Children And Young People In Care Across South East Asia Ask For Increased Support In The Wake Of COVID-19
Child representatives and care leavers from South East Asia
have called for increased support for continuing education, psychosocial care,
finding jobs and affordable housing in the wake of COVID-19.
Their recommendations were discussed with Asian government
and civil society representatives in an online forum on July 28, 2020. Watch
the virtual forum here.
Adi Soumena, a 17-year-old child rights advocate from SOS
Children’s Village Lembang in Indonesia who represented the voices of children
in alternative care in the forum, shared the challenges of continuing education
virtually. He said a lack of devices, online access, and the limited capacities
of educators and caregivers to support virtual learning is hindering millions
of children in their education. Children with disabilities in care are
especially at a disadvantage.
“Children living with disabilities have found it difficult
to transition to virtual learning,” Adi said at the forum. “Lack of
disabilities friendly learning materials have made it hard for them to continue
their education. Virtual learning has to be made much more inclusive.”
The July 28 virtual forum, titled COVID-19 Response towards
the Alternative Care of Children in South East Asia, provided the platform to
highlight issues and concerns faced by children and young people in Cambodia,
Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The forum aimed to
highlight challenges of children, young people and caregivers living in
different kinds of alternative care.
Young care leavers highlighted the problems of finding jobs
when businesses and industries are adversely impacted by COVID-19. There is a
lack of policies and benefits to support care leavers to find jobs in the
formal sector. They feel the pressure of not having resources and social
networks which can help them tide through the challenging times.
Le Hoang Phong, a 27-year-old youth advocate and a care
leaver from SOS Children’s Villages Go Vap in Vietnam, said: “The opportunities
of job placements through vocational training institutions are also quite
negligible as there is little coordination between institutions and
enterprises. SOS Children’s Villages could build partnerships with corporates
and develop customised vocational training and recruitment programmes.”
The pandemic has left many care leavers struggling to find
affordable and safe housing. Housing support is a key concern for care leavers.
The ones who have exited care depend on their incomes or savings to secure
housing. However, the loss of job or income due to COVID-19 has led many of
them to exhaust their savings and potentially lose their homes.
The young care leavers recommended that they should have
guidance and financial support for housing after leaving care as having a safe
space is critical to their well-being and growth. Their recommendations were
similar to those outlined in an international care leaver’s declaration
developed at an earlier youth forum.
Ms. Shubha Murthi, Deputy COO, SOS Children’s Villages
International said: “Young care leavers, especially with their own children are
finding it difficult to survive. They do not have a social network that a
biological family offers and are left without a safety net in difficult times.
Many care leavers have reached out to SOS Children’s Villages for help in three
areas: emotional support, reskilling to match the current requirements of the
job market and financial security.”
Representatives of regional bodies such as ASEAN Commission
on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC),
governmental agencies/policymakers such as the Ministry of Social Affairs,
Indonesia, the Ministry of Labour - Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) of
Vietnam, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Vietnam and civil
society organisations (CSOs) from South East Asia also participated in the
forum. They shared measures taken by the governments such as timely advisories,
food support and financial assistance to help children and youth in alternative
It was recommended that the way forward should allow for
children to engage with local governments for COVID-19 response, such as
raising awareness among children and young people, distribution of food; and
also to provide peer support for studying at home. The other recommendations
include an ASEAN Alternative Care Alliance to share knowledge and best
practices within the region. It will help to advocate collectively for quality
alternative care. Yuyum Fhahni Paryani, the ACWC representative in Indonesia also
suggested strengthening regional cooperation for realising fundamental freedoms
and well-being of vulnerable populations.
The virtual forum, organised by SOS Children’s Villages
International Office – Asia, in association with the South East Asian member
associations, was attended by 268 attendees, representing governments, United
Nation (UN) bodies, CSOs and academia as well as children and youth both in
care and care leavers from Asia, Europe and Africa. CSOs included Hope and
Homes for Children, Lumos, The Asia Foundation, Family for Every Child, and
Plan International. UN was represented by United Nations Children’s Fund