The European Platform for Investing in Children (EPIC) presents a round-up of the latest developments in child and family policy in EU member states in April 2021. Each piece of news contains a link to the original source, which may be in a language other than English. In most cases, they are press releases from the relevant ministries.
European Union: Study on free movement of rainbow families in the EU
The European Parliament published a study examining the obstacles to free movement faced by rainbow families (families including same-sex couples) in the EU. The study details the challenges faced, how EU Member States have treated rainbow families in these situations, and further actions that EU institutions can take to enable freedom of movement. This study follows the release of the European Commission strategy on LGBTIQ equality in November 2020, which included a focus on free movement of rainbow families.
Bulgaria: Play areas for children of employees of public companies and institutions
The ministry with responsibility for social affairs (Министерство на Труда и Социалната Политика) has announced that over 100 companies and public institutions will introduce play areas for use by employees’ children. The project, entitled ‘Kids’ Corners’ (Детски кътове), will also provide trained babysitters. The total value of the projects is over BGN 6.6 million (approximately €3.7 million).
France: Support to families during COVID-19 outbreak
France has taken several measures to support parents and families through the most recent wave of COVID-19. The ministry with responsibility for solidarity and health (Ministre des Solidarités et de la Santé) detailed emergency measures designed to support children during the health crisis, including the distribution of essential baby items such as bedding, milk powder and baby wipes, the provision of free school breakfasts across the country, and providing €1 school meals for low-income families. The ministry also launched an emergency hotline for cyber-violence against children as a protective measure, responding to reports of increased online activity during the pandemic. Additionally, the organisation that provides family benefits (CNAF or Caisse Nationale d’Allocations Familiales) began funding childcare places in full for key workers from 03 April. Furthermore, children aged between three and seventeen who are referred for mental health support will receive 10 free sessions with a psychologist.
Germany: New law to strengthen children and young people with special needs
On 22 April, the German parliament (Bundestag) approved a draft of a new law that aims to support children and young people with special needs by ensuring equal opportunities and improving their participation. The draft law has five strands: improving operational processes in care institutions, empowering children and adolescents growing up in foster families or in educational support facilities, facilitating better assistance for children and young people with disabilities, providing support to families with special needs, and strengthening the right of young people, parents and families to participate. The draft law was now be forwarded to the federal council (Bundesrat) for approval before entering into force.
Ireland: New national framework on participation of children and the youth
On 14 April, the ministry with responsibility for children launched a new national framework that aims to support children to participate in decision-making. The framework aims to support government departments, agencies and organisations to better listen to children and young people and to provide them with a voice in decision-making. Developed in collaboration with various stakeholders from national and local levels, the framework provides guidance and checklists for relevant decision-makers.
Lithuania: Financial support for children with disabilities and children who have experienced violence
The ministry with responsibility for social security (Socialinės apsaugos ir darbo ministerija) allocated €200,000 to eleven non-governmental organisations in order to support children who have experienced or witnessed domestic violence. The funds will go towards support services for children, including legal counsel, mental health and educational support, and social workers. The ministry has also increased financial support provided to children and adults with reduced mobility in order to allow them to purchase items needed to support day-to-day living (including mobility scooters).
Malta: Automatic adjustment of utility bills following the birth of a child
Parents in Malta are now able to include their utilities account number when declaring the birth of a child, enabling their utility bills subsidy to be correctly calculated to incorporate the new addition to the family. This facility aims to simplify processes for families and removes the requirement to make in-person submissions to the relevant companies.
Romania: Return-to-work incentive for parents
The Romanian government (Guvernul României) have increased parental leave allowance, with the goal of incentivising parents to return to work soon after the birth of their child. The allowance is now 1,500 Leu (just over €300) which is increased from the current allowance of 650 Leu (approximately €140) for parents who will return to work before a child is six months old (or one year old in the case of children with disabilities). The allowance will be paid until the child is two years old (or three years old in the case of children with disabilities). The ordinance also expanded the provision of the allowance to parents who return to work while caring for a child with disabilities aged between three and seven years old.
Slovenia: Law adopted to better support child victims of sexual abuse
The Slovenian representative body (Državni zbor Republike Slovenije) adopted a law on child protection on 26 March 2021. Called the Barnahus (or “children’s house”) law, this is a governmental approach that aims to improve interagency coordination and therefore reduce the occurrence of childhood sexual abuse. The approach has been promoted in Slovenia by EU Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM) and the Council of Europe.
International: Volvo introduces 6-month parental leave for employees
Swedish car-maker Volvo introduced a ‘Family Bond’ policy that gives employees in all countries globally 24 weeks of parental leave at 80% of their base pay. The policy applies to either parent if they have worked for at least one year and the leave can be taken anytime within the first three years of parenthood. Volvo has automatically opted-in all employees in order to create a ‘default effect’, where people are more likely to continue with a pre-selected option rather than voluntarily opt-in at a later time. The policy aims to support more equal share of care responsibilities across parents and reduce the gender gap.