The European network Eurochild has published a blog post on its website about our joint activities and released reports. Eurochild brings together more than 200 organizations in 37 countries in Europe and advocates for the rights and well-being of children in close collaboration with EU structures. The National Network for Children Bulgaria (NNC) has been a member of the Network for more than 10 years and is the national partner for Bulgaria in a number of focus policies, including the effective implementation of the European Child Guarantee – an EU initiative that aims to provide access to healthcare, education, childcare, home, and adequate nutrition for children at risk of poverty and vulnerable groups in the EU.
The fifth person’s potential, if poverty wasn’t a factor, highlights data from the study (In)visible Children and our report on the implementation of the European Child Guarantee in Bulgaria, elaborated together with Hopes and Homes for Children, Bulgaria, Know-How Centre for the Alternative Care for Children, New Bulgarian University and members of NNC Bulgaria.
Bulgaria is a country with the third-highest percentage of child poverty (33%), and ‘children left behind’ (by parents working abroad), especially those living in ‘ghettos’ and remote settlements, are among the ones most in need in our country. Despite the significant progress made, the deinstitutionalization reform is far from complete. The foster care system is underdeveloped and relies mainly on EU funding. Roma children are overrepresented in alternative care, and those who have recently been reintegrated into their families are at high risk of being abandoned again due to their insecure family situation.
The publication notes that every fifth person in the EU population has been at risk of poverty or social exclusion (data from the UN Human Rights Agency for 2019). This fifth person is likely to be a child, as children at risk of poverty in the EU number 19.4 million. According to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, Roma children are a minority group living in the most vulnerable conditions in Europe, with an astonishing 90% at risk of poverty.
Given the data, how often is this fifth person a child of Roma origin? Countries like Spain and Greece report that Roma children live in households where at least one person goes to bed hungry at least once a month. In addition, eleven countries, including Bulgaria, report on the negative experience of Roma children, families, and communities at risk of poverty and social exclusion in the “(In)visible Children” report.
The National Network for Children, as Eurochild’s leading partner for Bulgaria, is committed to helping tackle poverty as a barrier that deprives children of their rights to healthcare, education, and childcare, as well as their right to be heard on issues that affect them. The Eurochild supports our efforts to insist on the implementation of the European Child Guarantee (ECG) so that the perspectives and needs of families and children in need are included in the National Action Plan for the ECG.
The mechanism involves directing 5% of the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) towards measures against child poverty in Bulgaria. They must reach 200,000 children in Bulgaria through integrated approaches and measures. This means not just direct financial support, but also activities for early childhood education and care, inclusive education and school activities, healthcare and healthy nutrition, family support services, care, and protection.
To implement the Child Guarantee at the local level, the EU partners with UNICEF. An active partner in the implementation of activities is also the “Tanya’s Dream” Fund, supported by the Swiss Foundation for Charity.