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  • Rights, Early Childhood Intervention

Time to guarantee access to family-centred Early Childhood Intervention

Today, the EASPD, with 16 organisations and networks active in the fields of child and family rights and disabilities, launched the position paper “Family-centred Early Childhood Intervention: The best start in life.”

Family-centred Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) is a fundamental tool to increase the well-being of children at risk of developmental delays and their families. Families and children living in Europe should be able to access such high-quality ECI services, which enable children to develop to their fullest potential and for them and their families to be fully included in the community. Today, the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD), with 16 organisations and networks active in the fields of child and family rights and disabilities, launched the position paper “Family-centred Early Childhood Intervention: The best start in life.” The paper highlights the importance of family-centred ECI and the key challenges to its delivery. It also provides recommendations for the European Union and national governments to establish quality ECI systems.   

Early childhood offers a critical window of opportunity to build the foundations for a child’s future. Family-centred ECI services aim to support families and carers, while involving them as equal partners, to build support around their needs and strengths. A key feature of these services is the provision of support within a multi-disciplinary team. These teams work together to empower parents and carers to build their capacity to better interact and meet the needs of their children.

Unfortunately, in Europe, such holistic services are the exception rather than the rule. Too many families are required to juggle, not only the numerous therapeutic interventions for their children, but also the siloed working of these interventions. This forces parents to communicate bilaterally with individual professionals. Despite usually being the most aware of the needs of their child, parents are often excluded from decision-making processes. This often leads to poorly suited support, with additional stress on families leading to their greater exclusion from the community. On the contrary, quality family-centred ECI can help to promote the inclusion of children in the community and prevent their placement in institutions.

Via the position paper, EASPD and its partners outline a number of key recommendations for the EU. These recommendations include calling for the EU to lead the development of an EU-wide study on existing practices and guidelines for quality ECI. Along with developing a centralised training platform on ECI to provide quality training and methodologies.

Speaking at the launch of the position paper, a number of MEPs supported EASPD’s call to act urgently to develop quality ECI systems. “Giving visibility and prioritising support to families and children with disabilities in their first years is fundamental to breaking the cycle of poverty and disadvantage. It is also a fundamental ingredient for more just and equal societies” said MEP Dragoș Pîslaru MEP.

Katrin Langensiepen
recalled that “Unfortunately quality ECI rarely exists in EU Member States. In Poland or Bulgaria, mothers who I met would dream of such a support for their children. The new EU Disability Strategy clearly states that EU funds should no longer invest in institutions but in community-based services. ECI services are community-based services. It is time to set up some common ECI guidelines and strategically fund Member States to guarantee these most necessary services.”

MEP Stelios Kympouropoulos reiterated the importance of establishing peer support networks for parents: “parents need to know about the next steps in the growth of a disabled child, and what some other parents would do differently if they had the chance”.

Speaking on the future impact of the position paper EASPD Secretary General, Maya Doneva, invited others to support its messages: “This paper has been finalised with the valuable contribution of disability, family, and child rights organisations. Sixteen organisations have endorsed the paper and this is just the start: we invite further organisations and individuals to support the paper. We also hope to have the European Parliament on board. So, Members of the European Parliament, be prepared to receive an invitation to sign!”

To read the Position Paper and endorse it, follow the link to the paper here. The messages of the Position Paper will pave the way for EASPD’s upcoming conference on ECI in Albania in June 2023. The conference will play host to further discussions on the policies and practices that are needed for the provision of quality ECI systems that are guaranteed to all children and families.

Supporting Documents:
Please contact:

Irene Bertana
Senior Policy Officer
+32 2 233 77 23

Note to editors:

The European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities is a non-profit European umbrella organisation, established in 1996, and currently representing over 20,000 social and health services for persons with disabilities. EASPD advocates effective and high-quality disability-related services in the field of education, employment and individualised support, in line with the UN CRPD principles, which could bring benefits not only to persons with disabilities, but to society as a whole.