Combating child poverty through measures promoting the socio-cultural participation of clients of the Public Centres for Social Welfare
In the European Union, one in five children lives in a household which is at risk of poverty. As families are forced to economise on all but the most basic needs, spending on educational and recreational activities, among other things, tends to be restricted. This is potentially damaging for children’s future prospects; experiences in early childhood have a significant impact on outcomes in later life and are thus crucial for social inclusion in adulthood. In order to tackle those issues, a multidimensional, long-term strategy which addresses the deficit in socio-cultural participation is... needed. In Belgium, each municipality has a Public Centre for Social Welfare (PCSW) which provides various kinds of support and assistance (e.g. income support, legal and medical help) to those in need. PCSWs receive EUR 6.7 million from the Federal Government to promote the participation of young people in social and cultural activities. Subsidies (of EUR 4.2 million in total) are also available to address substandard living conditions of minors. These can be used for a range of measures, such as support for parents, educational support (e.g. homework classes) and help to meet healthcare needs (e.g. to help cover the costs of hearing aids or glasses). The effectiveness of the Belgian system owes much to successful collaboration between local authorities and central government. The efforts aimed at combating child poverty and social exclusion as well as preventing the inter-generational transmission of disadvantages are crucial investments in future and present direct contribution to the Europe 2020 Strategy.