Assessment of the capacity of local governments to offer protection services to vulnerable children in Mpigi District
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This study aimed to analyze and assess the capacity of local governments to effectively and sustainably offer protection services to vulnerable children. It was, accordingly, premised on four (4) specific objectives, namely; to examine the financial and logistical support offered to local governments to carry out those functions specified in the Children Act; to assess the staffing levels in the various departments/entities concerned with promoting and protecting the rights of children; to assess the levels of knowledge and skills relating to children’s rights possessed by local governments and other concerned actors/stakeholders; and to examine the existing networking and referral systems for protection of vulnerable children. A descriptive research design was adopted for this study and results are presented and discussed largely within boundaries of qualitative methods of investigation, though also complimented, to a limited extent, by quantitative data from secondary sources, especially district records. The study was based on data analyzed for a period of three (3) years (2011 – 2014) in Mpigi district, in which specific study areas were purposively selected – and with a sample size of 88 respondents, who were also purposively selected – basing on the centrality of their roles in the community, as well as their relevance to meeting the research objectives. Qualitative data analysis involved collation and analysis based on the thematic areas generated from the field responses. The study established that the Department of Community Based Services, under which Probation and Social Welfare falls, was characterized by persistent critical funding and human resource gaps – which hindered efficient delivery of child care and protection services. The Department generally lacked funds, among others: recruiting, training and facilitating adequate personnel; for facilitating communication and transportation – especially for following up cases of abused children, as well as for capacity building among the various duty bearers. It also lacked enough hardware and software, or any other modern technology to aid in documentation of experiences and cases handled, especially cases of children with disability – as required by the Children Act. The study concluded that the overall capacity of Mpigi District Local Government (including the district and sub-county levels, as well as non-state actors) – in terms of financial, human resource, logistical/technological, as well as networking capability to effectively and sustainably provide child protection services – was still considerably low. The above-noted challenges and constraints have to be addressed in order to enable the local governments to fulfill their expected roles in the protection of children from abuse in the community. Accordingly, the study strongly recommends that the Probation and Social Welfare Sub-sector should be supported with more funding to facilitate: adequate staffing, staff facilitation and staff training; adequate technological and logistical support (especially record management and transport facilities); as well as capacity building (especially through training and sensitization) for local leaders and other relevant actors/stakeholders, including children – with regard to general knowledge and skills, the appropriate legal and policy framework, as well as available support structures for children in the community. The above-noted enhancement of funding support is recommended to be achieved through two (2) main broad strategies, namely; elevating the status of the Probation and Social Welfare Sub-sector – to “Priority” Status – to facilitate the allocation of more funds to it in the District Budget; and mobilizing additional financial support from relevant and interested Civil Society Organizations, corporate organizations, as well as other development partners. It is further recommended, inter alia, that Mpigi district Local Government should also systematically lobby and constructively engage the above-noted development partners: to provide the Probation and Social Welfare Sub-sector, as well as other relevant entities, with more logistical and technological support – in the form of the required hardware and software – in kind, where possible; to provide them with human resource support – in the form of seconding some of the required and possible personnel; to scale-up their child protection program activities in the district – under the coordination of the Probation and Social Welfare Section; as well as to carry out joint planning – to ensure efficient collaboration and coordination of all program activities.