Casa thanks Coleiro Preca for ‘sound advice’ on child guarantee in €88 billion ESF+

“I want to publicly thank her. She knows the subject well and she helped me a great deal in this area, which is, naturally, important to her.”

President emeritus Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca
President emeritus Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca

Nationalist MEP David Casa gave President Emeritus Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca hearty thanks for the “sound advice” she had given him on child poverty and social exclusion in his capacity as the European Parliament’s Rapporteur on the recently-approved €88 billion European Social Fund+.

A long-time advocate for children’s rights and the fight against economic and social exclusion, as President, Coleiro Preca established the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society, which she chairs, and she currently serves as the President of Eurochild.

The ESF+ negotiated by Casa applies a distinct focus on children’s access to childcare, education, healthcare and housing, and on youth employment. Moreover, all EU member states will be obliged to spend at least three per cent of their budgets to mitigate extreme poverty.

Speaking Thursday after the ESF+ was green lighted by the European Parliament’s Plenary earlier this week without a vote as it enjoyed the unanimity of all political parties, Casa said he had  consulted with Coleiro Preca, “many times on the child guarantee, and the advice she gave was sound.

“I want to publicly thank her. She knows the subject well and she helped me a great deal in this area, which is, naturally, important to her.”

He added, “It is now a legal obligation for every member state to use funds from the ESF for the fight against child poverty.”

Malta is expected receive around €125 million from the new ESF+, Casa said, calling on the Maltese government to draft a seven-year plan for the funds allocated to Malta. He noted how past ESF funding had gone toward the schoolchildren’s tablet scheme, JobsPlus schemes, unions and NGOs.

Casa, who forms part of the EP’s Bureau in his role as Quaestor, has been negotiating the European Social Fund since the beginning of the current legislature, leading difficult negotiations both within the Parliament itself, but also with the various Presidencies of the Council.

The final agreement with the Council had, in fact, been struck last January.

“For me, it was very important that we agreed on a balanced framework,” Casa commented on the negotiations.

“In fact, we managed to provide the member states with enough flexibility to ensure that they can use the money where they need it most, but at the same time we ensured adequate amounts to be spent on certain priorities, such as the Child Guarantee and the Youth Guarantee.”

The ESF+ was, he said, along with the Work-Life Balance Directive, the most important he has spearheaded in his career as an MEP.

During the negotiations led by Casa, the European Parliament secured more ambitious funding for investing in youth employment and combating child poverty, addressing two groups of people that have been particularly hard hit by the crisis.

Casa’s negotiations in the end led to an agreement that member states which had an above EU average percentage of children at risk of poverty or social exclusion between 2017 and 2019 should invest at least 5% of their programming resources in directly supporting children’s equal access to childcare, education, healthcare and decent housing. All member states are obliged to invest in combating child poverty.

Similarly, member states with an above EU-average percentage of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) between 2017 and 2019 should devote at least 12.5% of their ESF+ resources to help them improve their skills or find a good quality job. Other member states should also dedicate resources to them, preferably by implementing the reinforced Youth Guarantee schemes.

At least a quarter of the funds will be dedicated to measures fostering equal opportunities for disadvantaged groups, including marginalised communities such as Roma and third-country nationals, to reduce barriers on the labour market, tackle discrimination and address health inequalities.

Among other funds, the current Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) has been integrated into the new ESF+. Under the new rules, all member states will have to spend at least three per cent of their funds on food and basic material assistance to address the forms of extreme poverty that contribute most to social exclusion.

According to Casa, “We have adopted a balanced text and secured Parliament’s priorities. The ESF+ is the EU’s main instrument to build a more social and inclusive European Union.

“It is all the more crucial given the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and will play an important role in the recovery. Parliament will now closely monitor the effective use of the ESF+ across the EU.”

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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