Making social protection work for children in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia: Findings and recommendations

Research commissioned by UNICEF in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia has identified the following challenges and opportunities related to social protection for children in the region: 1) As currently structured and administered, social protection in this region is not ensuring an adequate living standard for children or relieving their deprivations and vulnerabilities, and often fails to reach the most marginalized children and those most in need of assistance; 2) Cash benefits directed towards children and families living in poverty are usually too low in monetary value to have a sustained impact on child and family poverty levels, and large numbers of the poorest people are excluded from social assistance benefits; 3) Social care and support services are underdeveloped and require significant investment in order to reach the most marginalized children and families. Programmes to help children and families access health, education, preschool and early childhood care services are not reaching all populations; 4) Levels of spending on child and family oriented social assistance benefits are very low across most of the region. Underinvestment often results from lack of political will rather than insufficient fiscal space. Countries that spend the most tend to achieve the greatest reductions in child poverty; 5) Lack of awareness of programmes and discrimination against the most vulnerable children and families and against recipients of social protection prevent many from receiving, or even applying for, benefits and services they are entitled to.