Pro­tect­ing at risk chil­dren a pri­or­ity

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By HU YONGQI and ZHANG YUE in Bei­jing

The State Coun­cil de­cided on Wed­nes­day, which was In­ter­na­tional Chil­dren’s Day, to in­tro­duce new mea­sures to bet­ter pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren in China.

The de­ci­sion was made dur­ing a State Coun­cil ex­ec­u­tive meet­ing presided over by Premier Li Ke­qiang.

“Chil­dren liv­ing in ex­tremely dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances need spe­cial care and pro­tec­tion,” Li em­pha­sized at the meet­ing. “The govern­ment should work to build a safety net to bet­ter pro­tect them.”

Li was re­fer­ring to chil­dren who en­dure harsh liv­ing con­di­tions be­cause of poverty, health prob­lems or lack of parental cus­tody or who have been ab­ducted. Ma­jor prob­lems that these chil­dren face in­clude se­vere poverty and a lack of med­i­cal treat­ment and ed­u­ca­tion.

A doc­u­ment cir­cu­lated at the meet­ing in­tro­duced spe­cific re­quire­ments for cen­tral min­istries and lo­cal gov­ern­ments to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive as­sis­tance to these chil­dren.

Such ef­forts will in­clude pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial aid and spe­cial med­i­cal care cov­er­age.

Lo­cal gov­ern­ments are urged to fully im­ple­ment com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion and guar­an­tee that chil­dren’s guardians ful­fill their cus­to­dial re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

“Pro­tect­ing chil­dren in dif­fi­cult con­di­tions is an im­por­tant part of our ef­forts to build a mod­er­ately pros­per­ous so­ci­ety, as well as a so­cial safety net that leaves no one un­pro­tected,” Li said.

He also said the govern­ment needs to ful­fill its duty to pro­tect chil­dren in dif­fi­culty, and must fur­ther im­prove and re­vise leg­is­la­tion and poli­cies in this re­gard.

In­creas­ing sub­si­dies and pro­vid­ing bet­ter pro­tec­tion for vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren were put forth by the premier in the Govern­ment Work Re­port he de­liv­ered in March last year. Dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing, he also called for so­cial ef­forts to cre­ate a good en­vi­ron­ment that of­fers more pro­tec­tion and care for such chil­dren.

The new doc­u­ment, an up­date of a ver­sion re­leased in 2014, also calls for non­govern­men­tal ef­forts in con­junc­tion with gov­ern­ments’ work to pro­tect chil­dren.

The meet­ing also de­cided that a free, 12-year ed­u­ca­tion through high school will be pro­vided to chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties from poor fam­i­lies. The coun­try now of­fers a free, nine-year com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion, for el­e­men­tary and mid­dle school, for all chil­dren.

Ac­cord­ing to the Chil­dren’s Wel­fare In­sti­tute at Bei­jing Nor­mal Univer­sity, the na­tion has at least 570,000 vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren, 91 per­cent of whom are with­out parental cus­tody be­cause their mother left them to re­marry af­ter their father died.

Since 2013, the Min­istry of Civil Af­fairs has car­ried out a pi­lot pro­gram in 50 coun­ties and county-level cities, such as Kun­shan in Jiangsu prov­ince, with the aim of es­tab­lish­ing a uni­ver­sal wel­fare sys­tem for chil­dren.

How to im­prove ser­vices is the key, be­cause of a lack of pro­fes­sion­als, said Guan Xin­ping, a professor of child re­search at Nankai Univer­sity.

Chil­dren liv­ing in ex­tremely dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances need spe­cial care and pro­tec­tion.”

Con­tact the writer at huy­ongqi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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