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Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) Action Plan: Towards a new ECI system

12 people stand in front of a white wall in a conference room and smile at the camera.

The final conference of the ECI Greece project stressed the importance of reforming ECI systems.

Research indicates that the early years of a child's life are crucial for their growth, providing an irreplaceable window of opportunity. Family-centred Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) is an effective approach to minimise and, in some cases, prevent delays in the development of infants and toddlers with support needs. These services empower families and caregivers by recognising their strengths and fostering the child’s development within the family’s daily life. With this, quality and holistic ECI services and initiatives are vital, as they address cognitive, social, emotional, and physical aspects of development, tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and family. One such initiative is the ECI Greece project, which concluded with a final event that took place on 15 January in Athens and online.

Setting the scene, Marina Stefou, Secretary General for Demographic and Housing Policy, at the Greek Ministry for Social Cohesion and Family Affairs opened the event on behalf of Minister Zacharaki and highlighted the commitment of the Ministry in implementing a reform of the ECI system. She noted how“setting the foundation for healthy child development is of fundamental importance for the Ministry of Social Cohesion and Family Affairs, which is committed to the development of an integrated family-centred early childhood intervention system that will benefit our children and the future generations.”

The event continued with a presentation of key project results of the ECI Greece project, including:

  • The training and pilot on family-centred methodologies for staff of social services
  • The Country Report, which provides a state of play of ECI in Greece
  • The development of a national level-Agora for ECI, which invites professionals, family members, policymakers and other key stakeholders to support the development of family-centred ECI

Another crucial outcome of the project has been the development of an Action Plan for ECI in Greece. Developed in collaboration with national and international stakeholders and experts, the plan lays the foundations for the transition to a comprehensive ECI system in Greece. Additionally, Ciresica Feyer, Deputy Head of the Unit in charge of Labour Market, Education, Health and Social Services of DG REFORM emphasised the importance of the methodology used to develop the Action Plan: “The plan has been developed with stakeholders from various sectors, such as social, health, and education, representatives of families, persons with disabilities and child rights, which demonstrates the inter-sectoral nature of the ECI topic and the value-added of this approach based on cooperation and co-creation.”

On top of this, representatives of the Ministries of Social Cohesion and Family Affairs, Education Religious Affairs and Sports, the Institute of Child Health, the Panhellenic Federation of Societies of Parents and Guardians of Disabled People, and the ECI provider ELEPAP came together to discuss the future of the reform. Participants agreed that the project not only provided a common language, but also an understanding on the importance of ECI and the need for a transition towards a family-centred model. Here, they discussed how the successful implementation of the reform will require common efforts towards a common goal to overcome existing barriers in terms of coordination, funding, training, and family engagement.

To close the event, Irene Bertana (EASPD Senior Policy Officer and ECI Greece Project Manager) touched upon ECI Greece’s contribution to strengthening the ECI community in Greece, and elaborated on the projects future. In her closing remarks, she emphasised that EASPD will continue to advocate for the creation of national family-centred ECI systems, and that the tools and methodologies developed within the ECI Greece project “will be useful for our future advocacy and for all countries and providers that want to transition towards family-centred ECI.”