In June 2010, the Belgian Secretary of State for Social Integration and the Fight against Poverty, Philippe Courard, set aside €4.2 million to help the “Centres publics d’Action sociale” (CPAS; Public social action centres) fight child poverty. Eighty percent of the centres used this budget with very positive results. The same sum has been allocated for 2011.
This policy aims to offer disadvantaged children opportunities for social inclusion by improving access to culture, sports, new information and communication technologies, etc. “We must break the cycle in which poverty is transmitted from one generation to the next in certain families,” stressed Philippe Courard on announcing the budget renewal. “If parents have severely reduced financial resources, their children can enjoy a series of initiatives beneficial to their development and their future.”
The CPAS can select target groups and allocate a specific budget to collective and individual initiatives to promote the social participation of children in their geographic area. This may involve support for parents in fields such as health, hygiene and nutrition, funding child development activities and financial aid for learning (homework help programmes, school fees, participation in cultural and sports activities, etc.).
Seventeen percent of children in Belgium are living below the poverty line, and of those 39.5% come from single-parent families and 74.4% from families in which the parents are not working.
Twenty percent of the 100 million young people under the age of eighteen in Europe are at risk of poverty. The countries that have the highest welfare benefits also, logically, have the lowest child poverty rate and the greatest social cohesion. For example, poverty affects about 12% of young people in Scandinavia and 23% in the UK.
In the second half of 2010, the Belgian presidency of the Council of the European Union placed child poverty high on its agenda. Following a conference on this issue, organised by Philippe Courard and held in Marche-en-Famenne (Belgium), the European Commission undertook to publish a recommendation on child poverty in 2012. The Europe 2020 strategy aims to reduce the number of young people at risk of poverty by at least 20 million in ten years. The actions required of the member states should result in a concrete strategy from early childhood: improved access to health care, education and culture, and public aid aimed directly at children (free school materials and meals, free access to cultural and sports activities, etc.) or their families (affordable child care, suitable working hours, paid parental leave, etc.).
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Portal of the Belgian Presidency of the European Union – Philippe Courard – press release 2020-09-03