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The Confederation of Family Organisations in the European Union (COFACE) Conference on “Vulnerable Families- What can Europe do?” 4th and 5th February 2013


Hosted by the Irish Presidency of the EU in Dublin Castle, COFACE and the Irish Countrywomen’s Association co-organised the conference, “Vulnerable Families- What can Europe do?” on the 4th and 5th February 2013.  The conference focused on the most vulnerable families in the EU who, in such an economic and social climate, are at risk of poverty and exclusion from the labour market.  At such times of austerity these vulnerable families are increasingly at risk of not being able to access housing, social and health services and discussions at the conference sought to focus on how these challenges might be confronted.  The aim to give vulnerable families in Europe a platform was realised and the Roadmap for Vulnerable Families 2020 was a key outcome of the conference.

father and child walking

The conference agenda

The two-day conference brought together over 200 international participants from EU Member states and provided a valuable opportunity for both EU and Irish organisations to engage in lively discourse and establish working relationships.  The conference also welcomed the key note speakers, Frances Fitzgerald (Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Ireland), Juan Menéndez-Valdés (Director of Eurofound) and Julius op de Beke (DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission).  The conference explored three separate aspects of vulnerability in detail considering not only the causes, the current situation but also future strategies needed to alleviate poverty for families and children. Five separate sessions were set up to explore vulnerability due to ill health, mental health issues, disability and care; extreme vulnerability, and families outside reach of services; vulnerability due to joblessness and lack of skills; and parenting support services.


The Roadmap for Vulnerable Families 2020 is the key outcome from this conference and seeks to cement answers and effective policies to support vulnerable families and assist them in overcoming the challenges they currently face by engaging more fully in society and the labour market. Annemie Drieskens (President of COFACE) brought the conference to an encouraging close by highlighting that partnerships can be established between societal organisations and the political level to make effective policy and programmes, which could transform the situations for many families and empower them. All the presentations which were made during the conference will be made available on the events section of the COFACE website.  The full programme of the conference can be found herepdf.