This best practice is a contribution to our #ChildUnion campaign and part of our #ProgressiveLocalStories, aiming at raising awareness on the many positive initiatives implemented by progressive cities and regions in Europe. Cities and regions have become laboratories for innovative solutions and, with this series, we want to discover how progressive mayors, councillors and presidents of regions put in place policies to promote child-friendly cities and regions.
Child poverty and family difficulties occupy a large part of the actions of the current Government of La Rioja, starting with its budget. The fact is that behind each budget line there are men and women, boys and girls, to look after and to invest in. Children who are our future, but also our present.
La Rioja’s main tool for social and economic reconstruction is its budget for 2021, which has increased by more than 17 % compared to 2020. In 2021 budget, health, education and social services play a central role in ensuring the current and future protection of the most vulnerable in La Rioja.
In the area of Social Services, the budget has grown by 21.7 per cent, which will serve to improve, among other instruments, the “Renta de Ciudadanía” - a citizen's income for people at risk of poverty and/or exclusion-, an essential tool to ensure that no one is left behind and that will protect minors from needy families. In addition, other instruments specifically aimed at the protection of children have been strengthened, such as the budget line for the protection of children in distress, assistance to foster families, or early care services for children between the ages of 0 and 6 who are unable to access the public system.
These measures have already resulted in grants to entities carrying out actions for family and children, which reinforce, among other goals, the social inclusion of children at risk.
In early care services, the Government of La Rioja has started to provide sessions for children aged 0 to 6 on 1 April. It is expected that 42,750 sessions will be held in several municipalities in the region for children with developmental disorders or at risk of developing them, including biological but also environmental and social risk factors.
With the conviction that education is the best guarantee of the future for boys and girls and for our own community, in 2021 the budget for public education has been increased, which has allowed the recruitment of new teachers and the approval of a call of 2.3 million euro for school meals and textbooks for the next academic year 2021-2022. With the help of the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism, La Rioja will launch the initiative Interactive Digital Classrooms and fund the acquisition of mobile devices for the most vulnerable. In addition, it has started the implementation of a new school enrolment decree that allows preventing the segregation of pupils for socio-economic or other reasons. The new Spanish educational law, LOMLOE, will also lead to the creation and reinforcement of the public network of Early Childhood Education and Rural Schools.
Finally, the Government of La Rioja continues its commitment for educational and training innovation. An example of this is the launch last summer of the first edition of the Open Summer School, a programme of non-formal education of the regional Government for a thousand students in need of educational support or social disadvantage. It is an educational and social innovation program that offers the opportunity to disadvantaged students to find out who they are and what they would like to do while promoting vocational discovery and the development of talent.
Photo credits: Gobierno de La Rioja