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, two out of three 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.
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 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.