As attendees of the EU Platform for Roma Inclusion return home from Brussels, they get back to their daily work and concrete action. At the event yesterday, we heard a great expression of values – Roma are equal citizens, health inequalities need to be addressed, early interventions for young children and their families are crucial. But besides the good intentions is the European Union going to take action?
The 12th meeting of the Platform focused on health and housing, the themes identified both as an outcome and a driver of social exclusion. A third of the Roma population in the European Union, the background paper of the Platform says, live without running water. This and other disadvantages in housing are closely connected to poor health in Roma communities.
In the workshop focusing on health, REYN was present, and so were members from the national networks in Hungary, Italy, and Bulgaria. Thanks to their presence, the importance of early years was in the discussion and urgent appeals to act were made.
What do I do?
“What do I do?” was one of the questions asked during the groups discussion. Most of the representatives of civil society answered in line with what they do now. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will continue piloting innovative approaches and push for their adoption into the systems while looking for funding whenever they can.
Just like many other NGOs, REYN has been promoting the holistic approach, covering broad aspects of lives of families, housing and health included. Yet, we often hear about solutions that ignore the state-of-art knowledge. Governments keep repeating mantras about compulsory preschool attendance and we say that quality interventions should come at an earlier age.
The EU is listening but is it going to act?
Civil society has always been the bearer of innovation. Many successful programs currently implemented as part of national or international projects started with small-scale NGO initiatives. These include health mediation in Roma communities, or pedagogical assistants working with Romani children. Social housing pilots are still waiting for their scale up to the national level, and so are the pilots in early childhood education and care before the preschool age.
Now is the time when the EU and the Member States have a chance to stand up for their values and match funding allocations to the declared interests. We need to see early years well covered in policies and we need to see budgets allocated, also in health and housing. While civil society will continue with pilot actions and validation of innovative approaches, we need support from policymakers in terms of sustainability.
The next year, 2019 will be crucial for citizens of the European Union, including Roma and Travellers. We are looking forward to the European Commission and the Parliament elections, along with final discussions about the next EU Roma policy. We want a better future for children in Europe, we all know what to do, now is the time to do it.
A blog by Stano Daniel.