The query was what is the evidence regarding positive and negative impacts of social protection programmes on children, and more specifically, the conditions and processes that cause these outcomes? What does the literature suggest as key guiding considerations and approaches to maximise positive impacts.
The impact of social protection on children is under-researched. Key findings and insights from the existing literature include:
- Household and community poverty and economic inequality are key risk
factors affecting children’s wellbeing and child protection (Peterman
et al., forthcoming; de Hoop and Rosati, 2014; UNICEF, 2012, 2015;
expert comments). For example, evidence indicates that child labour is
driven largely by household vulnerability, associated with poverty and
risks (De Hoop and Rosati, 2014; Sanfilippo et al., 2012; ILO, 2013).
- Social protection systems which address multi-sectors
(multidimensionality) have shown positive impacts for addressing
economic and human development, multiple vulnerabilities, and both
social and economic inequities (UNICEF, 2012; Tafere and Woldehanna,
2012; Sanfilippo et al., 2012; ILO, 2013; Adato et al., 2016).
- Child-sensitive social protection programmes implies that programmes
are more intentionally responsive to and address children’s rights and
vulnerabilities, addressing the range of dimensions of children’s
wellbeing (UNICEF, 2012). It does not mean however programmes are
necessarily child-exclusive (i.e., targeted).
- Impacts of social protection can operate through multiple channels,
namely: direct effects, attributed directly to the programme, and
indirect effects, changes associated more broadly with poverty
reduction. Implementation also affects impact, e.g. agency capacity,
synergies and coordination of services, and wider factors (e.g. the
political economy (and political will), fiscal space, cultural views
and practices) (Barrientos et al., 2013, 2014; Jones and Holmes,
- Social protection and child protection (e.g. combatting abuse and
violence) should not be viewed as two separate sectors – social
protection has great potential to decrease risks for children (KVC, 26
May 2016 website, see below; Transfer Project website, see below).
Evidence on non-contributory social protection programme impacts on
violence and abuse against children cautiously indicates positive
protective impacts, notably on sexual violence against female
adolescents (Peterman et al. forthcoming).
- Social transfers can contribute to reducing negative sexual behaviours
and HIV prevention, particularly in combination with effective
enabling factors (e.g. health-care services). This is by addressing
underlying causes of risks – these are the structural social and
economic drivers of adverse behaviours, e.g. early sexual debut,
unprotected sex, dependence on men for economic security, migration
for economic reasons, transactional sex (UNICEF-ESARO/Transfer
Pozarny, P. Impacts of social protection programmes on children (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 13811). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2016) 20 pp.