Early Childhood Development - Eurochild’s achievements in 2020
First Years First Priority Campaign
In 2020 Eurochild and the International Step by Step Association, in partnership with the European Public Health Alliance and Roma Education Fund, launched the ‘First Years, First Priority’ campaign to increase political attention to, and public investment in, early childhood policies and services. The campaign focuses on children who are most vulnerable, including children with disabilities, Roma and Traveller children, migrant and refugee children, children at risk of entering, or in, alternative care, and those in extreme poverty. It prioritises children from birth to 6 years, with a special attention to the first 1,000 days.
Investing in early years is key
Children’s early years are fundamental for their healthy development and well-being over the life course. Enabling families and caregivers to provide nurturing care, from pregnancy and throughout infancy and early childhood, is essential for children to survive and thrive. Yet, across Europe, children experience deprivation and exclusion in their earliest years. Early childhood development is not always a priority, with fragmented policies and insufficient investment.
The impact of the pandemic
Covid-19 exposed and exacerbated pre-existing inequalities, with families pushed further into poverty. This had an impact on children’s physical and mental health, education and safety. National responses to the pandemic have not always supported families with young children, or the support has been limited and short-term. While some countries have prioritized early childhood development, the pandemic was a warning for all countries to tackle poverty and social exclusion, from children’s very early years.
Creating long-lasting change
The European Child Guarantee has the potential to trigger national investments and reforms so that all families and children have adequate housing, healthy nutrition, access to healthcare and quality early learning and childcare. To address exclusion and discrimination, national governments need to ensure that essential services, including maternal and newborn healthcare, are accessible to the most disadvantaged groups.
To create long-lasting change, there must be ownership and follow-up of civil society at national level. To this end, we have rolled out the campaign in 9 countries from across Europe (Bulgaria, Spain, France, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Romania, Portugal and Serbia). The 9 national coordinators play such a crucial role in this campaign, 6 of whom are Eurochild members.
First Years First Priority Campaign Website