Breaking the potential cycle of deprivation often experienced by generations of vulnerable families requires an informed understanding of the causes of threats to children. These may include violence, exploitation, abuse, neglect and unnecessary separation from their family. Based on this understanding comes the design and delivery of a relevant package of services that mitigates or addresses those threats.
Identifying the most deprived children and the drivers of their vulnerability lies at the heart of UNICEF’s work with the Government of Azerbaijan in implementing a well-coordinated, multi-sectoral response. This effort includes:
- Assessment of vulnerability and referrals
- Social work case management for children and families
- Social services for children with developmental delays and disabilities
- Social services for children in contact and conflict with the law
- Outreach services
Well-designed, integrated social services can provide a level of protection for families at risk of, or who are experiencing, vulnerabilities related to poverty, disadvantage and social exclusion. When combined with targeted social assistance payments, social services support can foster greater self-reliance and opportunity for vulnerable families, mitigate harm to children and act as a vital safety net for families in crisis.
For social service programmes to be most effective, strong referral systems and case management are essential – to identify risks and challenges to children, develop an appropriate response, and connect children and families when necessary to other services and specialist care and support, while monitoring individual cases to ensure the most effective package of assistance is in place.
Since its independence, Azerbaijan has taken great strides in developing social services, and comprehensive legal frameworks and existing social protection schemes are already anchored in its national legislation. But specific constraints to developing a comprehensive social services programme in Azerbaijan have included:
- A lack of awareness and limited knowledge about existing services and entitlements among communities.
- A fear of discrimination and stigma that often keeps families from accessing services.
- Insufficient availability of social services, and outdated standards, particularly at the community level.
The central figure of the social worker has not been adopted into Azerbaijan society to the extent needed. Social workers are a key facet to the social services system. With specialist skills, they are able to reach out to vulnerable families and individuals, identifying and responding to needs, and assuring the quality of the services being provided.