There are around 4,500 children in residential institutions in Armenia – this number has been relatively stable over the last years despite the decline in child population.
In child protection UNICEF is cooperating with a number of key ministries, including Ministry of Labour and Social Issues, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Education to support the latter in implementation of the ongoing child welfare reforms as well as in meeting the provisions of international legal instruments. De-institutionalisation and transformation of residential care institutions, juvenile justice, strengthening of national child protection bodies are among essential elements of the programme which aims at creating an overall protective environment for children in Armenia.
TRANSFORMATION OF INSTITUTIONS
There are around 4,500 children in residential institutions in Armenia – this number has been relatively stable over the last years despite the decline in child population. There is an intensive dialogue with the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) about the need to transform special schools. Reduction of the number of special schools alongside the expansion of inclusive schools is stated as an aim in the State Programme on Education Development 2011-2015. Current legislative amendments in the Parliament that the Ministry of Education and Science initiated stipulate the transformation of at least one special school in each region into a pedagogical support centre. UNICEF is currently working on the transformation plans of two special schools in Syunik region, but the MoES is also interested to expand to other schools.
Discussions are on-going with the Ministry of Labour and Social Issues (MoLSI) to support the process of transformation of residential care institutions under MoLSI and establishment of community-based services. UNICEF has already supported MoLSI and MoES to conduct an assessment of special educational institutions. A concept note describing the process of transformation of institutions has been developed and shared with the Ministry of Labour and Social Issues. It is expected that the Ministry will adopt a document outlining Ministry's plans related to transformation of institutions and establishment of alternative services in April.
SUPPORT TO MoLSI IN LEGISLATIVE REFORMS
UNICEF supported MoLSI's initiated reforms aimed at strengthening child protection and preventing domestic violence. Particular attention has been paid to the development of the new National Plan of Action for Child Protection 2013-2016. UNICEF initiated several discussions among Child Protection NGOs and UN organisations, consolidated all their suggestions and recommendations and submitted to MoLSI.
COOPERATION WITH OMBUDSPERSON’s OFFICE AND THE PARLIAMENT
UNICEF has been providing continuous support to the Human Rights Defender's Office in capacity development of the newly established Child Protection Department and development of institutional framework to better respond to the violations of the rights of children. A complaint mechanism to receive reports and address violations of children’s rights as well as HRDO strategy on Child Protection will be developed in 2013.
A multi-partisan parliamentary working group on child rights held several hearings on child rights, with the recent one focusing on the rights and entitlements of children with disabilities.
JUSTICE FOR CHILDREN
The cooperation with the Ministry of Justice has been brought to a qualitatively new level through signing a Rolling Work Plan 2012-2013 (for the first time). UNICEF actively supported legislative reform initiatives of the Ministry. Several recommendations on Criminal Procedure Code, Criminal Code and Law on Arrestees and Detainees have been provided by UNICEF experts. Strong cooperation has been established with the Police Academy, Judiciary School and Prosecutors School. Training packages for law enforcement professionals have been prepared with direct support of UNICEF RO. UNICEF in collaboration with the Police and Project Harmony International supports Community Justice Centres (CJC) hosted and operated by local NGOs. These CJCs pursue programming that is deeply rooted in alternative justice theory. While most approaches to juvenile justice focus on punishing or treating delinquent youth, this theory emphasizes restorative justice and seeks to involve the entire community in rehabilitating offenders and holding them accountable for their behavior. CJCs have reported 86% of successful youth rehabilitation records – they have proven to be fully functioning and highly appreciated assets for community-based restorative justice.
In the area of local planning, UNICEF is working closely with the Ministry of Territorial Administration to build capacity of local authorities in prioritization, planning and budgeting for social needs of respective communities. The programme is closely linked with the ongoing introduction of Integrated Social Services in Armenia that will lead to better social protection and creation of needs-based services for vulnerable populations through fostering effective cooperation and interaction among various social services.
TERRITORIAL SOCIAL PLANNING
Territorial Social Planning approach was developed by UNICEF Armenia and officially approved in 2012 through a joint decree of the Ministers of Territorial Administration and Labor and Social Issues. TSP is a participatory planning which is based on the needs of population– children, women, elderly, families, persons with special needs. The method intends to cover the gap between the needs of population and the existing resources (services) vis-a-vis the sector-based planning, where only sectoral needs are covered. At the same time the Territorial Social Planning is referred to as the second pillar of Integrated Social Services reform and is absolutely critical for the success of the latter. While case managers work to improve self-resilience of individuals, territorial social planning defines and implements social projects/services at the collective level. Since 2011, UNICEF has been piloting TSP approach in two regions (Lori and Tavush). In 2013 UNICEF will expand TSP framework to another three regions within the frameworks of EU-funded 3-year programme on migration (case management, territorial social planning, institutional cooperation, diaspora involvement, parental care).
Another area addressed by UNICEF is fostering institutional cooperation among services (health, education, social protection). Currently, the cooperation among various social services is based on individual relationships where social sector services almost don’t have an institutional base for: joint planning, information exchange, joint activities and referral. As a result the problems of vulnerable children and other groups with multi-dimensional needs are either not properly detected (sometimes not detected at all) or do not receive an adequate response from all sectors concerned.
DATA SYSTEMS FOR PLANNING
Territorial inequalities remain one of the most critical issues in Armenia. It relates to almost all aspects of social and economic development and especially public services provided to population including those for children. The Ministry of Territorial Administration has developed a Concept on Proportional Territorial Development which envisages a set of actions aimed at addressing regional disparities. In order to accomplish these activities, the Ministry will need a comprehensive system of community level administrative data. UNICEF Armenia in partnership with UNDP is currently supporting the Ministry of Territorial Administration in the area of administrative statistics by setting up an institutional base for collecting, updating and classifying administrative data at a local level.
Since 2010 UNICEF Armenia, in close partnership with the World Bank, has been providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Labour and Social Issues in the design of the reform on Integrated Social Services. The pilot reform package was approved in 2012 to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of social protection services with the focus on the most excluded and marginalized groups of the population. The World Bank has been supporting the articulation of the functional-structural model of Integrated Social Services as well as renovation and refurbishment of 15 Integrated Social Centres through a loan. UNICEF Armenia, in turn, has been assisting the Government in developing the knowledge and capacities in relation to case management.
DEVELOPMENT OF M&E SYSTEM FOR INTEGRATED SOCIAL SERVICES
Within the RKLA agenda and RO-supported social protection projects, UNICEF is tasked to develop an M&E system for Integrated Social Services with the emphasis on case management. In addition, an evaluation of ISS will be conducted to measure the current performance of the system and provide recommendation for future adjustments.