The expert group on children in impoverished families in Norway, appointed on August 12, 2022, delivered a report titled “A Childhood for Life” on October 17, outlining recommendations to improve the living conditions of children in low-income families and prevent the transmission of poverty.
Hanne Glemmestad, Member of Presidency in the Norwegian Union of Social Educators and Social Workers, has participated in the work. Approximately 11% of Norwegian children live in low-income families, which can significantly impact their living conditions and future opportunities. The expert group was tasked with assessing how to prioritize public resources to improve the lives of children in poor families and break the cycle of poverty.
The report emphasizes two primary measures related to child benefits and daycare while also offering recommendations in other areas such as housing support, the Social Services Act, and various services. The recommendations address the diverse needs of low-income families effectively. The proposed measures, such as strengthening access to kindergarten and interdisciplinary cooperation, can lead to long-term public savings, increased tax revenue, and reduced welfare expenditures. They may also result in reduced rates of illness and crime, improving the health and quality of life for individuals.
Cash Benefits: Low and unstable incomes in poor families can create stress and unpredictability in their financial situation. The expert group identified challenges in the current cash benefits system, such as complexity and insufficient benefit levels. The group recommends increasing and taxing child benefit, which is a widely supported tool that doesn’t create poverty traps.
More Predictable Housing Support: Housing support is currently based on monthly income information, causing fluctuations in payments. The expert group recommends changing allocation to yearly income information and adjusting phasing out to consider children’s costs. A closer examination of the interaction between housing support and other benefits is recommended.
Strengthening the Consideration of the Child’s Best Interests in the Social Services Act: The expert group calls for a stronger emphasis on the child’s best interests within NAV’s assistance to families with children. NAV should be more attuned to challenges like mental health, parental relationships, and child involvement in these families. Low-income families with complex challenges require comprehensive support. The proposal includes trials of family coordinators, focusing on the impact on children’s learning, development, and health.
Services: Research highlights the importance of investing in education to prevent the transmission of poverty. The expert group emphasizes further investments in kindergartens and schools, particularly for children from low-income families. Their primary recommendation is a new model for kindergarten admissions that offers rolling and automatic offers combined with universal free core time. Discontinuing cash benefits, which delay kindergarten enrollment, is also suggested. The recommendation includes a gradual introduction of the new admission model. For schools, the group proposes integrating after-school programs and cultural schools into a comprehensive school day, spreading teaching hours and allowing for more varied activities. Interdisciplinary collaboration models to support students and families with non-academic needs should be tested.
Health Stations: Health stations play a vital role in supporting parents of young children.Parental guidance programs and interdisciplinary health station services should be systematically trialed to benefit low-income families.
Leisure: All children should have the opportunity to participate in leisure activities. The expert group recommends various models and measures to increase participation among children from low-income families. Changing the funding model for inclusion measures is also suggested to provide municipalities with more flexibility.
Area-based Initiatives: Geographical differences in poverty affect living conditions, especially for children. The expert group recommends area-based initiatives in disadvantaged areas to strengthen living conditions and quality of life for children and youth.
Member of Presidency in the Norwegian Union of Social Educators and Social Workers