'A universal benefit for each child', David Ruiz, FEDAIA

Interview with David Ruiz, Vice-President of FEDAIA (Federació d'entitats d'atenció a la infància i l'adolescència). Eurochild member FEDAIA is the platform that brings together Catalonian organisations that work with children, youth and families at risk of social exclusion or neglect

1.Can you explain briefly what role FEDAIA plays in Catalonia? What are the challenges you face regarding your work on child rights?

FEDAIA is a federation of Catalan organisations. We bring together non-profit organisations working with children or families that are at risk of social exclusion. In total we work with around 90 NGOs in Catalonia and these organisations provide services to 100,000 children and 35,000 families. The organisations promote equal opportunities for all children; they create awareness, stimulate autonomy and strive for better circumstances for these children. FEDAIA advocates and campaigns for the improvement of the situation of children and their inclusion in society.  We advocate on a political level, try to create awareness and think of models of intervention, but also promote dialogue between our organisations. We think along and help develop services the organisations provide to children and families. 


2.Last year FEDAIA launched the campaign 'La Infancia no potesperar' (‘Childhood cannot wait’) in Catalonia. Could you tell me something about the campaign and its impact? 

The campaign ‘La infancia no pot esperar’ is part of our advocacy work.  It aims to create social awareness of the situation of children and families in risk. Especially now, thinking of the impact the economic crisis has had, this campaign is important. The social policies on children and family rights in Catalonia and Spain were not really solid and therefore the effect of the crisis have been stronger than in other European countries.  Hence, the objective of the campaign is to put childhood on the political agenda. Childhood must be a political priority. Whether or not childhood gets the necessary attention can be seen looking at government’s budget proposals. To invest in children financially is a good and simple way to improve the situation of children. Everyone wants the best for children, but it has to be put into reality on a political level by investing more in them.


3.FEDAIA called on the government to take into account the needs of children and families and to include a universal income for children.  Could you tell us more about your proposal for a ‘Prestació Universal per a la Criança (PEUC)’ or Universal benefit for children?  

Our proposal for a universal allowance or benefit for each child tries to make the issue concrete by researching how much a child needs. So we work together with our organisations, for example with organisations providing residential care and see with them what a child needs. We received help from economic experts and established a figure for the allowance. We ask the government to at least pay 2500 euro per year per child. Obviously, in other countries a similar allowance already exists. That’s why we want to promote a strong family policy in Catalonia that ensures that the impact of the economic crisis has less financial consequences for children. The allowance children receive now is very little, and also one should take into account that the subsidies that families and children receive according to their social economic situation can be stigmatising as you first have to show that you are in financial need. We advocate for an allowance that is the same for everybody. 

4.Are you optimistic about the universal allowance? Do you think it will become a reality?

The current political context is quite complex, but we have seen that some political parties in Catalonia are open to our ideas.  We are advocating and try to make the universal allowance a reality. At the moment in Catalonia the idea of an equal income for all, or for people in more vulnerable situations, is being discussed. Yet, FEDAIA really tries to emphasize the focus on childhood and on children. We approach and treat the socio-economic issues that are being debated separately and from the specific perspective of the child. 


5.How does FEDAIA regard the issue of children in care and deinstitutionalisation in Catalonia? An example of work on deinstitutionalisation?

Fedaia promotes a series of programs aimed to prevent children from being institutionalized. They focus especially on what preventative steps can be taken on a local level so institutionalization is not necessary.  In Catalonia we have a great law (‘Derechos y Oportunidades en la Infancia’) that provides a number of programs focused on prevention that help children in situations of risk or neglect.  The law lists several programs relating to prevention, yet, in reality they are often not regulated and implemented. Through advocacy and by putting pressure FEDAIA tries to ensure that certain aspects of this legislation actually become implemented. We are interested in the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign because we also think that the best place for a child to be is in a family. An institution should be the last option. As an umbrella organisation we work both with institutions offering residential care and with NGOs that work on prevention. Our political advocacy so far has been directed strongly at prevention and working with families and we also promote alternative measures of child care. Of course in some cases it can be difficult to find an alternative for an institution. Luckily some institutions are becoming increasingly community-based. 

6.How do you regard networks like Eurochild?

I think FEDAIA is, like Eurochild, an ‘umbrella’ organization. We both serve as a network for other organisations.  You give us access to what happens at European level and I believe that is very important. Also, it puts us in contact with other organisations like for example at the recent Opening Doors meeting in Brussels. So, in this sense, there is an exchange of knowledge, of contacts and networks. FEDAIA is looking forward to engage more actively at the European level. Having networks at both national and international level strengthens the advocacy work in general. The implementation of the PEUC (the universal allowance for children) is carried out by one of our member organisations. You see that the working of our organisation is similar to that of networks at the European level. 


7.According to you, what role can the EU play regarding child poverty at the national/local level?

Sometimes things happen at the European level that escape our attention. I think European legislation ultimately is very important for local politics. It is necessary to stay alert and pay attention to what is happening so you are able to influence as much as you can at the local level. The economic theme is now very important and Europe provides funds for investing in children. You need to have financial resources in order to carry out your programs well. I think we should be even more attentive to what happens at EU level. However, it is true that sometimes your attention goes out to the work at home which sometimes can lead to less attention for what happens at the European level.


The interview was translated from Spanish