These alarming figures do not include children of immigrants and asylum seekers. Thomas Mann of the centre right EPP-ED group told the hearing that such children "are more affected by poverty and social exclusion". He called for the prevention and abolition of child poverty to be a "priority" for European countries.
The 2 April hearing in Brussels brought together MEPs and child poverty experts. One of the main points stressed was the importance of proper employment for parents. British Labour Member Stephen Hughes identified "irregular work for parents" as a crucial issue.
The hearing was told that the burden falls particularly hard on single parents. Irish Member Proinsias de Rossa of the Socialist PSE group highlighted the fact that single parents were often young themselves and it was vital for their future prospects and those of their children that they had continued access to education: "Why should they lose social support if they go into education?" he asked.
Elizabeth Lynne ALDE told the hearing that "many of the causes of social exclusion are common to all Member States and some countries are leading the way in tackling these, so surely we ought to be learning from each other. There needs to be more exchange of best practice between European partners and this is not something that should be left to NGOs".
Which policies can alleviate poverty?
In the search for policies that can work and alleviate child poverty those present heard from Hugh Frazer of Ireland's National University. He told those present that "countries with universal child policies (for example educational allowances and social allowances to all children alike irrespective of family background) seemed to have less poverty than those which targeted their policies to certain social group".
However, he called the problem of child poverty "multi-faceted" and said that a combination of universal and targeted policies could also pay off.
Unquestionably the level of child poverty in Europe is too high and should be a priority for policy makers: that was the position of the OECD's Dominic Richardson who is an expert on child welfare. He called for more financial incentives to get parents into work and support for parents who cannot work - such as childcare, social assistance and training for parents.
Parliament's Employment Committee is currently working on proposals to make 2010 the European Year for combating child poverty and social exclusion and MEPs will be voting on a report on the issue on 29 May.
Further information : Documents from the hearing