Policy Brief on Feasibility of a Universal National Child Grant – National Consultancy, Damascus, Syria
The key objective of this consultancy is to conduct an analysis to assess the feasibility of a sustainable and effective universal child grant scheme to address deprivation and vulnerabilities faced by children. The feasibility analysis will look into different options for categorical targeting of specific age groups across the population with the objective to provide the policy makers with thought-through options with clear analysis on budget implications and long-term benefits in terms of poverty reduction, productivity, and improved social welfare. The final product of this assignment will be a policy brief on feasibility of a national universal child grant scheme, to help policy-makers to decide on best approaches for planning purposes.
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BACKGROUND AND RATIONALE
Over eight years of crisis have had a significant socio-economic impact on the affected population in Syria. The crisis has eroded the country’s human development achievements of several decades and led to a setback for all key child wellbeing indicators. According to UN estimates, 5 million children are in need of immediate humanitarian aid in Syria.
Under economic duress, households are at the risk of resorting to negative or harmful coping mechanisms such as selling household assets, borrowing, reducing food consumption and child labour to compensate for the lack of basic necessities. The scope and range of protection issues affecting children in Syria are immense as they bear the cognitive and emotional scars of the traumatic experiences they face in their daily life.
The loss of jobs and assets, disruption of social services, downscaling of social spending, combined with spiking inflation have led to an unprecedented increase in poverty rates. According to Syria’s National Report on Sustainable Development published in February 2019, the percentage of population living under poverty line has reached 68% . According to UN estimates, the number of people of need, in 2019, under the Early Recovery and Livelihoods Sector is estimated to stand around 8.7 million.
Given the high prevalence of poverty as a result of the crisis, and considering the demographic composition of households in Syria, it can be assumed that children are disproportionately represented among the poor population. That means children constitute at least over half of the population in poverty in the country. Therefore, addressing child poverty is an imperative as poverty reduction across the population is a national priority.
While the humanitarian support can guarantee a life-saving response to the immediate needs of families and children, there is a consensus on the importance of social protection interventions to enhance the resilience of the most vulnerable families in the face of adversities of crisis and displacement, to strengthen the continuum of humanitarian and early recovery interventions, and to preserve the social protection space in the country.
Building on the experience of the Cash Transfer Programme for Children with Disabilities, which has been implemented by UNICEF Syria in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour (MoSAL), the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, as the main government entity responsible for social welfare in the country, is keen to explore the feasibility of a progressive social protection scheme to address the vulnerabilities of children of specific age groups or vulnerable categories across the population.
In consideration of principles of equity and social welfare and taking into account the present high levels of poverty in the country, a child-focused social protection scheme will minimize the risks that are often associated with a means-tested approach. In addition to methodological limitations of any proxy means test method which inherently runs the risk of high exclusion errors, such poverty targeting approaches also entail high administrative, social and political costs.
Inclusive social protection schemes are one of the key ingredients for stability and social welfare. The question of “who” receives “what” benefit is central to the design of social protection programmes. Such important decisions need to be based on solid evidence on the medium- and long-term costs and benefits of different scenarios and should be cognizant of its potential social implications.
From the public opinion perspective, there is often a consensus across the societies on the need to prioritizing investing in children. Yet, how the social protection programmes for children are designed is crucial to ensure public support for the programmes in the long-term and positive contribution to social welfare across the society.
Children’s wellbeing is high on the Government of Syria’s post-crisis agenda. Analysis shows that rebuilding Syria’s human and social capital will be a far greater and lasting challenge than reconstructing the physical infrastructure. Therefore, investing in human capital formation of children is an immediate priority for the country’s economic recovery.
Given the on-going efforts by the Government in reforming the social protection programmes in the country, this assignment is important to inform the decision-makers on what programmes to invest in for the highest return in terms of human capital development and enhanced social cohesion.
As part of the Joint Work Plan between the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour and UNICEF, UNICEF is committed to support generation of knowledge on social protection in the country to support informed and evidence-based policy making.
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OBJECTIVES OF THE CONSULTANCY
The key objective of this consultancy is to conduct an analysis to assess the feasibility of a sustainable and effective universal child grant scheme to address deprivation and vulnerabilities faced by children. The feasibility analysis will look into different options for categorical targeting of specific age groups across the population with the objective to provide the policy makers with thought-through options with clear analysis on budget implications and long-term benefits in terms of poverty reduction, productivity, and improved social welfare.
The final product of this assignment will be a policy brief on feasibility of a national universal child grant scheme, to help policy-makers to decide on best approaches for planning purposes.
SCOPE OF THE ASSIGNMENT AND METHODOLOGY
Within the framework of the Joint Work Plan between the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour and UNICEF, the assignment will entail:
- Desk review and analysis of the existing national social protection schemes
- Mapping of the design and implementation arrangement of the existing social protection schemes, including eligibility criteria, coverage and implementation mechanisms.
- Analyse the responsiveness of the existing social protection schemes to the special needs and vulnerabilities of children
- Assessment of feasibility of a national child grant scheme
- Identify and assess the challenges and problems with the targeting methods of existing social protection schemes, including errors in reaching the intended beneficiaries. Some targeting methodologies, such as Proxy Means Tests, have been found to systematically fail to include the most disadvantaged people (exclusion error) – mainly as a result of methodological inadequacies as well as limitations with data/information.
- Assess the suitability of introduction of a child grant within the national social protection framework.
- Assess the feasibility of introducing a child grant, including:
- Conduct simulations to identify possible scenarios and analyse the cost of every identified options – in terms of the target age groups, benefit levels, required structure, etc. – including options for progressive expansion.
- Conduct simulations to analyse the benefit incidence of each options to identify sections of the population that are more likely to benefit most from the proposed solutions, and the impact of the transfer on poverty and inequality in the short-term and in the long-run;
- Make recommendations comparing the merits and challenges/risks of each identified options and highlight the recommended option – taking into account fiscal implications as well as the potential long-term social and economic gains of different options, e.g. impact on poverty levels and productivity of the work force.
- Analyze the institutional arrangement of the existing social protection schemes, including the National Social Aid Fund, and map all the key institutions, departments/units and agencies with a mandate relevant to non-contributory social assistance/social protection, who should be engaged or consulted in the design, management and implementation of child grants, to recommend the 0ptimal institutional arrangement for the implementation of a child grant with an integrated approach.
The final Policy Brief should highlight the advantages, challenges, conditions for the success of implementation of a child grant in Syria. It should highlight recommended options for decision makers, with justifications in light of the feasibility, short/long-term benefits and costs.
Methodology The analysis will make use of desk review, secondary data analysis, interviews with key duty-bearers and experts, and economic simulation methods. No primary data collection will be required.
On-site working days: 120 days (estimated) in Damascus, Syria
Off-site working days: N/A
Field Missions/Travel: Low probability
Estimated Start Date: 01st of August 2019
Estimated End Date: 31st February 2020
The selected consultant will work for an estimated total number of 120 working days within a period of 7 months from August 2019 through February 2020.
SUPERVISOR: The consultant will be supervised by and report to the UNICEF Chief of Social Policy with regular de-briefing with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour on the progress of the assignment.
Proposed payment schedule: By Deliverable As per the following schedule:
- First Instalment: 20% of the total contract fee upon satisfactory delivery of the Deliverable 1.
- Second Instalment: 20% of the total contract fee upon satisfactory delivery of the Deliverable 2.
- Third Instalment: 20% of the contract fee upon satisfactory delivery of the Deliverable 3.
- Fourth Instalment: 20% of the contract fee upon satisfactory delivery of the Deliverables 4.1 and 4.2.
- Fifth Instalment: 20% of the contract fee upon satisfactory delivery of the Deliverable 5.
The Consultant will work in close coordination with MoSAL and UNICEF and is required to provide regular bi-monthly update to the relevant focal points from MoSAL and UNICEF.
ICT CONSIDERATIONS: Not Applicable
Travel to the duty station to commence the assignment: For individual contractors and consultants, all travel arrangements to commence the assignment, including insurance will be managed and paid by the individual.
Duty travels during the course of consultancy: For individual contractors and consultants, should “mission travel” be required, UNICEF will manage and pay for travel via Travel Authorization system. However, this will be subject to the following prerequisites: Medical Clearance, Security Clearance through the Travel Request Information Process (TRIP) system, the Basic and Advanced Security in the Field Trainings, Travel Visa, and liability waiver. Trip prerequisites will be met at the expense of the consultant.
To qualify as an advocate for every child you will have…
- Advanced university degree in Economics, Social Policy, Economic Policy or Public Policy (Means of Verification (MoV): education credentials)
- Demonstrated knowledge of the current global trends, debates and challenges in the field of social protection, with a sound knowledge of areas of contestation (MoV: Interview/ Sample of written work)
- Demonstrated knowledge and experience in conducting assessments, research and writing technical papers and policy briefs or other publications on social protection, poverty reduction and other related subjects (MoV: Sample of written work);
- Proficiency in English and Arabic. (MoV: Interview)
- At least 8 years of relevant work or research experience in the field of social policy/social protection; macroeconomics, poverty reduction, and other related subjects. (MoV: CV/Work Certificates)
For every Child, you demonstrate…
UNICEF’s core values of Care, Respect, Integrity, Trust, Accountability and core competencies in Communication, Working with People and Drive for Results.
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EVALUATION PROCESS OF APPLICATIONS
Qualified candidates are requested to submit:
- Cover letter/application.
- Curriculum Vitae.
- Examples of previous, relevant work
- Proposed methodology/approach to managing the assignment (max 2,000 words).
- At least 3 Referees.
- Application on Talent Management System or P11 form (which can be downloaded from our website here. )
Applicants may be invited for further technical assessment and offers will be evaluated by the following criteria:
Overall Response (20 points)
- Understanding of tasks, objectives and completeness and coherence of the proposed approach
Proposed Methodology and Approach (30 points)
- Quality of proposed approach/methodology
- Quality of proposed timeframe and work plan
Technical Capacity (50 points)
- Relevance of consultant’s experience with similar projects as per the required qualifications
UNICEF is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce, and encourages all candidates, irrespective of gender, nationality, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including persons living with disabilities, to apply to become a part of the organization.
UNICEF has a zero-tolerance policy on conduct that is incompatible with the aims and objectives of the United Nations and UNICEF, including sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, abuse of authority and discrimination. UNICEF also adheres to strict child safeguarding principles. All selected candidates will, therefore, undergo rigorous reference and background checks, and will be expected to adhere to these standards and principles.
 For further reading, please refer to:
Brown, C., Ravallion, M., van de Walle, D. (2016), A Poor Means Test? Econometric Targeting in Africa, Policy Research Working Paper No. 7915, World Bank Group, December 2016.