The European Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) called for increased EU and national support for measures against child poverty, warning of an upward trend in the number of children at risk of poverty or social inclusion across the Union, according to Euractiv.
In its latest report published on Thursday, FRA warned that the number of children living in poverty across member states continued to grow until 2022 despite measures to address the problem at the national level.
While the risk of child poverty declined before 2020, the pandemic caused a new increase.
On top of this, high energy costs and rising inflation due to the impact of the war in Ukraine have hit poor households the most, FRA reported, adding that many vulnerable families had to reduce their spending on heating and transport.
Inflation and energy costs hit the youngest in particular, with a child poverty rate at 24.4% in 2021, while poverty slightly decreased for the generation of people aged 65 or over.
At the same time, the proportion of children living in severe material and social deprivation, which mostly affects children of ethnic minorities such as Roma, decreased from 8.3% in 2020 to 7.5% in 2021, FRA reported.
Child poverty rates vary widely across the Union, from 10.3% in Slovenia to 41.5% in Romania, according to 2022 data from the European statistical office Eurostat. Other countries with the highest proportion of children at risk of poverty or social exclusion are Bulgaria (33.9%) and Spain (32.2%).
The new FRA report calls on member states to scale up all necessary measures to lift children out of poverty as well as step up efforts to implement the EU child guarantee against childhood poverty and exclusion.
The Guarantee was adopted in 2021 to facilitate access to free education and healthcare, nutrition, and adequate housing in a bid to fight poverty and social exclusion among children. Following the adoption of the Guarantee, which came in the form of a non-binding Council Recommendation, member states appointed national coordinators and submitted national action plans.
However, six member states have yet to submit their national action plans, which were due in March 2022. According to the report, the delay was caused by the short implementation period as well as the impact of the war in Ukraine which pushed many governments to primarily focus on the reception of Ukrainian refugee children.
According to the Fundamental Rights Agency, the European Commission should also step up its efforts and give more guidance, as well as financial support, to help member states implement the Guarantee.
However, the EU budget is already very strained and it will be hard to reinforce the spending for certain priorities significantly, as the Commission’s proposal for the 2024 budget shows.