What social services do EU Countries guarantee to children with disabilities by 2030?
Nearly 18 million of children are currently at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU. In June 2021, The European Child Guarantee was adopted as a Council Recommendation which calls upon national governments to ensuring that every child in Europe has access to the most basic rights.
The Child Guarantee addresses children ‘in need’,including children with disabilities and children who live in residential care. The objective is for them to access early childhood education and care, education and school-based activities, healthcare, adequate housing, and healthy nutrition.
Since March 2022, half of the EU countries published their national plans to implement the Child Guarantee until 2030. You can check here the national plans for Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden.
In EASPD we are analysing each action plan focusing on children with disabilities and we want to share our main conclusions with you. We decided to start analysing the Spanish action plan, where we could find promising commitments regarding inclusive education and deinstitutionalisation.
What about Spain?
In 2020, there were almost 2.7 million children at risk of poverty and social exclusion in Spain. This is the third highest child at-risk-of-poverty and social exclusion rate in the EU (31.1%) and the sixth highest child inequality in the OECD.
There are 129,540 children with disabilities, and 35,608 children under the guardianship of public administrations. Almost the half of the latter are living in residential care, even though the Law establishes that the priority for children under guardianship should be to live in family foster care; and 1,030 of them are children with disabilities.
The country shows a high level of commitment, presenting data and addressing key issues about vulnerability in a structured way. As recommended, both children with disabilities and in alternative care are target groups for the Spanish national plan, and civil society is taking part in the process, with a wide participation, including of NGOs specialised in disabilities.
Particularly relevant is the so-called ‘Shock Plan for the Care Economy and Strengthening the Equality and Inclusion Policies’ where a National Deinstitutionalisation Strategy and a Long-term Care and Support Plan are settled. Some of the targets to be reached by 2030 are:
- no children under 10 years old lives in residential care.
- foster care reaches 70% of the children under the guardianship of public administrations.
- no centre with more than 30 places (except first reception centres).
- the care system has updated its intervention model towards a person-centred support model.
These targets show commitment but, at the same, a missed opportunity to go further and fully align with the Human Rights Conventions. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises that children (0-18 years old) should grow up in a family environment and in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding for the full and harmonious development of their personalities.
Efforts should thus go to avoiding residential care for children up to 18 years old and being more ambitious on what refers to foster care.
Finally, if shifting towards person-centred support is key to deinstitutionalisation, smaller and more personalised living arrangements are more likely to ensure opportunities for choice and self-determination. Centres with 30 places are too large for this to happen.
Another important component is the Plan for Inclusive Education which will be implemented in cooperation with the Autonomous Communities and third sector organisations within ten years. Addressing the challenge to adapt the education centres for children with disabilities is highlighted as key to advance towards an inclusive education.
The last component to highlight is on early childhood intervention. Known as ECI, it is a spectrum of services for families and children that need special support to enhance their personal development.
In Spain, early childhood intervention is not recognised as a subjective right and there is an unequal coverage among the Autonomous Communities. By 2030, the goal is to recognise it as a subjective right, and that all children aged 0-6 have universal, free, and effective access to comprehensive early intervention services.
Many are the challenges, and ambitious are the goals. As this plan provides a medium-term goal for 2025, let’s civil society make the Spanish administrations accountable to keep on track to this plan.
What is the situation in the rest of the EU?
As mentioned, we will provide more information on all the Child Guarantee national plans. The aim is that our members, and civil society in general, can reach out to the Child Guarantee National Coordinators to ensure that children and families access quality, empowering and family-centred support in their communities and natural environments, starting from early childhood intervention.