The NGO’s report on child poverty places Spain as the third country in the European Union with the poorest children.
Poverty can seem like an anomaly when we talk about developed, first-world countries. Even more so when the poor are children, boys and girls who cannot live with minimal standards of well-being as apparently basic as a heated house or a guaranteed meal on the table.
And this is a painful reality that occurs in corners of the world as supposedly rich as the European Union. This data corroborates it: 1 in 4 children in the EU is in a situation of poverty.
In absolute terms, this means that in this corner of the world with 27 states and 447 million people, there are almost 20 million children (19.6) who can be considered poor, according to Eurostat data analyzed by Save the Children.
And what is more worrying: every year there are more. The numbers from the EU Statistics Office paint a picture of the situation in 2021 and detect that there were 200,000 more children than the previous year in a situation of poverty.
The solution is known but the instructions are missing
The solution is called the European Child Guarantee, an instrument approved by the 27 two summers ago that provides an economic fund to invest in social policies that effectively reverse child poverty. And this is where guidance is needed: how should this money be invested so that it actually gets results?
Save the Children wanted to answer this question through the report it presented this Tuesday to the European Parliament. It has been titled “Guaranteeing the future of children” and wants to complement the plans that each member state has to present against child poverty. They should have been submitted a year ago and even now there are 9 member states that have not done so.
Spain’s plan has indeed been presented and foresees an investment of 1,000 million euros until 2027, of which 70% come from the European fund and 30% contributions from the state budget.
Governments are required, for example, to provide children at risk with free access to high-quality early education and care, free school education and activities, at least one healthy meal each school day, and health care, as well as affordable access to nutrition and adequate housing.
But Save the Children also makes individualized recommendations for each member state and pays special attention to Spain. So much so that the NGO’s presentation to the European Parliament was carried out by its manager in Europe, Ylva Sperling, and the delegate in Spain, Andrés Conde.
Conde recalled that Spain is the third country in the EU with the worst indicators of child poverty and that, in part, he said in statements to 324. cat, it is because “there is not enough social awareness and even political denialism. Until now not long ago we saw statements in the parliamentary seat assuring that child poverty was a lie and also high officials of autonomous communities doing denialism”.
Something changed in this regard when the day before the presentation of the report the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, who had already had access to the data, admitted that child poverty is an “infamy” and that it cannot be expected that the solution comes from the laws of the market, but will have to come “from efficient policies.”
Spain, the third worst statistic
The Spanish government has work to do to reverse the statistics that place it behind Romania and Bulgaria in the percentage of child poverty with 33.4% of minors in this situation. That’s more than a third. In the EU as a whole, it affects 24.4%, a quarter of minors.
Catalonia can’t go to sleep too easily either if you look at its levels of child poverty because this rate stands at 28%, which in absolute terms translates into a total of 400,000 Catalan children in a situation of poverty.
Conde explains that Save the Children is advising the Government of the Generalitat on a seven-year plan (2023-2030) for the implementation of effective policies against poverty. He admits that they have found a lot of receptivity on the part of the government and “political will”, which is fundamental – says Conde – in addition to taking advantage of the funds that the EU has released through the European Child Guarantee.
The work that Saves the Children does with the Generalitat wants to be extended to all European countries to guide them in the challenge of ensuring that investments are as safe as possible. In Brussels, he has presented a series of general recommendations and some individualized ones, such as the check that Spain should pay for each minor child.
100 euros per month for each minor child
Save the Children’s proposal for Spain reads verbatim:
“Apply a universal benefit of at least 100 euros per month for children between the ages of 0 and 17. This benefit should be articulated through refundable tax credits that reach all children in the form of a direct benefit or deduction in the declaration, regardless of the parent’s income level and their obligation to pay taxes”.
What is important about this measure, says Andrés Conde, is that it is universal. Other European countries are applying this recipe successfully because they understand that “it is necessary to protect all children and not just the most vulnerable.”
In addition, Save the Children focuses on different areas that accentuate the effects of child poverty, such as nutrition. The report warns that at least one free, healthy meal should be ensured at school and that vulnerable families should be helped to buy food.
And also help the most vulnerable to have access to mental health, especially after a pandemic that has aggravated the levels of child poverty. In the field of health, it also refers to free access to visual and dental care.
All of this can be of little use if other essential elements such as housing conditions are not taken into account. Save the Children emphasizes ensuring decent housing and calls for social housing policies that work.
Finally, the report also identifies which groups where it is necessary to focus more efforts on the part of the administrations when designing their policies against social poverty.
According to the report, children of migrant origin, refugees, asylum seekers, irregular administrative situations, and unaccompanied are the most affected. In Italy, for example, 32.4% of migrants live in poverty, compared to 7.2% of the Italian population.
The report also shows that children living in single-parent families, disadvantaged large families, children with disabilities, and those who belong to ethnic minorities are also at risk.