From the disruption of their schooling, development of social skills and overall mental health and well-being, the pandemic has had a strong impact on children and young people. Home-schooling has deepened the inequalities in education and training. Child poverty is increasing in cities and the poorest are the hardest hit. Protecting children’s rights is now more crucial than ever.
According to Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, “cities need to invest in young people through education and interventions around drugs, alcohol and mental health.” Speaking last week during the 13th EU Forum on Children’s Rights, she continued, “all the work cities do in this field should be seen as a long-term investment to create better outcomes for young people. Cities need to address these issues together with national governments and European institutions, with a long term vision, putting children’s voices at the heart of everything we do.”
For its part, the European Commission is working on an EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, an all-encompassing approach to guarantee the protection of children’s rights, with a specific focus on the most vulnerable children.
Councillor Judith Blake, who also represented Eurocities Working Group on Children, used her intervention to reinforce the essential role of cities in any future strategies, as well as the role of city networks like Eurocities in ensuring that, “national borders don’t get in the way of our conversation about the rights of children.”
One of the principles behind the new EU Strategy is to put children at the centre of this process and to make their voices heard. 17-year-old Charlotte Williams, Chair of the Leeds Youth Council, who participated in the Forum, said: “What is missing is a proper understanding on the part of parents, teachers and other adults as to what it is like to exist as a child with the constant presence of the internet…. and the challenges that this brings”.
This sentiment was echoed by David Lega, a Member of the European Parliament, who insisted on the need to make children and young people full participants in the processes that affect them. He invited Williams to join him in Brussels, saying: “Children and children’s rights should be included in every thought and every perspective when we work together. My wish is to make the European Parliament a House of Children and children’s rights.”
Eurocities ‘Inclusive Cities for All’ campaign has so far motivated 17 cities to commit at political level to make their cities more inclusive for children, by strengthening childcare and support to children through investing over €6 billion on inclusive measures and services for children. This is in line with principle 11 of the European Pillar of Social Rights. More here.