European Commission’s (EC) Social Investment Package (SIP), adopted in February 2013, represents a strategy for structural reforms in social policy to help European Union (EU) Member States to respond to the significant challenges of the current economic crisis. Among other measures it calls for investing in children and young people to increase their opportunities in life. With the EC’s Recommendation for Investing in Children as part of the SIP there is also a clear focus on early support to break the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage. Since its adoption, a set of measures have been undertaken by the EC and Member States for implementing the SIP and reporting on the related policy reforms. Furthermore the EC has adopted a Policy Roadmap for the 2014 Implementation of the SIP.
A recent memo published by the EC in February 2014 lists key steps taken in the first 12 months since the adoption of the SIP. For example, the EC and Member States developed together a methodology for assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of social policies and spotting key social challenges in the European Semester, as outlined in the recently published report on Employment and Social Developments in Europe 2013. Other measures are the introduction of the Employment and Innovation (EaSI) programme which from 2014 onwards will bring together the EU programmes PROGRESS, EURES and Progress Microfinance that were separated between 2007 and 2013. The objectives of EaSI are among others adequate social protection systems and increased access to financial means for social entrepreneurs. Furthermore at least 20% of the European Social Fund (ESF) will have to be allocated in each Member State to support social inclusion and social investment in line with possible Country Specific Recommendations (CSR) that were issued during the European Semester process.
In addition to that the new European Fund for Aid to the Most Deprived will provide emergency material assistance for people suffering from extreme forms of social exclusion.
A wide set of Member States implemented measures targeted on reducing poverty and increasing labour market inclusion such as income support, increased access to services and housing, as well as active labour market policies. Individual Member States also increasingly adopted a social investment approach focussing on early investment in individuals in order to break the inter-generational transmission of disadvantage. Belgium for example developed a national child poverty action plan in response to the Recommendation for Investing in Children. Germany, France, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and the UK implemented measures to extend enrolment in early childhood education and care (ECEC). More detailed and up to date information on how all 28 Member States’ are addressing the significant challenges for children and their families through policy measures can be found in the EPIC country profiles section. EPIC will furthermore continue collect and disseminates evidence-based practices in such areas as ECEC or parenting support, in order to inform decision-makers and practitioners about the steps they can take to address issues relating to social protection for children in Europe.
The EC has created a Policy Roadmap which will support Member States’ progress in implementing the SIP through enhanced analysis and monitoring policies and social outcomes throughout the European Semester. Measures include providing financial assistance and streamlining of governance and reporting, which will also support Member States in reaching the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy in particular reducing the number of people living in poverty and social exclusion by at least 20 million by 2020. EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor, said in this context: “Progress has been made in modernising welfare states throughout Europe. The Commission continues to work with Member States to support the structural social reforms necessary and developments will be monitored through the European Semester exercise."