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Family separation and loss of parental care is an issue of considerable concern in Ghana.

Reasons for separation can include poverty, high fertility rates, trafficking of children into child labour, the death of one or both parents and migration. Ghana is in the process of moving away from institutional care in favour of other forms of care such as kinship care and adoption. Nevertheless, recent figures suggest that approximately 4,500 children still live in institutions.

Legislation for various child protection measures is in place in Ghana. However, implementation remains weak and laws are yet to become contextually appropriate. Violence and abuse of children persists with estimates of over 90 per cent of children having experienced physical violence in the home and at school (UNICEF 2011). Ghana also experiences a high incidence of child labour and is a country of origin, transit, and destination for adults and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.

“ … in the fishing communities, the children become stressed and tired and the parents wouldn’t be able to feed them so they will send the children to reside with other people, even to the Volta lake to work for other people.” (Gomoa West, LEAP programme manager)

The research

This report investigates the links between child wellbeing, children’s care, family cohesion and the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty Programme (LEAP). The Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty Programme (LEAP), a national social protection scheme, aims to  reduce extreme poverty in the country and is centred  on providing cash transfers to the most vulnerable.

“The boys are well taken care of because they can go to school and learn and take care of their parents while the girls go to school until they get pregnant.” (Gomoa West, male child, LEAP)

The research took place in two different localities in Central Region in Ghana. Gomoa West is a source area for child labour for the fishing industry on Lake Volta. The AOB district has high levels of child labour. More than 120 adults and 90 children shared their experiences and opinions with us.

The research is a joint initiative by Family for Every Child and the Centre for Social Protection (CSP) at the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) in the UK. Challenging Heights led the research in Ghana. It is part of a wider study on the linkages between social protection and children’s care in Ghana, Rwanda and South Africa.

Some of our key findings

  • LEAP plays a positive role in improving child well-being and quality of care
  • LEAP has the potential to prevent loss of parental care and support family reunification
  • Benefits from LEAP do not benefit all children equally
  • Implementation challenges undermine LEAP’s positive impact
  • Transfer sizes and beneficiary caps compromise LEAP’s positive impact
  • The potential role of cash transfers in incentivising kinship care presents a mixed picture

Our recommendations

  • Address implementation challenges
  • Increase transfer size
  • Build stronger linkages to social services and child protection structures
  • Strengthen sensitisation activities

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