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Invest in better social protection for the most disadvantaged children: UNICEF

Low public spending, ineffective social protection policies and programmes are hampering progress for children in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia

© UNICEF/UNI154479/Pirozzi
A young boy in his classroom in northern Bulgaria.

GENEVA, 20 April 2016 - Children who are falling furthest behind in society benefit the most when countries invest in more effective social protection, according to a new UNICEF Report launched today.

The Social Monitor: Social Protection for Child Rights and Wellbeing in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia report consolidates recent evidence on trends and patterns of change in child poverty and the impact of social protection on children in 30 countries and territories in the region.

It highlights key challenges that the region faces in meeting the social protection needs of children and shares UNICEF recommendations on how to tackle them. Social protection for children includes cash assistance, subsidies for health or education services, counselling and social work, and parental leave.

The report found children are doing better in the region than 20 years ago but too many children are still living in poor households, deprived of basic necessities, excluded from services, communities and societies.
Key findings include:

  • Cash benefits in the region are increasingly reaching children and families who need them. However, too many children in need are still not covered, especially if they come from disadvantaged groups. Among the most vulnerable and discriminated are children with disabilities, children from ethnic and linguistic minorities, and children affected by migration.
  • What children and families receive, in most countries and territories of the region, is not making a difference in their lives.
  • Parents with low incomes or without a job do not get quality social support to help them deal with family conflicts or connect with available benefits and services, including training and employment opportunities.

“Countries that spend and focus more of their social protection for children and families are the most successful at reducing child poverty,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe.
Hungary, for instance, achieves an over 25 per cent reduction in the rate of children at risk of poverty and has very high levels of spending on family benefits (13 per cent of total social protection expenditure). Croatia and Romania show similar correlations.

“Social protection is a right, not a handout. When countries invest in better social protection for children and families, everybody benefits from a more productive, fairer society,” she said.

Key recommendations outlined in the report are:

  • Simplify application procedures to available cash assistance and social support.
  • Inform children and families about the social protection benefits and expand coverage for the most vulnerable.
  • Ensure that cash assistance is enough to make a difference for children.
  • Provide qualified social support to parents to cope with job loses or economic shocks.
  • Link different support services available so that vulnerable children get quality education, nutrition and health care, and live in a caring and protective family environment. 
  • Monitor and analyze if the support provided improves children’s lives.
  • Address discrimination towards families and children recipients of social protection through legislative changes, comprehensive awareness campaigns, and training of service providers.


Notes to editors:

Download the report here: https://www.unicef.org/ceecis/Social_Monitor_Regional_Report.pdf

UNICEF will host a twitter chat on 20 April 2016 at 2 p.m. Geneva time. Members of the public can ask questions about child poverty, social policy recommendations on children and families. Follow @UNICEFCEECIS of Tiwtter using #socprochat

The UNICEF Social Monitor reports series, published since 2002, has documented the living conditions of children in the region serving as basis for advocacy and policy debate in the region. The series has been associated with the annually updated TransMonEE Database, a menu-driven downloadable database containing statistical information on social and economic issues relevant to the welfare of children, young people and women.

This edition of Social Monitor includes 30 countries and territories: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo (UNSCR 1244), Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. 

For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org/ceecis

Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook.

For further information please contact UNICEF Regional Office based in Geneva:
Lely Djuhari, Tel: +41 79 204 88 44, ldjuhari@unicef.org
Kristen Elsby, Tel: +41 79 93 88 273, kelsby@unicef.org





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