Madrid committed to children and families

22 March 2021

One third Madrid’s households have seen a reduction in income, 42% of which include dependent children and 47% of which are single-parent households, according to a recent study carried out by Madrid City Council.

“The virus hit hard and by surprise,” explains Pepe Aniorte, Madrid’s Families, Equality and Social Welfare Area delegate, “and we had to improvise innovative responses with existing resources. The Madrid City Council responded with measures aimed at keeping essential services open and providing help to the families most affected by the health and economic crisis.”

This included healthy meals sent home for children from municipal nurseries, and an unprecedented effort in food aid, reaching an estimated 270,000 people. A flagship initiative was the Family Card (Tarjeta Familias), a prepaid card for the purchase of food, toiletries and cleaning supplies, which is topped up monthly for amounts between €125 and €630.

Psychological support and bridging divides

Lockdown measures, and limitations to movement have caused family dynamics to worsen in many cases, and in regards to children, two specific types of behaviour have been identified. On the one hand, addiction to technology and, on the other, social isolation due to a lack of digital resources to connect with the outside world, according to the city council’s research.

Furthermore, physical and emotional disconnection, both from school and from other support resources, has separated many children and adolescents from their daily protective environments, accelerating the processes of disconnection from the educational system and the development of behaviours classified as risky.

With this in mind, the city wants to ensure its policies for childhood and adolescence take into account the closure of schools and its immediate effects on reducing classroom hours, emotional disconnection from school, and the rapid transfer of all activity to the digital environment; economic cessation and limitation measures which affect family situations and as a result the learning of children and adolescents.

For example, from June 2021, youth centres will begin to provide psychological services in order to assess, guide, intervene and promote individual and group actions among young people, with a preventive and therapeutic nature.

Already, other services, such as Family Support Centres, Casa Grande and Young people’s centres (‘Enredaderos’) were adapted for telephone and online support. Guides were published on how to handle lockdown with children according to their age (babies, adolescents, young people, adults), intra-family relations, loneliness, bereavement, break-ups or going back to school.

To reduce the digital divide among the most vulnerable families, students were provided with tablets so that they could follow classes online and engage with online resources.

Municipal nurseries created resources and videoconferences for interactive work with children: storytelling, healthy meals, children’s massages and educational games.

The Commission of Children and Adolescents and Conecta Juventud 2.0 websites provided numerous proposals for leisure, support and current news about the pandemic. All of these were met with enthusiasm by young people and adolescents, reaching two million interactions in 2020.

And, over the summer, nurseries were opened and camps were offered to meet the needs of families who could not telework or belonged to essential sectors. “After the health and economic problems came those of reconciliation, which generated some added complications for families and led us to implement urgent and innovative measures,” Aniorte explains.

Find out more in Madrid’s recently approved IV Plan for Children and Adolescents (2020-2023).

The EU Child Guarantee, which will be proposed by the European Commission this Wednesday, promises to address child poverty by bringing all levels of government to work together on an integrated strategy to reduce child poverty.

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Alex Godson Eurocities Writer