With Covid leaving at least 59 children orphaned in the capital, child welfare bodies are hard at work to identify whether a sponsorship scheme which is currently lying dormant can be used to assist them as well as those with a parent not in a position to support them.

The sponsorship programme, mandated under the Juvenile Justice Act, is meant to provide financial assistance to children who are either orphaned and living with extended family, or who have a lone parent incapable of providing for them.

As reported by The Indian Express in 2018, in response to an RTI asking about the status of the sponsorship scheme, the Delhi government’s Women and Child Development department had stated that it has not been implemented.

Child welfare officers said renewed efforts are underway to activate the programme at the earliest to assist children in distress because of Covid.

Speaking at a ‘state-level consultation’ organised by NGO Chetna, Pramodaya Khakha, assistant director of the Integrated Child Protection Services (IPCS), said Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) have been asked to take cognizance of children who could benefit from the programme.

“The provision for the sponsorship programme is there, and an advisory has been issued to CWCs and JJBs (Juvenile Justice Boards) to use their discretionary powers… Because the application process has not been clear, parents and guardians have not been able to apply to it. Because of this, we have requested that these bodies themselves take cognizance of such children and help them get the support of around Rs 2,000 per month,” he said.

Salam Khan, consultant with the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), said a standard operating procedure was being finalised. “A team comprising DCPCR, the WCD department, CWCs, and JJBs has been in discussion and the plan is to have a meeting to finalise it this week, after which the state government is expected to give its approval in a few days. In the meantime, CWCs have been asked to start recording and keeping tracking of those who might be eligible so that the programme can be mobilised as soon as it is approved,” he said.

Chairman, CWC Lajpat Nagar, Vaidehi Subramani, said her CWC has been in touch with the district magistrate’s office to identify such children. “Proactively, I’ve reached out to the South DM since their office knows where these deaths have happened and can help us contact the eligible children. From there, we have identified 100 children and another 25 from the NGO Butterflies, and we are thinking of connecting them to those schemes which are appropriate for their relief,” she said, emphasising that the effort should be to help children through schemes already in place under the JJ Act instead of “waiting for new schemes”.

Salam Khan also stated that the DCPCR is trying to tie up with NGOs and other organisations which might want to fund the education of children who do not come under the legal definition of “Children in Need of Care and Protection” to avail of JJ Act schemes.

The Delhi government is yet to notify and issue SOPs for its announced programme to provide a monthly Rs 2,500 pension to children orphaned by Covid and families which have lost their breadwinner to the disease.

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