Children are our future, to be nurtured, educated and protected. So, it comes as no surprise that Government invests heavily in their well-being, through considerable financial expenditure, as well as through dedicated research, policies, projects and initiatives.
Information tabled in Parliament last week by Minister Michael Falzon in reply to a question raised by Hon Mario Galea sheds light on the improvement to the situation of children in Malta over the past years. TheJournal.mt has reviewed this information:
Less children in poverty through an increase in allowances
In 2013, one third of Maltese and Gozitan children were at risk of poverty. By 2019 this was reduced to less than one quarter. This thanks to measures which were introduced to aid families and people in need in a concerted effort across government.
There have been substantial increases in the amounts, and where applicable, the income thresholds of Children’s Allowance, Orphans’ Allowance, Disability Allowance, Child in Care Allowance, the Milk Grant, Maternity and Adoption Allowance and Maternity and Adoption Leave Benefit. Adoption expenses can now be reimbursed for up to €10,000. The In-Work Benefit thresholds and benefits have also increased accordingly so that an even broader part of the population can now receive these benefits. Children’s Allowance Supplement and the Adoption Grant of €1000 were also introduced to further reduce the financial burden placed uponfamilies.
The First Billion
For the first time in history, expenditure in the social area in 2020 exceeded one billion Euro and included the payments of four special benefits which were launched at the beginning of the pandemic. Three of these benefits were designed to assist parents who had to stay at home to care for children under the age of 16, as well as vulnerable persons or persons with disabilities who had to stop working. In fact, nearly one thousand parents were paid over half a million Euro in COVID-19 temporary benefits. 2020 was a landmark in expenditure, but it was also a testament to the Government’s sensitivity to the needs of a people struck by a global disaster and a real answer to these urgent needs which the country faced.
Positive Parenting & the Commissioner for Children
In 2018 the Ministry for Social Justice and Solidarity, the Family and Children’s Rights launched the Positive Parenting Campaign, based on the National Strategic Policy for Positive Parenting. Moreover, this year it will launch a campaign on parental alienation to continue placing the interests and well-being of children at the forefront of the national agenda.
The Commissioner for Children has continued with its sterling work of empowerment, awareness, training, research, child participation, advocacy, and monitoring.
As part of this work, it has collaborated with other partners on the Tech.mt coordinated BeSmartOnline! project. The Commission also promoted the participation of children in local and foreign projects, such as the European Network of Young Advisors (ENYA).
One cannot fail to mention the three directorates falling under the Foundation for Social Welfare Services: Child Protection Services, the Directorate for Alternative Care and the Agency for Community and Therapeutic Services who work tirelessly to protect and assist children. They have invested in training, equipment and restructuring to emerge with even stronger and more specialised services, while synergising and bolstering collaboration with other primary stakeholders such as the Police, Education, Health and the Law Courts.
There has been and shall be a lot more work for children carried out by the Government, not merely that highlighted in this PQ, but also by other ministries and entities such as Education, Health and the Police.Among these initiatives, one finds two crucial game changers for families over the past years – free school transport and the removal of MATSEC and SEC fees.
These endeavours merit more space. As do the frontliners working on each and every policy, strategy, benefit and project to ensure that our children are given the very best under every aspect.