- European Union Publications Office
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The objective of this thematic report is to assess the European Social Fund (ESF) and Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) support to investing in children. It is based on a screening of ESF and YEI Operational Programmes (OPs) and Annual Implementation Reports (AIRs) as well as the responses to an e-survey for ESF Managing Authorities. Interviews with five Managing Authorities selected for in-depth analysis were also carried out: OP Sachsen-Anhalt (DE), OP Hamburg (DE), OP Toscana (IT), OP Employment (CZ) and OP Research, Development and Education (CZ). Children are more at risk of poverty or social exclusion than the overall population in a large majority of EU countries. Children in the EU also experience different levels of early school leaving and access to Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC). This is not only a problem in itself but it also poses a major challenge for the attainment of the European Union’s growth and development goals. Support to children in the EU is increasingly taking centre stage. In 2013, the European Commission Recommendation “Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage” set out key recommendations for Member States regarding supporting well-being and positive outcomes for children and families. In 2015 the European Parliament called for a “Child Guarantee for Vulnerable Children”, in line with the objective of providing adequate living standards through a combination of benefits. The European Pillar of Social Rights introduced in 2017 identifies childcare and support to children as one of its 20 key principles against which Member States should benchmark their social policies. Finally, in May 2019 the Council adopted a Recommendation on High-Quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Systems. The Recommendation shifts the focus from the coverage to the quality of childhood services. ESF and YEI operations play an important role in supporting children and their wellbeing across the EU. They do so in parallel with several other EU-level instruments, such as the Fund for the Most Deprived (FEAD) that supports children and their families through basic material and social inclusion assistance, the ERDF supporting the infrastructural development of early childcare structures and schools, DG Justice REC (Rights, equality and citizenship) and Justice programmes targeting children’s rights and protection, and DG HOME’s initiatives supporting migrant children.