Govt urged to expand child help

Govt urged to expand child help

B30m needed for universal benefits

Child protection advocates yesterday marked National Children's Day by urging the government to set aside 30 million baht to include the 4.2 million young children nationwide into its child welfare programme.

The current programme covers about 2 million children and receives only 15 million baht in funding, said Sunee Chaiyaros of the College of Social Innovation at Rangsit University. She is a member of a civic team working on the proposal to upgrade the government's child welfare programme into a universal child welfare scheme. The proposal was submitted in an open letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday.

Citing family eligibility, Ms Sunee said that from birth to six years of age, every child should be entitled to a 600 baht monthly living allowance to ensure their proper development. The welfare programme was launched in 2015 when all babies in poor families were given 400 baht a month in their first year of life. That was extended in 2016 to cover a broader age bracket from birth to three years old, and the allowance raised to 600 baht a month, she said.

In 2017, criteria for selecting children eligible to receive the benefit, in which only families earning a maximum of 36,000 baht per year are considered, was changed to no more than 100,000 baht in household income per year. The programme, however, still benefits only specific groups of children. A previous study found that about 30% of children who are eligible still aren't included due to problems with the screening system for poorer, she said.

Somnuek Saechia, a father, said 600 baht might seem a small amount of money to many, but for him and his family it really matters as his wife and two children have to rely on the wages he earns from a food delivery job. The new wave of Covid-19 infections has hit him hard financially, with his daily income dropping from 300-400 baht a day previously to less than 100 baht now.

Silada Rangsikanphum, manager of Foundation for Slum Child Care (FSCC), said the government's decision to temporarily shut down daycare centres for young children along with other activities deemed at risk of exacerbating the virus transmission is depriving about 200,000 young children of access to care. They are now lacking food, milk and child development activities, she said. Not all families can look after the children forced to stay at home as they have to go to work, she said.

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