Children who start behind, stay behind. We can prevent Romani and Traveller children entering the cycle of poverty and social exclusion by providing with quality and equitable early childhood services starting at birth and by strengthening the professionalism of the early childhood development (ECD) workforce.
The first three years of a child’s life are the most critical in their development. Poverty irreversibly hinders children’s brain development and increases the chances of developing a disability. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to lag behind in their education and, later in life, as adults. 
We can change this
Firstly, by reaching the EU Barcelona targets while paying attention to the most vulnerable groups. In the 2002 Barcelona targets, the Council of the European Union has set the minimum goals for childcare provision: at least 90% of children three-to-mandatory-school-age and at least 33% of children under three should have benefited from formal childcare by 2010. An assessment of the Barcelona targets for child care provision (Council of the EU 2010 and 2011) revealed that countries were not meeting expectations, particularly for birth-to-three year-olds. For those children, in eight EU countries, the levels of enrollment are below 10%, in four more it remains below 20% and seven more are still below the target of 33%.
Secondly, by having decision makers ensuring access to quality preschool education. Most children, regardless of their ethnic background, do not have access to services in their early years. Typically, attention in policy measures is paid only to the one or two years of preschool prior to the start of mandatory schooling.
Thirdly, by creating pathways for more Romani and Traveller practitioners to enter early childhood professions. Currently, there are very few Roma and Travellers working as ECD professionals or paraprofessionals, with many of them working in services provided by non-governmental organizations. Access and the quality of services can also be increased by ensuring more diversity in the workforce and including more Roma and Travellers in the ECD workforce, alongside other groups from the wider society. This way the diversity of the workforce can truly reflect the diversity of the population.
 European Commission, 2011. EQUALSOC Network, 2011.
 European Commission (2013). Barcelona Objectives. The development of childcare facilities for young children in Europe with a view to sustainable and inclusive growth. DG Justice. ISBN 978-92-79-29898-1, doi:10.2838/43161.