In Spain, more than two million children lived under the poverty line even before the pandemic broke out, which brought with it a great social crisis. They are the 27, 3% of the minors. The fourth European economy is at the bottom of the Union, only Romania and Bulgaria have worse data. To reverse the situation, the Government is designing a strategy to combat child poverty. To do this, you will have at least 779 million euros from 2021 to 2027, of which 527 come from European funds and the rest will be provided by the Spanish Administrations, as announced by the Minister of Social Rights, Ione Belarra, this Wednesday in Madrid.
The minister attended the event in which an analysis coordinated by Unicef was presented that will serve to lay the foundations of the plan to implement the European child guarantee in Spain , a program that aims to fight against the social exclusion of minors. The Government must present the strategy to the European Commission before 15 March 2022. The experts propose a score of objectives for 2030, among them, reducing at least by half the children at risk of poverty or exclusion.
Being at risk of poverty means living in a household that earns less than 60% of the country’s median income, an indicator which takes into account the number of family members. In other words, the poverty threshold changes depending on how the income of citizens fluctuates. With data from 2030, a person living alone is considered to be below this threshold if they enter less than 9. 626 euros per year. If it is a couple with two children, the figure rises 20 . 215 euros. It is a population group that is at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the country, based on their income. In the case of severe poverty, the threshold drops even further, according to the UNICEF report, to 25% of the country’s median income. There is more of 400.000 children and adolescents in this situation.
The report is the X-ray of a reality that blushes. Spain is one of the countries where inequality and poverty increased most notably during the economic crisis that began in 2008. The situation has evolved in a “particularly worrying” way for children under six years of age, with a risk of poverty (29, 4%) which exceeds that of the “worst moments of the crisis”. Half of the children living in single-parent households are at risk of poverty or exclusion. Child overweight exceeds 18%. Almost 6% of minors reside in overcrowded homes and in homes with deprivation of some element such as the bathtub or the toilet inside, for example.
Last June the European Child Guarantee, a recommendation of the Council of the European Union that seeks to guarantee the access of children living at risk of poverty or social exclusion to key services: early childhood care, education and extracurricular activities, at least one healthy meal per school day, health, adequate housing and healthy nutrition. The European institutions approved that in countries that are above the average rate of risk of poverty or exclusion, such as Spain, at least 5% of the European Social Fund Plus should be dedicated to combating these figures: the 527 million euros to which the minister referred, and given that the fund requires the administrations of the member states to co-finance, others 252 millions will be contributed from Spain. This is the first time that this fund has made a specific contribution against child poverty: the amount it amounts to is historic in Spain. The plan that will be sent to the European Commission will detail if more European funds or budgets are provided.
Spain is one of the seven Member States in which a pilot project was approved to implement the child guarantee. Its implementation will be coordinated by the Ministry of Social Rights and Agenda 2030, the High Commissioner against Child Poverty and Unicef. The European Commission commissioned this NGO to carry out an analysis, which has been prepared by a research team led by the University of Alcalá de Henares and the CSIC, whose conclusions, which are not binding, will serve as the basis for the national plan. It is the first country to participate in the pilot project in which this analysis is made public.
The diagnosis shows that the Children living in poverty have a very difficult time in Spain. Vulnerable groups are detected: children living in precarious family situations (where single-parent and large households stand out), the Roma minority (the 89% live in poverty and 54%, in poverty severe; only 17% of adolescents complete the first cycle of secondary education), who have a disability certificate (were 129. 540 in 2019), those with mental health problems (a “growing group”, in 2017 were 1% of the children), those of migrant origin (they suffer segregation, and a dropout rate in secondary education that doubles that of native children), who suffer severe deprivation in terms of housing (homeless children and adolescents constitute 2.6% of homeless people, according to their estimate), and those who receive alternative care, that is, minors in care.
“For all of them, life always has an obstacle, a barrier, a step that they must overcome,” said Belarra. The minister has also announced a package of measures within the framework of the family diversity law, which is being developed by her department. He has assured that he will continue to “work” so that the General State Budgets of 2023 include a universal income for raising 100 euros per month for children from zero to three years old and the extension of paternity and maternity leave to six months, which have been left out of the Accounts that the Government proposes for 2022.
The document presented this Wednesday on the European child guarantee highlights that responsibility in childhood falls on different levels of the Administration. In fact, it will be the sectoral conference on childhood, which brings together the ministry with communities and local entities, the body in which the national plan is negotiated. The document analyzes the existing investment in services for children living in poverty and social exclusion, and specifies that there is “difficulty” in measuring it. It is specified that the action plan will require “not only ordering and, where appropriate, increasing current resources”, but also taking advantage of the opportunities offered by European funds.
The situation is serious. Children who grow up in poor households have fewer opportunities, more likely to suffer from health problems in adulthood, fewer options to find a job. “It is an indecent reality,” said Ernesto Gasco, High Commissioner against child poverty. The experts indicate in the document good practices that are already underway in different territories in Spain and propose 19 objectives for 2030, such as increasing cash transfers to families and children, of the 149 euros per year from 2018 to 404 euros , to reduce at least by half the proportion of children living at risk of poverty or social exclusion (of 31, 1% current to 17, 2%) or halve unmet mental health needs (from 1% of 2017 to 0.5%). The objective is to put an end, at last, to a situation that for the moment Spain has not been able to tackle.