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Plan UK

Ending child poverty & securing child rights: The role of social protection
A Briefing Paper

Philippa Thomas

Plan UK

October 2005

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In a sense, for 50 years, donors, governments and development agencies have found more and more sophisticated ways not to give money to the poor. A new approach is needed as development efforts have not been very effective in reaching the very poorest and most vulnerable. There is growing evidence that cash transfers, as part of comprehensive social protection systems, grounded in human rights can play an effective role in reducing poverty and vulnerability and are disproportionately likely to benefit women and children. Modest social protection packages are affordable even in the poorest countries (Pal et al 2005). However, questions of affordability and design are political not technical. The real question is whether there is the political will and commitment to realise social protection as a right for all people, not just those in the developed world.

This paper will examine the new understandings of social protection and how these relate to child rights. It will argue that social protection instruments, and in particular, cash transfers have enormous potential to reduce child poverty. However, in order to maximise the benefits for child wellbeing, social protection systems need to be grounded within a rights based approach and linked to wider development in an holistic manner.

The paper also draws on presentations given at a series of four seminars on social protection organised by Plan UK and the Overseas Development Institute in June & July 2005 (

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