Our network member Laura Julia Fiquet, founder and president of Union des Mamans d’Enfants Handicapés – UMEH participated in a recent EU fact-finding workshop on children with disabilities. Held in Bucharest, the event was part of the European Commission’s feasibility study on a potential Child Guarantee.
An expert on the topic (Laura herself is a mother of a child with a disability), she underlined the many problems she and other mothers in France and elsewhere in Europe face on a daily basis.
They go from job loss, loss of financial autonomy or total financial dependence on the spouse – to loss of social rights (unemployment, retirement, sickness) with the precarious social minimas that this implies.
Family cohesiveness is also compromised, such as separation from the spouse or the renunciation of having another child.
In many cases these mothers also encounter social isolation and a high mental burden, to the point of exhaustion.
Laura also highlighted the lack of competent social interlocutors who could accompany mothers.
To address some of the problems, she proposed the following:
Laura welcomed the Commission’s endeavors and hoped that the situation facing many mothers like her would improve.
She emphasized that solutions are needed at the policy and societal level throughout Europe. This is an important step towards the recognition of the obstacles. She is positive that this feasibility study will bring clarity and firmly present the changes needed to tackle the problems. The study needs to provide the financial and logistical tools necessary to properly involve these families and their children with a disability in society. She also hopes that more family associations will be included in the study, because it is primarily the family that is in a precarious or vulnerable place – not taking this fact into account could lead to artificial or temporary solutions.
Laura’s concluding message was that if we want a child guarantee initiative to fight poverty and social exclusion, we need to hear the voices of parents and to address these social policies to the family as a whole. A child is embedded in a family environment and context and only by working hand in hand with the families, and the mothers in particular, (many children living in precarious situations live only with their mothers) can we find the solutions needed to support disadvantaged children.
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