Social Protection for Children

2023 MAR 17

Mains   > Social justice   >   Human Resources   >   Women and Child issues


  • Only 26.4 percent of children (1 in 4 children) aged 0-15 years are shielded by social protection, leaving the remaining 73.6 percent exposed to poverty, exclusion, and multidimensional deprivations, noted the "More than a Billion Reasons: The Urgent Need to Build Universal Social Protection" report released by the International Labour Organization and UNICEF.


  • According to the report, around 1.77 billion children aged 0-18 years lack access to a child or family cash benefit, a fundamental pillar of a social protection system.
  • Globally, all 2.4 billion children need social protection to be healthy and happy, said the report.
  • Child and family social protection coverage rates fell or stagnated in every region in the world between 2016 and 2020, leaving no country on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of achieving substantial social protection coverage by 2030.
    • In Latin America and the Caribbean, coverage fell significantly from approximately 51 per cent to 42 per cent. In many other regions, coverage has stalled and remains low. 
  • As per the report, one billion children live in multidimensional poverty without access to education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation or water.
  • The report said that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted that social protection is a critical response in times of crisis. Nearly every government in the world has either rapidly adapted existing schemes or introduced new social protection programs to support children and families.
    • The report stated that 31 states in India had implemented the national ‘PM CARES for Children’ scheme, a package of measures for 10,793 full orphans (children who lost both parents) and 151,322 half-orphans (children who lost one parent due to the pandemic).


  • Social protection covers the range of policies and programmes needed to reduce the lifelong consequences of poverty and exclusion.
  • Social protection for children refers to those social protection systems and interventions that are designed with the rights and needs of children at their core.
  • 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.


  • Reducing poverty and realizing children’s rights:
    • Social protection is essential in preventing and reducing poverty for children and families, in addressing inequalities and in realizing children’s rights. 
    • Extensive evidence shows that child sensitive social protection reduces poverty while also contributing to income security in households, with broader significance for child health, education and food security and protection.
  • Creates a virtuous circle:
    • Investment in social protection for children expands human capabilities and productivity, and creates a virtuous circle, fuelling economic growth and contributing to more sustainable tax and transfer systems that will enable further expansion of social protection for all, including children.
  • Can reduce gendered poverty:
    • Child centric social protection schemes and family-friendly policies are needed to ensure social protection is gender-responsive, including social transfers, maternity benefits, care policies and parental leave, as well as connecting social protection schemes to broader gender-responsive services.
    • When designed appropriately, social protection can reduce gendered poverty, overcome barriers and promote girls’ and women’s fuller participation in economic and social life.


  • Specific constitutional provisions:
    • Article 21 A: Right to free and compulsory elementary education for all children in the 6-14 years age group
    • Article 24: Right to be protected from any hazardous employment till the age of 14 years
    • Article 39(e): Right to be protected from being abused and forced by economic necessity to enter occupations unsuited to their age or strength
    • Article 39(f): Right to equal opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and guaranteed protection of childhood and youth against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment
    • Article 45: Right to early childhood care and education to all children until they complete the age of six years
  • Legislative:
  • Policies & Schemes:
    • National Policy for Children, 2013
      • As children’s needs are multi-sectoral, interconnected and require collective action, the Policy calls for purposeful convergence and coordination across different sectors and levels of governance.
      • The Policy has identified four key priority areas:
        • Survival, health and nutrition
        • Education and development
        • Protection
        • Participation
      • Based on the Policy, the National Plan of Action for Children (NPAC), 2016 was developed.
    • PM CARES for Children:
      • The PM CARES for Children Scheme was launched by The Hon'ble Prime Minister of India on 29th May 2021 for the Children.
      • It aims to support children who have lost both the Parents or legal Guardian or Adoptive Parents or Surviving Parent to COVID-19 pandemic during the period starting from 11th March 2020.
      • The objective of the Scheme is to ensure comprehensive care and protection of Children in a sustained manner, and enable their well-being through health insurance, empower them through education and equip them for self-sufficient existence with financial support on reaching 23 years of age.
    • Mission Vatsalya:
      • Formerly called the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), Mission Vatsalya aims to:
        • Secure a healthy and happy childhood for every child in India
        • Foster a sensitive, supportive and synchronized ecosystem for development of children
        • Assist States/UTs in delivering the mandate of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015
        • Achieve the SDG goals
      • Under the scheme, institutional support, such as shelter homes, and non-institutional services, such as adoption, are covered.
    • Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)
    • Efforts in telecom and cyber space:
      • Helpline numbers, like 24x7 helpline 1098 for children in distress
      • PENCiL portal is an online platform that aims at engaging the Central Government, State Government, District, civil society and the public in eradicating child labour to achieve the target of child labour free society.
      • POCSO e-Box is an online complaint box for reporting child sexual abuse. It is a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) initiative to help children report such crimes directly to the Commission.
  • International:
    • UN Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC):
    • Hague convention on Adoption of children
    • International collaborations:
      • Indian agencies collaborate with agencies like INTERPOL to address threats against children.
      • For instance, “Megh Chakra” was being carried out following the inputs received from Interpol’s Singapore special unit based on the information received from the authorities in New Zealand.


  • Rights-based, inclusive, gender-responsive social protection system:
    • Build social protection systems that are rights-based, inclusive, gender-responsive, informed by social dialogue and able to effectively respond to multiple shocks and crises, and that can therefore deliver for children and families.
  • Life-cycle approach:
    • Provide a comprehensive range of benefits that supports children and families through a life-cycle approach.
  • Financing of social protection systems:
    • Ensure sustainable and equitable financing of social protection systems that allows for the necessary investment in social protection for children.
  • Proper management of care institutions:
    • The safety and security of child care homes have been a matter of concern ever since sexual assaults were reported in child care institutions in Deoria in Uttar Pradesh and Muzaffarpur in Bihar in 2018.
  • Formalisation of economy:
    • Millions of child labourers remain invisible, due to the informal nature of their job. This can be addressed by promoting the pace of formalisation of Indian economy.
  • Create more infrastructure:
    • There is a severe lack of child care institutions (CCI) in India, particularly in the north-eastern states. As a result, the number of children residing in these CCIs are in excess, which pose a potential risk to the rights and protection of these children.
  • Improve conviction rates:
    • Despite having several legislations for child protection, the actual conviction rate is dismal. For instance, the conviction rate in human trafficking cases is only about 1.5 per cent. This situation needs to be improved through creation of special courts.
  • Awareness generation:
    • Patriarchal notions and societal acceptance are major contributors towards violence against children. This can be tackled by improving awareness on the need of protecting and investing in our children


Q. Give an account of the concerns faced in ensuring the protection and development of children in India. What measures have been taken to address these concerns?