Towards greater family policy integration across Europe

This first report of the European Observatory on Family Policy compares family policy in five EU countries: Belgium (Flanders), Poland, Finland, Germany and Italy.

Overcoming sectoral fragmentation in supporting families with young children

Towards greater family policy integration across Europe

Established in January 2022, the 'European Observatory on Family Policy' is a joint project of COFACE Families Europe and the Centre for Family Sciences. It aims to be a platform for identifying trends and priorities in family policy in EU Member States, developing innovative frameworks to analyse family policy, and bridging academics, policymakers and family organisations.

Webinar and report

On 15/11/2023, we organised our first webinar on which we presented the first report of this centre: 'Towards greater family policy integration across Europe'. This first Observatory report compares family policy in five EU countries: Belgium (Flanders), Poland, Finland, Germany and Italy.

About the report

Family policy is a complex and multifaceted domain that encompasses a wide spectrum of policies, programmes and services aimed at supporting families and promoting their well-being. This first Observatory report aims to provide a comparative description of the state of this field in five countries of the European Union (EU). The report focuses especially on processes of alignment and integration between policy areas catering to families with young children, as well as on the specifics of coordination between education, care, and health services.

Today, many signs point to the heightened significance of these policies. Within the framework of the EU, following the unveiling of the European Pillar of Social Rights in 2017, activity in the broader family domain has increased rapidly. The Pillar has been a catalyst for strengthening national parental leave legislation, tackling child poverty, raising targets for participation in early childhood education and care (ECEC), and developing national frameworks in the areas of long-term care and disability rights.

Families with young children face a complex array of needs prior to their children’s compulsory schooling. These needs, which are often intertwined with specific circumstances and contexts, span across different areas of the public sector. They cannot simply be defined on the basis of existing public administrations, as educational desires, healthcare demands, or caregiving wants. Addressing these needs requires the involvement of various public administrations, services, and professionals in a collaborative manner. Furthermore, this does not constitute a one-time event, but rather requires ongoing coordination between different services over an extended period of time.

In light of this, the report seeks to delve into three distinct scenarios of complex needs faced by families with very young children: balancing care, family life, and return to employment; managing early childhood development and education; and ensuring access to guidance and support during and after the perinatal phase. To achieve this objective, the report conducts an in-depth analysis of five country case studies, namely Finland, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Belgian region of Flanders. These case studies will provide valuable insights on how services that fall within the purview of related family policies can either effectively integrate or remain fragmented while addressing these complex needs across multiple sectors.

European Observatory Voorblad