Over the course of 2014, the European Commission is organising a series seminars across Europe on the topic of the Recommendation for Investing in Children. The first event was held on March 27th-28th as part of the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy’s High Level National Conference on Childhood and Adolescence, during which a specific seminar on the Recommendation for Investing in Children was organised by the European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA). In May 2014, a second seminar on the implementation of the Recommendation was held in Greece; the event was organised by EIPA and focused on the implementation of the Recommendation in Greece.
There were obvious links between the conference and the EU agenda, and not only in the title of the Italian conference, and Greek seminar on ‘Investing in Children’ but also in the content of many of the workshops which not only focused on child poverty, early childhood education and care (ECEC), and children and family, but also on early intervention and prevention. Social innovation and social policy research were also highlighted at the Italian conference, and new programs were presented, notably a pilot programme (PIPPI), running in 10 Italian cities and soon to be expanded, which focuses on children at risk not being removed from their family environment. The Greek seminar included 40 participants from the Ministry of Labour and Welfare, and other EU and stakeholder representatives, and examined the state of implementation of the Recommendation and the possible role of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESF and ERDF) among other themes.
The seminar brought together 25 participants, including experts and members of civil society and (local) authorities, met for the seminar. This started with a presentation regarding the Recommendation’s core messages followed by an expert discussing IT’s key challenges and EIPA presenting on EU funding instruments. Furthermore a presentation on Italy’s plans for the future programming period highlighted that FEAD is likely to focus more primarily on children. This seminar also presented an opportunity to highlight the challenges that stem from interpreting the balance between ‘passive’ and ‘active’ dimensions within European Social Fund (ESF). Discussions also highlighted the need to decide on how investments and funding are channelled into specific priorities. Later on in the seminar 6 different projects related to ECEC presented the variety of what the ESF can support and highlighted emerging challenges which they face:
A wide range of EU and Greek stakeholders were represented at this EU seminar, including staff from the Ministry of Labour and Welfare, ESF management authorities from the 13 regions in charge of implementing the multi- fund ESF-ERDF Operational Programmes, as well as representatives from major stakeholders including UNICEF and Eurochild. The forty participants were delivered a series of keynote speeches, including from DG EMPL. The seminar focused on the status of the implementation of the Recommendation on Investing in Children, the use of the European Social Fund, the exchange of best practice (notably as found on EPIC and on Eurochild and ESN networks), as well as the Greek response to the Recommendation and the potential to fund new child-focused projects in the future. The discussion included discussions of the complementarity between the ESF and national programmes, and the need for evaluation. UNICEF presented its latest report on child poverty in Greece while Eurochild offered its vision of child wellbeing and highlighted the use of the newly launched Code of Conduct on Partnership Principle when implementing the European Structural and Investment Funds. In short, these seminars provided an opportunity from pan-European stakeholders to think about the challenges of child poverty and the opportunities that exist thanks to EU funding and collaboration across sectors to foster child wellbeing in Europe.