Young Europeans miss out as austerity hits child welfare: campaigners

Mon Nov 19, 2012 9:59am EST
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By Madeline O'Leary

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Future generations of Europeans risk falling through the cracks in the social support system as the debt crisis saps economic growth and countries resort to austerity, just as their hardest-off citizens need help the most, child welfare campaigners say.

The difficulties resulting from high unemployment and the prospect of further cost cuts in social services are among the issues that sparked protests across southern Europe last week.

And among those hit by budget cuts are children in poverty.

"Members of Eurochild are witnessing significant cuts in public spending on child services, which is where we see the most long-term benefits," said Jana Hainsworth, director general of the Eurochild network of child welfare campaigning groups.

"These cuts are being made by local and regional authorities due to their need to reduce debt," she told Reuters on Monday.

Given increased demand for help, and the economic slowdown, social spending as a proportion of output is now at least 6 percent higher than in 2007 on average in the 34 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a report by the OECD shows.

The needs of ageing populations are also set to drive up the costs of pensions and health care in coming years, said the report from the OECD, which includes 21 EU countries.

Among those are Spain, Portugal, Greece, France and Italy, where demonstrators clashed with police last week as workers challenged austerity policies.   Continued...