Synopsis of the article
In this article, Dr. Rashmi Singh, IAS; Special Secretary Cum Director – Delhi Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD) talks about the details of the programme
I am currently serving as the Special Secretary cum Director in the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD) with additional charge as Special Secretary cum Director, Department of Social Welfare, Government of NCT of Delhi. Being an officer from the Indian Administrative Services, I have served in different areas and capacities in the past, ranging from far-flung islands of Andaman and Nicobar as Secretary, Social Welfare/ Industries/ General Administration to the Ministry of Women and Child, Government of India, in my capacity as Executive Director of the National Mission for empowerment for women.
The COVID pandemic and its impact
The COVID pandemic has been unprecedented. It brought with it devastation nobody had ever thought of. The pandemic has had some unfortunate circumstances for almost everyone. Many people have lost their near and dear ones, and the socio-economic costs have been huge given the loss of life and livelihood.
In this context, it is evident that children have disproportionately been affected by this crisis situation, adversely impacting their overall wellbeing. Apart from the common problems faced by the general population in the wake of Covid, the vulnerabilities of children have been further exacerbated in terms of loss of care and protection because of their parents/guardians succumbing to Covid-19 as well as the isolation and mental trauma that the pandemic has imposed disassociating them with everyday outdoor activities. Additionally, they suffered also because schools were shut down and classes were made online and those who did not have access to resources needed for online learning such as mobile, laptops, or internet facilities, were bereft of the advantage of digital education too.
It will not be far-fetched to suggest that minor children who lost either or both parents during the pandemic have been the most disadvantaged given their whole life ahead of them. Also, if they had parents from the disadvantaged socio-economic background who faced the loss of livelihood and resource crunch, this also brought associated mental trauma in the family affecting the well-being of children.
Concept behind Paalan
Paalan is a Hindi word, meaning ‘upbringing,’ in its literal sense. It is a project which came into being to augment the Delhi Child Welfare Fund which is a part of statutory responsibilities of the Department of Women and Child under the JJ Act. The project was started at a time when it was seen that children were bearing a disproportionate effect and enhanced vulnerability due to Covid.
The WCD department in collaboration with various stakeholders such as DCPCR, Childline, Child Welfare Committee, District Child Protection Unit has been able to create a database of children who have been rendered orphans or lost either of their parents during the Covid pandemic. Need assessment was also undertaken in order to determine the socio-economic needs of such children including the need for safe shelter, education, counseling, etc. The CWC and DCPUs play a very important role in determining such needs and the department has maintained a very proactive linkage with these units so as to support such children in terms of the required linkages.
Based on these processes, we have introduced an innovative solution to cater to the dynamic needs of children and providing them immediate and need-based socio-economic support. This idea got full support from the State Child Protection Society too. Paalan has thus become a dynamic response tool enabling us to have a flexible, need-based and child-centric approach rather than a schematic approach. It fosters a partnership between WCD through Delhi Child Welfare Fund and the corporates through their CSR. There is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which looks at a child with customized needs, which might be in kinds, such as stationary or a tablet such as needed by a child who is going to appear for class 10 exams. Paalan provides an immediate response from Delhi Child Welfare Fund from WCD Headquarters.
SPV is a mechanism to simplify the process of fundraising, investment, and project development. SPV committee meets regularly for strategizing the rollout necessary for the program. The members of the team are constituted from various organizations to address apart from other things issues related to Funds / Resource Mobilization, Project Development for Holistic well-being for children in need, and ways to bring greater awareness, communication, and visibility on the subject of child rights and wellbeing.
Role of partner organizations
I think in such initiatives, along with the Government, civil society organisations and corporates have an important role because each partner brings in their respective strength with their capacity to adapt, innovate and do the community outreach in a sensitive manner. Paalan seeks to bring mapping and matching of resources for the growth and development of children in a sustained manner.
During the wake of Covid, there were many children who needed immediate support which could not be confined to the realms of any existing scheme alone. Here we realized the need to partner with the organizations under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Under the Rani fund, Nayana Bijli spoke to me about her willingness to bring financial contribution (seed funding), and she said that if we come forward, others will also be motivated.
I am glad that PVR Network for Enablement for Social Transformation (NEST) was one of the first institutional partners which came forward and we do hope that in this journey many more will join hands with us.
Need assessment of the child
There is a proper mechanism for assessing the needs of the child. There is District Care Protection Unit (DCPU), there are counselors, and CWC members who assess the socio-economic needs of children and facilitate linkages under the Juvenile Justice Act.
Using the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, children who need institutional care, children who may need different kinds of family environments under foster care, or who may need to be supported within their existing family setup are identified and a plan is made by the CWC in consultation with other stakeholders.
The idea under Paalan started with looking into financial needs which could get immediately sanctioned by the SPV without going in for complex and lengthy documentary procedures. But gradually the scope expanded to making provision for in-kind support too eg a child who needed a wheelchair was immediately helped under paalan.
The government also runs a sponsorship programme under /Mission Vaatsalya’ where the sponsorship amount of Rs. 2000 can be given but restricted to two children. Similarly, Delhi Government has come up with a new scheme of Mukhyamantri Pariwar Arthik Sahayata Yojana where children affected by Covid’s death in the family can get financial support under the scheme. However, this will not include such distress where there is no evidence of Covid’s death yet the child has been left vulnerable during the covid times.
How to connect or reaching out for help
A child may not know where to reach out, but the people around them ought to know. One can call up 1098 which is a Childline India Foundation helpline number, or the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) helpline number. We have put details of all helpline numbers in our public offices, CWCs. Child Welfare Committee’s (CWC) and DCPUs contact numbers have also been widely publicized.
There also have been cases where children have called up directly on 1098, saying they need help. Then the Foundation informs WCD, CWC, etc. and our system accordingly reaches out to such children. Wide publicity has been done in recent months to these Helpline numbers.
People’s contribution and Convergence of resources
The government does not lack resources, but collaborations with Corporates, civil society organizations, and child rights champions build a better voice for the children and can ensure that no one is left behind. Every child has to be cared for by a collective endeavor, I would like to hence invite everyone to come forward and support this initiative of Paalan which has to go a long way for care, protection and well-being of children in need in Delhi with a mantra of / child-centric convergence of efforts.
FILM ON PAALAN PROGRAMME
Views are personal.
About the author: Dr. Rashmi Singh, IAS (https://twitter.com/rashmisinghIAS), Special Secretary Cum Director – Delhi Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD).
Author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org