for a year, for an overall investment of 50 million Euro. The economic benefits will be adjusted according to the number of family members, for a maximum of 400 Euro per month for families with 5 members or more. The municipalities are committed to provide, along with the money transfer, a personalized and multi-dimensional project of intervention involving all members of the family, with particular care for children. The main objective, which was agreed upon with the cities involved in the experimentation, is the fight against child poverty, starting from the families that are most disadvantaged on the labour market.  The SIA works alongside with the ordinary Social Card, named the Purchasing Card, which will continue to function. The Purchasing Card is a normal electronic payment card, similar to those already in circulation and widely disseminated in our country. It was introduced by the Decree Law no. 112 of 2008 to provide support for the most deprived persons in the purchasing of food and medicines, for paying household bills of electricity and gas. The Purchase Card is given to the elderly aged greater than or equal to 65 years and to children under the age of 3 years (in this case the Cardholder is the parent) who are in possession of particular requirements. With the Interministerial Decree of 3 February 2014, the Purchasing Card has been extended also to foreign citizens who are regularly and permanently resident in Italy.

In December 2013 the President of the Council of Ministers signed the decree to reform the ISEE: this is a tool that allows to measure the economic status of households, taking into account income, heritage and the characteristics of the family, in order to determine the access to the provision of certain services and social benefits. The reform envisaged in the Decree n. 201/2011 so-called "Save Italy", is designed to make more accurate measurement of the economic status of families and improve equity in the access of citizens, as the evaluation will be done according to criteria defined uniquely on the whole national territory.
An economic aid to the families and a form of parenting support is the fund for new born children provided by the government. The fund is established as financial guarantee for the access to loan up to 5,000 euro to be submitted to the banks participating in the project and permits to families to face the new demands and new spending brought by the arrival of a child. The loan should be repaid within a maximum period of 5 years.

Quality services:  early childhood, special targeted children and foster care

With regard to early childhood services, it has to be reminded the Special plan for the development of social and educational services for early childhood launched in September 2007, which enabled the number of places available in nurseries to be considerably increased across Italy. Thanks to this special plan, two specific Agreements were signed in 2012 which allocated substantial funds for family policies to Regions and Autonomous Provinces, in order to help them continue to develop the integrated system of early childhood services (25 and 45 million respectively, including amounts for Integrated Home Care and active aging).

In Italy the percentage of children under 3 years who benefited from "formal care" services - from 1 to 29 hours per week - equals 9% of the total population of the same age. This rate is lower than the European average, but it becomes higher when taking into account an attendance of 3 hours or more (17%). The same trend can be detected in school attendance up to the minimum age of compulsory education: the Italian percentage is indeed higher for the children who benefit from formal childcare for more than 30 hours per week (75% as against a European rate of 47%).

The latest monitoring reports demonstrated that the Special Plan has achieved the goal of supporting the quantitative growth of places in the public and private services for early childhood, but the most recent data point to a decrease in both the number of places and the number of services. The trend is tied to the current economic crisis affecting the spending capacity of consumers and local governments.

Child care services have also been improved through the National Program for early childhood education services and care services for vulnerable seniors, whose aim was to help four regions of Southern Italy develop and strengthen the provision of social and educational services intended for children aged 0 to 3 years.

Improve education systems’ impact on equal opportunities

In the context of the 2007-2013 National Strategic Framework (QSN) the school service is considered one of the essential public services and plays an important role in the development policies which address the most vulnerable areas of the country. The "improvement and enhancement of the education system" is a first priority that is based on the awareness that education is an essential factor for economic development and social cohesion. Taking into account the socio-cultural situation that characterizes the South of Italy, the objectives are related to improving the education service for all the southern regions (Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia). The achievement of this goal is considered essential for the development and innovation of these areas and to ensure minimum standards of quality in the school throughout the country.

The resource planning of the European Structural Funds for the period 2007/2013 for the education sector is characterized by a unified strategy for both the ERDF Programme "Learning Environments" and the ESF program "Skills for Development ", based on two priority objectives. Firstly, higher and more widespread skills and learning abilities of young people and adults to be achieved according to the strategy of the ordinary policy for education. Secondly, increased attractiveness of the school in terms of well-equipped for teaching, safe and welcoming environments.

Another project in the context of education and targeted to Roma children has being implemented in the primary schools of 13 municipalities benefitting of the special fund financed by Law 285/1997 (see box below).

With regard to family support and alternative care settings, according to the data collected by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, foster care recorded a clear increase over the past few years in Italy. At the end of year 2012 the statistical data show that children and young people aged 0-17 out of the family of origin accommodated in foster care and residential communities are estimated to be 28,163. In percentage, there is a national average of just under 2.8 children aged 0-17 out of the family of origin for every thousand residents of the same age.

In the last years the number of children in family foster care (from 14,397 in 2011 to 14,317 in 2012) has overcame the number of children cared for in residential facilities (from 14,991 in 2011 to 13,846 in 2012).
The vast majority of children in foster care has Italian citizenship (more than 8 children in 10), but the percentage of foreign children is continuing to grow.

The Ministry of Labour and social policies has supported the national project “A path in foster care”, with the approval of specific guidelines. The materials produced between 2009 and 2011 in the development of the project has been synthesized and partially updated in a practical book “New words for foster care” (see box below).

Among the national projects carried out in Italy, the Action Plan for the Prevention of Institutionalization (P.I.P.P.I.) is an experimental program which provides for multidisciplinary and integrated actions in favour of families with children aged 0-16 at serious risk of being separated. The first stage of the experimentation (June 2011 – December 2012) involved 10 Italian cities with the resources allocated by Law 285 of 1997. One of the results achieved has showed the necessity to sustain the family on a continual basis and to implement the services network. The current second stage involves 9 cities and aims to continue the project with own local funds. At the same time, from October 2013 a third stage has been set up with the objective of extending the program to the Regions. With the Decree n. 213/2013 of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies a trend has been launched which permits to the Regions to participate at the program using the funds specifically allocated for the purpose: 50,000 euro maximum for each local territory composing every Region, according to the criteria of children population resident in the area.

Child participation

With respect to the children’s right to participate, initiatives, projects and actions in Italy have been promoted through  the f Law no. 285 of 28 August 1997, Provisions for the promotion of rights and opportunities for children and adolescents, which created a special national fund to finance measures promoted by local administrations in favour of children and adolescents. In the 2012/2013 period there were a lot of projects (200 out of 448) focusing on the right of children to be heard, which is closely linked to the right to participate. Many of these projects were actually targeted at families having difficulties with child care and they are aimed at improving the family’s network of relations (also with a focus on foreign families), parental skills and access to informal learning, leisure activities, sports and cultural centres for all children, but especially those in disadvantaged conditions.

Along with the research work of the UN Agency Unicef, starting from year 2000 a national coordination of nongovernmental organizations (Pidida: For the Rights of Children and Adolescents) has been working on the effective participation of children and adolescents in the decision making processes, through the organization of children meetings and forums. It also produces researches and monitoring reports on the promotion of the Convention on the rights of children and on specific topics such as child labour and child migrants.

Recently, in March 2014 the Fourth National Conference on childhood and adolescence has been held in the city of Bari. The main focus was “Investing on children”, taking into account the large number of scientific evidence on the positive effects of early intervention on children who are in a disadvantaged position, which also demonstrated a higher economic return in comparison with interventions carried out in adulthood. The event was a great institutional moment of listening, thinking and participating at issues that affect not only the experts, but also children, adolescents and families. It was an important opportunity of meeting between knowledge and power, professional knowledge and political responsibility, NGOs experiences and social representatives and it has embarked on an extensive consultation among the parties involved in the formulation of the new National Plan for Children and Adolescents.

Next challenge: social exclusion

The children and adolescents aged 12 to 17 years who are at risk of poverty or social exclusion in Italy equal 34.8% of the population of reference, i.e. slightly more than one children in 3 in this age group. On the basis of such data, it is possible to make two types of considerations that are certainly not reassuring – although it should be noticed that since these are relative risk measures, the standard to be taken into consideration is the one internal to the country: a) the level of risk recorded among Italian adolescents aged 12 to 17 years is above the EU average of 29%; b) the poverty risk increased significantly in 2011, the last year for which data are available, and it reached a level that was unprecedented in the 2004-2010 period.

Experimental Project for the Social Inclusion and Integration of  Roma, Sinti and Camminanti children.

An experimental project for the social inclusion and integration of Roma, Sinti and Camminanti children, targeted at children aged 6-14 years, at their schools and their families, was launched by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, University and Research, in 2012. The aim was to organize – starting from September 2013 – a cycle of workshops and events in schools, as well as to provide support to families in their living environment and to facilitate interaction with schools, but also access to services. Special national training events have been organized for teachers, professionals and school staff. The project is one of the most important pillars of the "National Strategy for the inclusion of the Roma, Sinti and Camminanti 2012-2020", which was adopted by the Italian Government to implement the European Commission's Communication no. 173/2011.