Social and Economic Policy

Social protection

© UNICEF/ HQ05-1680/Josh Estey

Child-sensitive social protection in context

In recent years, social protection has emerged as a major new focus in efforts to reduce poverty around the world. Social protection can be understood as a set of public actions which address not only income poverty and economic shocks, but also social vulnerability, thus taking into account the inter-relationship between exclusion and poverty. In the current economic and financial crisis, social protection strategies will be a crucial element in effective policy responses.

Making social protection more child-sensitive has the potential to benefit not only children, but also their families, communities and national development as a whole. Child sensitive social protection systems mitigate the effects of poverty on families, strengthen families in their child care role, and enhance access to basic services for the poorest and most marginalized. Since the most at-risk children live outside family care, child sensitive social protection systems must also be responsive to this vulnerable group, as well as to children facing abuse or discrimination at home.

Achieving child-sensitive social protection

Social protection does not have to explicitly target children in order to benefit them; small nuances in how social protection is delivered have the potential to make a huge difference for children. UNICEF works with other governments and partners to further social protection and help to ensure it is child-sensitive. The following principles should be considered in the design, implementation and evaluation of child sensitive social protection programmes:

  • Avoid adverse impacts on children, and reduce or mitigate social risks that directly affect children’s lives;
  • Intervene as early as possible where children are at risk, in order to prevent irreversible impairment or harm to children;
  • Consider the age and gender specific risks and vulnerabilities of children throughout the life-cycle;
  • Mitigate the effects of shocks, exclusion and poverty on families, recognizing that families raising children need support to ensure equal opportunity;
  • Make special provision to reach children who are particularly vulnerable and excluded, including children without parental care, and who are marginalized within their families or communities due to their gender, disability, ethnicity, HIV/AIDS or other factors, and;   
  • Consider the mechanisms and intra-household dynamics that may affect how children are reached, with particular attention paid to the special circumstances of women;
  • Include the voices and opinions of children and youth themselves in the understanding and design of social protection systems and programmes.



Child-sensitive social protection video