On 5 July the European Parliament adopted an important Resolution ‘Towards a Common European Action on Care’. The Resolution calls for a rights-based and person-centred approach to care and caregiving and for ‘more investment in high-quality public care for every child in the EU‘. As organisations working to advance the rights of children, from their earliest years, we welcome the European Parliament’s clear call for greater ambition to ensure access to quality care for every child in the EU, including those under the age of three and especially those facing poverty, social exclusion and discrimination.
We support calls from civil society for a ‘life-course’ and continuum of care approach, which considers care needs from infancy and throughout people’s lives. Access to quality early childhood education and care is part of a strong ‘social Europe’ as envisaged in the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, and a key component of the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child.
We know that investing early in quality care for all children is essential for their healthy development and wellbeing. Nurturing care for very young children provides the foundation for them to reach their full potential and shapes their preparation for school and beyond. However, as highlighted in the Parliament’s Resolution, we know that many young children – especially children with disabilities, migrant and refugee children, children from minorities such as Roma children, children living in institutional care and those living in poverty – often do not benefit from quality care.
The European Child Guarantee, and the forthcoming Commission proposal for an EU Care Strategy and revised Barcelona targets, together provide a strong framework to ensure that all children benefit from high-quality early childhood education and care, from the start.
Both European policies present a unique opportunity to promote a holistic and integrated approach to early childhood development, which guarantees quality learning alongside care for every child, and healthy and safe home and community environments where each child can thrive.