Universal child allowance for children up to 6 solid start for poverty reduction

UNICEF congratulates Montenegro’s Parliament on introducing the universal child allowance for children up to 6 and free textbooks in primary schools and stands ready to support the government to develop policies to cover all children up to 18

UNICEF Montenegro
two girls in the playground
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2020
28 May 2021

PODGORICA, 27 May 2021 – UNICEF congratulates Montenegro’s Parliament on introducing free textbooks for primary school students and adopting the universal child allowance for children up to 6 and reminds that this is a step in the right direction and it must be fiscally sustained. It has been based on a solid analysis of the social protection system; it provides families of young children with long term predictability; and it is in line with investing in the early years of childhood as a crucial window of opportunity for every child’s development, especially if it is complemented by access to quality health, education and protection from violence.

UNICEF supported the multidimensional child poverty analysis in Montenegro which was discussed in the Parliament in February this year. It demonstrated that young children are the most deprived age group. These early years are crucial for a child – a time when 90 per cent of the brain develops and when children acquire the ability to form meaningful human relationships.

Juan Santander, UNICEF Montenegro representative
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2021
Juan Santander, UNICEF Montenegro representative

Supporting children in early childhood is a solid starting point for reducing poverty. Of course, critical gaps remain for children over 6 years of age. UNICEF stands ready to support the government to develop policies to cover this gap.

Juan Santander, UNICEF Montenegro Representative

According to Santander, international best practice shows us that there are 3 principles of success for the development of such policies: first, to develop the policies based on solid evidence and a thorough analysis of the options at hand; second, to ensure that the policy options selected are affordable for the government’s budget in the long term; and third, to ensure that key stakeholders have the opportunity to participate in and influence the policy development. Listening to children and parents in particular is crucial. They know best the problems they face every day and can share their ideas about the most effective ways to support them.

For these reasons, UNICEF has supported Montenegro with a 2-year analysis of the Social Protection System in Montenegro using the international methodology CODI. As a result, a roadmap of reforms will be presented tomorrow to the Steering Committee led by the Minister of Finance and Social Welfare Milojko Spajić. This document proposes a list of social protection system reforms from which the government can choose which ones respond best to Montenegro’s needs based on their cost-benefit analysis and direct consultation with families.

In Montenegro, at least 1 out of every 3 children are at risk of poverty. The economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has very likely increased this number. Resolving the issue of child poverty and breaking the inter-generational circle of poverty will require more than cash assistance. It will require that every child has access to good quality health and education. It will also require that every child develops the right skills for their future and has access to sports and culture. It will also require that every child is protected from all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation. As pointed out in UNICEF’s Multidimensional Child Poverty Analysis in Montenegro, all of this is needed from the moment the child is born until the child successfully transitions to adulthood.