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PRESS RELEASE BY THE OFFICE OF THE PRINCIPAL PERMANENT SECRETARY: “Caring for children and families is caring for the world” – Mario Cutajar
“Caring for children and families is caring for the world, and this is what government holds to heart. Societies are by nature ever-changing, continuously evolving and adapting. We firmly believe that it is our task to embrace change and to lead from the front. We would like to hand over to the next generation a society which measures its success by the wellbeing of those of its members who are struggling in life.”
This was stated by Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar while addressing the International Social Services Council being held in Malta.
Mr Cutajar said that Malta has done outstandingly well in the social field and has remarkably reached another milestone when Malta’s sound social programme was commended by the European Commission in its latest country report. The European Commission remarked that “poverty and social exclusion risks declined to levels last seen in 2008”, whilst observing that “Malta almost halved severe material deprivation”. The EC concluded that “Malta is addressing its social challenges and strengthening policies for active inclusion”, Mr Cutajar said.
He added that Eurostat statistics show that over the last four years there have been declines across the various strata of persons who were at risk of poverty. Overall, the total figure as compared to those at risk of poverty in 2012 has been reduced by 66%. The reductions in poverty have been made in two particular swathes of vulnerable persons, these being children who are dependent on those who look after their welfare, and persons who are over 65. Over the last five years, even in these two groups, figures have been reduced by 50%.
Mr Cutajar said that Malta has maintained a proud history of social benefits for children and others which continued its progression along the years making Malta a pioneer in the sector.
In fact, Malta has throughout the years managed to build a robust framework of benefits which included the child in care benefit for foster care and residential service, children’s allowance, disabled child allowance, and maternity and adoption benefits including leave benefits.
Over the past five years Malta took social security benefits to the next level when it introduced free childcare services to encourage more women (and men) to enter the labour market, to continue working or studying. Other benefits included, but are not limited to, the introduction of breakfast clubs in schools, increased weekly disabled child allowance, a one-time child supplement benefit for low income families, 100 hours of leave for patients undergoing IVF treatment, increase in paternity leave, and this year will see another pledge being implemented when Malta will see the introduction of a maximum aid of €10,000 for expenses incurred in the process for intercountry adoptions.
Alternatively, said Mr Cutajar, the Foundation for Social Welfare Services through its agencies Appoġġ and Sedqa also offers a wide range of services and is a leader in service delivery on family matters.
The Foundation has throughout the recent past collaborated very well with International Social Services and vice versa, and has not only established a good working relationship, but has also succeeded in matters related to cross-boarder family matters.
Mr Cutajar lauded the Foundation for Social Welfare Services for its continuous professional delivery of services in the field of migration. He said that its community services created a number of projects which contributed to the integration of migrants. These included social skills, recreational activities, a homework club, cultural diversity events and mapping exercises. Mr Cutajar also said that the FSWS also created a number of intensive training opportunities for staff on migrant issues.