In Denmark, children from families with poor economy more or less experience that they do not have access to fulfilling their needs for sufficient and nourishing food, suitable clothes, reasonable accommodation, and that they are prevented from obtaining the various forms of development described in UN’s Convention for the Rights of the Child.
The Development of the Child is Limited When Cut Off from Participating in Social Events
Children from families with poor economy experience cutting off from participating in events that are important to their development. This could be organised leisure activities and other social events requiring financial resources.
Bullying at School Prevent Development of the Child
That the majority of children from families with a poor economy thrive optimally or decidedly not thrive in class surroundings, may affect their development negatively in several aspects. Bullying is, however, a complex phenomenon, and the children’s own statements suggest that lacking access to money and possessions contributes to the bullying of children.
Obligation to Encure Adequate Standards of Living for the Child
Recognising that on their own, children are not able to ensure the standards necessary for their development, the Convention of the Rights of the Child prescribes a number of the authorities’ obligations. Even though Danish legislation includes a number of elements favouring the rights of the child to an adequate standard of living and even though the authorities have launched a number of initiatives to improve the welfare and weal of the child, 10,700 children in Denmark are presently officially without an adequate standard of living.
The question is whether the authorities do enough to ensure proper standards of living for children. Extensive initiatives are taken as quickly and as efficiently as possible to ensure adequate standards of living for every child by using all relevant resources available in the Danish society. The Danish Government has the ultimate responsibility towards UN’s Committee of the Child and to the international community in view of realising the rights of the child within the Danish state.
Based on the practice of UN’s Committee of the Child and with a view to observing the right of the child to an adequate standard of living in Denmark, the Joint Council for Child Issues recommends
1) To increase the financial and non-financial support to families with poor economy to reduce poverty and protect children against the negative impact that economical scarcity may have on their development.
2) To adopt a coherent and comprehensive plan of action to fight child poverty and realisation of the rights of the child to be implemented on central, regional and local level.
3) To systematically compile and publish figures that in an easy, accessible and clear way show how large a part of the country’s public resources could used for improving children’s’ standard of living.
The official limit of child poverty is a large step on the road to the target of meeting the requirements of UN’s Convention of the Child, but the poverty line is not self-sufficient. The Joint Council for Child Issues anticipates that the Ministry of Social Affairs carries on the work with the so-called deprivation measures and suggest considerations of availability that must be very concrete (housing costs, debt, IT and internet fees, etc.) and deprivation of the child. We cannot use a poverty line if not setting up actual action plans for getting rid of poverty.
Our Definition of Child Poverty
The Joint Council for Child Issues give out grants to sole providers whose children are significantly overrepresented in the statistics of child poverty. In connection with the grant applications, The Joint Council for Child Issues adopt (lay) a definition of poverty based on a total evaluation of economy combined with social conditions such as physical and mental illness, long-term absence from the labour market and difficult personal circumstances. In addition, we look at the disposable amount after payment of the monthly expenses. We have set a limit of the disposable amount at DKK 4,000 monthly. The disposable amount is the amount left when all expenses for rent, water, heating, electricity, membership fees, debt, insurances, etc. are paid, duly documented by annual statements, receipts, etc. Primarily, the grants for children of sole providers are for leisure pursuits. For instance for Emma, whose mother could not afford to let her continue being a girl guide, and for Peter who would have been dropped from his beloved football team if not for the grant. In second place comes winter coat and shoes. Children in Denmark usual gets a new winter coat and a pair of new winter shoes every year.
The Joint Council for Child Issues welcomes the new poverty line in Denmark, but wonders why it does not come into force until you have lived below it for three years in a row. Three years is a very long time for a child, and it is worrying that poverty is not conceded until a family has been living on a minimum for three years. We know that even short periods of poverty can have large considerable consequences for the health, schooling and social life of a child; consequences that children feel at once – not only after three years of poverty. From a child’s perspective we find that the three-year limit is contrary to the stipulation of Convention of the Child stating that the authorities may at any given time and as quickly and efficiently as possible take steps to ensure an adequate standard of living for any child by using all relevant resources available in society.
The Joint Council for Child Issues has formulated a National Plan of Action for the fight against child poverty.