human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Children & families






Nearly a third of children in the EU live in poverty or are at risk of poverty.

They live in households where their parents or carers are in poorly paid work or without a job and unable to meet their children’s most basic needs.

When my children are not here, I don’t heat my apartment. When they are not here, I eat less. I tighten my belt. The hardest part is that I cannot give them what I would like. I’m afraid to appear like a bad dad who doesn’t please his children, and it hurts a lot.

Fabrice, a single dad living in France. He shares the custody of his three children and lives off €1100 per month.

Family and child poverty in Europe is an immense but overlooked threat to the cohesion and development of our communities.

People like Fabrice and his children can only reach their full potential and play their part in society if they have a safe place to live, enough food to eat, access to healthcare and the chance to continue their education.

The problem

Child poverty is usually the result of parents or carers losing their job or being stuck in a poorly paid position.

It can also be caused by the long-term illness or death of a parent, separation or divorce, discrimination, or being forced at a young age to take on care responsibilities for elderly or ill family members.

The economic and financial crisis in 2008 caused unprecedented levels of unemployment and poverty across Europe. It also underlined the weaknesses and limitations of the social protection systems in place across the EU.

Our solutions

Strong families make strong societies.

Caritas Europa wants resilient European social models that provide for the well-being of all people and contribute to a stronger and more just society.

This means agreeing policies that tackle child and family poverty, while providing social protection and inclusive labour markets.

Investing in families in order to empower them and to promote the social capital they create is essential for our societies. Investment in education, for example, reduces health costs, increases people’s chances on the labour market and encourages participation in society.

Caritas Europe wants all EU member states to implement policies that:

Ensure the right to family life by facilitating a work-family life balance and supporting families through:

  • a monthly child allowance based on a universal approach to child benefits with a higher allowance for low income families;
  • sufficient and affordable child care facilities;
  • family counselling services.

Enable, support and recognise the value of family care work through:

  • the legal right to maternity leave of at least 15 weeks, and parental leave of at least 6 months;
  • the offer of a number of days per year of special leave for people to care for family members;
  • a minimum income during longer periods of leave for care work;
  • a system that includes the time spent on care work as eligible for the calculation of pension rights.

Re-evaluate tax systems to:

  • make them family friendly and progressive, redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor and granting financial compensation in the form of tax reductions or tax credits to those families most in need.

Assess the potential impact of:

  • policy initiatives in the areas of employment, education and health on families, in particular those on low-incomes.