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Malta – Empowering Children and Investing in their Wellbeing

The Government assigns priority to children’s rights and well-being. In 2013, a National Commission for Child Policy and Strategy was set up in order to develop a children rights strategy and policy for children, based on child participation. The Commission is drafting a Children’s Act and a Children’s Policy to protect the rights and interests of children. In June 2014, the research and consultation arm of the Commission devolved into the President’s Foundation for the Well-Being of Society. The Foundation’s aim is to produce relevant research by looking into innovative practices through engagement with a range of stakeholders.

Access to adequate resources

The Public Employment Service offers several training courses providing training programmes to satisfy individuals’ needs and those of the economy, while encouraging Life Long Learning. In order to incentivise female employment, tax credits were introduced to help single parents who receive social assistance and parents who enrolled their children in child care centres; tax bands were widened for single parents, parents holding joint custody for a child and parents. The tax rates for married couples apply to married individuals holding residence in Malta or single parents. Single parents are widows, unmarried, or separated/divorced individuals who maintained a child during the tax year. This means that they will not only benefit from a higher tax threshold but also from applying more favourable tax bands. The tax rates for parents, which came into effect on January 1st 2012, apply to parents who have a child in their custody or who paid for the subsistence of their child. Free child care centres for parents in employment or education were introduced in April 2014, benefitting 2.500 mothers. An increase in the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) for means tested and non-contributory benefits was put in place.

Access to affordable quality services

State kindergarten education (0-3 years) is free and accessible to all. An after-school hours’ service for children between 3 and 16 years is also offered. This service bridges the gap between school hours and parents’ working hours while providing further opportunities for children to develop social, emotional and learning skills. Another scheme called Skola Sajf is run during the summer holidays. Take up of the scheme increased from 6.500 in 2013 to around 11.000 in 2014. A ‘One Tablet per Child’ pilot project has been launched, introducing Year 4 students to the use of tablets for educational purposes. The Government provides a grant to all Maltese Primary and Secondary Educational Institutions to fund projects related to Entrepreneurship Education.

The Government promotes equal opportunities while improving service delivery, particularly for the disadvantaged by fostering an inclusive educational approach for students in need of a learning support assistant. The Framework for the Education Strategy for Malta 2014-2024 was updated to foster social values from an early age.
An Early Hour School Service providing pupils with a healthy breakfast was introduced in April 2014 for an average of 700 students per day.

The educational needs of children undergoing treatment at Boffa Hospital, a specialised hospital for Oncology and Palliative Care and Dermatology, are being met through enhanced collaboration with the Education Department. New concepts and services are being discussed to include permanent foster care, facilitating adoption, the introduction of a Child Assessment Centre and a Children's House. Furthermore, a playroom at the Corradino Correctional Facility to be utilised by children of the inmates during family visits was set up.

Foster care is being prioritised as an alternative to Institutional Care, particularly for children under 3 years and the Government is considering proposals to incentivize persons to become foster carers. The Government, through the Foundation for Social Welfare Services, has concluded a public social partnership with the Catholic Archdiocese of Malta expanding the capacity of this programme by a fourfold. In 2014 the Commissioner for Children has commissioned a research study on the state of ‘Fostering in Malta’.

Children’s right to participate

National Standards for the safety of indoor play areas for children were launched by the Government in collaboration with the Commissioner of Children and other stakeholders. Furthermore, a legal instrument to support this National Standard is being drafted.
The Commissioner for Children is to be strengthened and given the right to implement decisions. The National Commission for Child Policy and Strategy drafted the Child Protection Bill which is currently being debated in Parliament. This legislation will replace the Young Persons and Children Act.

Further outlook

The above initiatives provide a brief overview of Malta’s policy direction and priority actions for safeguarding the rights and promoting the well-being of children. Despite the on-going emphasis and the substantial developments made in this particular area, combating child poverty remains a major national challenge. Efforts are being intensified by the Government to prevent and counteract those factors which may impact negatively upon the well-being of children. Malta is committed to seek further progress in this area by empowering children and thus combat the intergenerational transmission of poverty and social exclusion.

The information in the country profile was last updated in September 2014.

Discussions are underway on the introduction of a Pilot Project aimed at low income parents who can receive a €400 yearly Child Supplement if they fulfil certain conditions.

During 2013 the National Commission for Child Policy and Strategy carried out a consultation process prior to the drafting of a Child Protection Act. It adopted a bottom-up approach which involved children themselves informing the policy development, so that it truly addresses their needs. Following these consultations a report entitled ‘The Voice of the Child in Care’ was published in March 2014.