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Malta – Empowering Children and Investing in their Wellbeing

The Maltese Government assigns priority to children’s rights and plans are being set in motion in a bid to offer children more protection. 

A National Commission for Child Policy and Strategy (CCPS, a new initiative since June 2013 concerned with policy and strategy development and monitoring for children) was set up by the Minister for the Family and Social Solidarity in order to develop a rights of the child based strategy and policy for children, based on child participation. The Commission is also tasked with drafting a children’s act and a children’s policy to protect the rights and interests of children, following due consultation with all stakeholders including children.

Access to adequate resources

Support parents’ participation in the labour market

Measures aimed at enhancing child care facilities in Malta are being intensified in order to consolidate childcare facilities and ensure accessibility to quality child care for all in line with Maltese Government policy. The standards of child care in the country are being raised through various initiatives including the voluntary regulation of the sector, enhanced training of child carers and incentive schemes to improve child care facilities.

Maternity leave was also extended from 16 weeks to 18 weeks as of 1 January 2013, paid at a fixed weekly rate of €160 for the added weeks. These measures are intended also to support female participation in the labour market.

Furthermore, since January 2013, National Insurance credit contributions are being given to parents born between 1 January 1952 up to 31 December 1961 who stopped working to raise their children but then returned to work.

Provide for adequate living standards through a combination of benefits

Malta recognises the long term economic benefits of social investment in child wellbeing and is thus adopting a life course approach based on prevention and early intervention which are key to breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty by addressing poverty among children. 

Amongst the more recent measures undertaken, one can mention the increase in children’s allowances for families and the advance payment of such allowances to coincide with the start of the current school term, as well as the increase in the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) for means tested and non-contributory benefits (such as supplementary assistance and energy benefit), to help more vulnerable households.

Access to affordable quality services

Reduce inequality at a young age by investing in early childhood education and care

In Malta, state kindergarten education (0-3 years) is provided free of charge and accessible to all. An after-school hours’ service for school-age children between 3 and 16 years is also offered by the Foundation for Educational Services within the Ministry of Education and Employment. The service bridges the gap between school and parents’ work finishing times and apart from continuing to contribute to improvement of the working conditions of working parents, also provide further opportunities for children to develop social, emotional and learning skills. 

Improve education systems’ impact on equal opportunities

In Malta, the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality works to raise awareness with children and to empower them on issues related to equality, discrimination and stereotypes. In fact, the Commission carries out training with different groups of stakeholders, including groups of children and students to disseminate information on this subject matter. 

The Ministry responsible for Education also undertakes various initiatives to promote equal opportunities and improve service delivery, particularly in the case of those who are disadvantaged or in need of more help, by fostering an inclusive education approach for students in need of a learning support assistant. 

Improve the responsiveness of health systems to address the needs of disadvantaged children

The educational needs of children undergoing treatment at Boffa Hospital, a specialised hospital for Oncology and Palliative Care and Dermatology, are being facilitated through enhanced collaboration with the Education Department. In this way, these children continue to receive educational support and assistance whilst receiving treatment in hospital. 

Provide children with a safe, adequate housing and living environment

Measures are being undertaken aimed at increasing accommodation facilities for children who need to be removed from their birth family.

Enhance family support and the quality of alternative care settings

In Malta, foster care is being prioritised as an alternative to Institutional Care, particularly for children under the age of 3 years.

Children’s right to participate

Support the participation of all children in play, recreation, sport and cultural activities

A draft policy on national standards for the safety of indoor play areas for children was launched by the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority. These standards will provide guidance on how to operate these centres, as well as how to use them.

Implement mechanisms that promote children’s participation in decision making that affects their lives

The role of the Commissioner for Children in Malta is expected to be strengthened and given the right to implement decisions. The National Commission for Child Policy and Strategy is drafting and amending legislation to address all aspects of children’s rights, including matters of care orders, adoption and fostering.

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 ongoing emphasis and the substantial developments made in this particular area, combating child poverty remains a major national challenge. Efforts are being intensified by the Ministry for the Family and Social Solidarity 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 February 2014.

A research study on Combating Child Poverty commissioned by the Maltese Government is being conducted by the University of Malta with the following aims: 

Given that the alleviation of child poverty is directly linked to several variables, further research will be conducted in order to have a better picture of the households most at risk and the reason for their situation. Such research will be the basis for a more comprehensive strategy which will tackle the problem of child poverty in a more holistic manner.

While this research study is not expected to have an immediate impact in terms of poverty reduction, it will lead to a better understanding of how complex the problem of child poverty is, as well as to identify the measures needed to bring about a sustained reduction in child poverty. Thus, this study is expected to provide a significant contribution to child poverty reduction in the long term.

The research study entitled “Improving the Quality of Life of Lone Parents in Malta”, is focusing specifically on single mothers and will be completed in March 2014 with the submission to Minister for the Family and Social Solidarity of the executive report containing findings and policy proposals.