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Italy: tackling child poverty and overcoming the crisis

The government is continuing the efforts to reduce the effects of the economic crisis with interventions in favour of families and larger households, in order to address the problems of poverty and social exclusion. This is also the main goal of the set of measures taken in the last 2016 financial law, Provisions for the preparation of the annual and multiannual State budget (Disposizioni per la formazione del Bilancio Annuale e pluriennale dello Stato - Legge di Stabilità 2016). In the direction of reconciling work and family life, the so-called Jobs Act was approved in June 2015 and it establishes new ways to use the optional parental leave, extending its applicability and promoting its arrangement in hours, rather than in days. With the Jobs Act, the new unemployment benefit (ASDI) was also launched, with 220 million euros made available for 2016.

 

Access to adequate resources

Social protection benefits

Among the measures of social protection in Italy, the share of GDP allocated to families and children is stable: it stands at around 1.2%. In a time comparison, the Italian incidence has been increasing, although at a rate not properly supported, from 1% in 2004 to 1.2% in 2013. Despite the slight growth trend, the share of GDP allocated to families and children remains well below the European average of 2.2%.

In order to improve and support the access of families to the different services provided by the public sector, FamilyLine – a family format friendly line - was launched: through its Contact Centre (800 254 009) and a dedicated portal, it guides and accompanies the user in the service that he/she is looking for. It also collects information and ideas from the people, interacting and exchanging with them.

People at risk of poverty or social exclusion

In Italy, children aged 0-17 who are experiencing conditions of relative risk of poverty or social exclusion amounted to 32% in 2014, that is to say: a little more than 1 child out of 3 of this age group.

Available data indicates that the level of risk experienced among Italian children is higher than that of their peers of the European Union (27.7%). Nevertheless, post the peak of children at risk of poverty in 2012 (34%), there has been a slight decrease and stabilisation. The values are however much higher than the rates recorded in the pre-crisis time (2005-2010), which were consistently less than 29%. This is a clear sign of how the effects of the economic crisis are strongly felt nowadays, to the point where a high level of child poverty and social exclusion seems to have become a hallmark of children’s conditions throughout Italy.

With the funds provided by the 2013 financial law (Law 27 December 2013, n. 147 Art. 1, 201) the government is funding the bonus of the "Fund for new born". It provides from 80-160€ per month for children born between January 2015 and December 2017, in order to contribute to the costs related to new born or adopted babies belonging to low-income families. Additional measures for the new born are also granted at the regional level, as is additional support for resident families.

The Purchasing Card, for the unemployed, has been widespread on the national territory and pays a monthly amount (up to 400€) according to the number of household members, and which was launched on an experimental level only in 12 cities in the last two years. The Purchasing Card for ordinary households with low income has been granted from 2008 to the residents older than or equal to 65 years, or for children under three years old, whose families are in possession of particular requirements. The ordinary card consists of monthly amounts of 40€ per beneficiary. The twice-monthly refills can be used as payment of food expenses, electricity bills and gas and are now part of the wider program SIA (Support for Active Inclusion) that in 2016 aims to become RIA (Income for Active Inclusion).

Access to affordable quality services

Formal childcare

The recent economic crisis that crossed the country has impacted heavily on the expansion, already deficient, of the early childhood educational services, and has blocked the access and attendance of a growing number of children; while at the same time there have been no substantial reverberations in the frequency of kindergarten attendance.

Overall, the proportion of children under 3 years who attended the formal care services for less than 30 hours per week, out of the total number of resident children of the same age, is 8% in 2013: the incidence remained essentially unchanged over the years and places Italy below the 27-EU average of 13%. On the other hand, the attendance of children under 3 to formal childcare services for over 30 hours a week is of 13%, a value near to the 27-EU average of 14%. At national level, it is nevertheless necessary to point out the loss of 3 percentage points over the period 2005-2011, dropping from 16% to the current 13% attendance.

Regarding the indicators of formal care relating to children who are aged between 3 years and the age of compulsory education, the Italian incidences are most polarized. In this age group, the rate below 30 hours per week is less in Italy (21%) than the European average (35%), but when the 30 or more weekly hours of attendance is considered, the Italian percentage (69%) far surpasses that of Europe (47%).

Children's right to participate

Educational poverty and child participation

A new experimental initiative planned in the last financial law concerns the establishment of a fund against educational poverty (150 million euros per year), fuelled by payments made by banking foundations. The State will recognize a tax credit equal to 75% of the payment made by the banks, to the banking foundations that finance certain projects aimed at children in poverty.

The government bill “The Good School” of September 2014 provides additional funding of 3 billion euros for education and a special plan for recruitment in order to provide schools with the teachers it needs. Students are guaranteed a richer education that looks to tradition (more music, art), but also to the future (more languages, digital competences, economics). The whole school community, including students and families, will be involved in the elaboration of the National Plan for Education of their own school, the document which describes the cultural and planning identity of the school. In the project there are specific resources for training and professional development of teachers and for their enhancement. The state's investment on school building is on-going, with ad hoc funds for the maintenance, but also for the construction of innovative structures.

In terms of the promotion of children's rights, although contracted through the years (28.7 million euros each year for the period 2015-2018) the financing of the Fund for policies in favour of children (Law no. 285 of 28 August 1997, Provisions for the promotion of rights and opportunities for children and adolescents) is designed to allocate resources for innovative and experimental projects carried out in 15 metropolitan cities.

Conclusion

The new National Plan for children

The Government is about to approve the IVNational Plan of action and measures for the protection of the rights and the development of children, drafted at the National Observatory on Childhood and Adolescence through a collaboration between the central government, NGOs, trade associations and unions, experts, as well as representatives of regional and local authorities. The Plan is therefore a document created in a participatory process. Through the adopted methodology, it was possible to identify the most critical and well-argued strategies and interventions to tackle four lines of action that seem of great importance and relevance: combating poverty of children and families; promotion of social and educational services for early childhood; social integration and support for parenting, to the integrated services system and the residential care system. The IV Action Plan is a framework document of extraordinary transformative and innovative capacity, but it opens up a challenge in terms of allocating specific resources that it would need to be implemented.

The information in the country profile was last updated in February 2016.

P.I.P.P.I. Experimental Project on the prevention of institutionalization

Among the national projects carried out in Italy, the Action Plan for the Prevention of Institutionalisation (P.I.P.P.I.) is an experimental program which provides 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 the Regions to participate in the programme using the funds specifically allocated for the purpose: 50,000€ maximum for each local territory composing every Region, according to the criteria of children population resident in the area.