ARK, Eurochild and Hope and Homes for Children called on EU decision makers to take decisive action to help end the harmful and unnecessary institutionalisation of over a million children in Europe.
This includes dedicated cohesion policy funding for the de-institutionalisation of children in the new EU budget and the development of clear policy guidelines and monitoring mechanisms at EU level.
The Call to Action was issued during a series of events and exhibits on the institutionalisation of children in Europe being held in the European Parliament throughout this week, hosted by Mairead McGuinness, MEP.
"When I saw with my own eyes the misery of children living in institutions, I knew that the EU had to act. No child in Europe should be denied the right to family life; no child should be trapped in an outdated system when we know better alternatives exist. The good news is, the EU has the tools at its disposal to put an end to this, once and for all" - said exhibition host Mairead McGuinness MEP.
While scientific research clearly shows that living in institutions is extremely damaging to children, the number of institutionalised children is stagnant in many European countries. While slow progress is being made in some EU states there is a danger of reversing this trend, especially in the current economic climate. At the same time family and community based alternatives such as fostering and adoption are widely available and are proven to reduce longer term social costs.
"If the EU can regulate the living conditions of chickens, it should do more to support the de-institutionalisation of children. What is needed is not only targeted funding, but also political direction from the EU on how to deploy these funds to reform childcare systems at Member State level. The shocking fact is that in some countries, EU funds are still being used to keep Dickensian-style institutions open," - according to Charles Abani, Managing Director, ARK.
While ARK, Hope and Homes for Children and Eurochild acknowledge that primary responsibility for how children are cared for lies with EU states, they call for:
- Stronger political commitment and policy guidance from the EU to bring about deinstitutionalisation of children across the region
- An effective use of EU funds, including ensuring that they are no longer used to maintain harmful institutions
- The current draft EU Cohesion Policy Current provisions to retain provisions on community based care
The EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor said: "Current Cohesion Funding proposals envisage the use of these funds to promote the transition from institutional to community-based care. I call on the Members of the European Parliament and Member States to support these provisions to ensure that the European Union helps end the institutionalisation of children in Europe."