Nearly three out of four children worldwide are not shielded from the lifelong effects of poverty and discrimination.
Social protection covers the range of policies and programmes needed to reduce the lifelong consequences of poverty and exclusion. Programmes like cash transfers – including child grants, school meals, skills development and more – help connect families with health care, nutritious food and quality education to give all children, no matter what circumstances they are born into, a fair chance in life.
Yet, almost three out of four children worldwide are not covered by any form of social protection, leaving them vulnerable to economic hardship and social exclusion.
Children may be cut off from social protection for various reasons. Families who live in hard-to-reach places, or who are affected by conflict, violence or natural disasters, are often missed by cash transfer programmes and other critical services. Girls and boys with disabilities are also more likely than their peers to be left behind, and women and girls face specific risks and discrimination which increases their likelihood of poverty and unpaid care burdens at different points in the lifecycle, affecting multiple aspects of their lives.
For children in places where social protection is accessible, services may be fragmented. Governments that fund programmes to expand education but neglect those that tackle malnutrition, for example, may find that girls and boys still struggle to learn. When social protection programmes do not reinforce one another – in education, health, nutrition, child protection and other areas – children miss out on key opportunities, and remain vulnerable to the lifelong effects of poverty.
Social assistance for parents is also crucial. Child care and other forms of support help families pursue the opportunities they need to build better futures for their children. Still, these services remain out of reach for many families in need.
UNICEF is a leading global partner on social protection, working in more than 140 countries in a wide range of policies and programmes – from cash transfer programmes to social welfare services – that addresses child poverty in all its dimensions.
Our social protection activities include:
- Generating evidence on child poverty and vulnerability, and the impact of social protection programmes on children and communities.
- Promoting responsive/transformative social protection including gender- responsive social protection systems, care systems and family friendly policies, to respond to gendered risks and needs; support women’s and girls’ economic and social empowerment, and child development more broadly.
- Promoting disability-inclusive social protection systems that promote social inclusion and addressing risk of poverty, abandonment, neglect and institutionalization.
- Enhancing the shock responsiveness of social protection systems to reduce vulnerability of women, men, boys and girls to humanitarian crises resulting from climate change, economic downturn, conflicts etc., and also to support them to deal with the humanitarian crises as and when they occur.
- Supporting the development of nascent social protection systems in fragile contexts including where social protection systems do not exist or are extremely fragile and where migrant and displaced populations face barriers to access social protection.
- Working with Governments and partners to translate social protection goals into laws and policies; to increase social protection financing and to improve synergies between social protection and public finance management.
- Providing technical support to establish and expand national cash transfer programmes through core diagnostics, registries, monitoring and evaluation systems, and decentralized capacity development.
- Connecting families in social protection programmes to information for child development, and encouraging the uptake of nutrition, health and education services.
- Promoting a case management approach by incorporating child-related data in social and beneficiary registries for cross-referrals and social care.
More from UNICEF
UN collaboration on social protection: Reaching consensus on how to accelerate social protection systems-building
Joint Statement: Principles for Financing Universal Social Protection
Being Prepared and Acting First: A series of case studies on UNICEF’s role in the delivery of effective social protection responses to COVID-19
Social Protection Response to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
Gender-Responsive Social Protection During COVID-19
Towards Universal Social Protection for Children: Achieving SDG 1.3
Programme Guidance: Strengthening Shock-Responsive Social Protection Systems
Technical Note: Better Integration of social protection and humanitarian information systems for shock response
Technical Note: Targeting for social protection in humanitarian and fragile contexts
UNICEF’s Global Social Protection Programme Framework
Making Cash Transfers Work for Children and Families
Addressing the Myths: The Affordability of Social Protection
Addressing the Myths: Do Social Protection Programs Lead to Misuse and Dependency?
A Synthesis of Recent Findings on Gender and Social Protection
Family Friendly Policies for Workers in the Informal Economy
Key resources on social protection & gender-based violence
What we know about linkages between social protection & child marriage
Conceptual framework of gender-responsive, age-sensitive social protection
Review of mainstreaming gender into social protection strategies and programmes in 74 LMICs
Strategy for building towards gender-transformational approaches in social protection