The government recently issued detailed guidelines of the ‘PM-Cares for Children’ scheme aimed at supporting children who lost both their parents or caretakers to the COVID-19 pandemic. The support would include assistance for boarding and lodging, education, health insurance, and financial support. Here are the details.
In May 2021, the Union Government launched the PM-Cares for Children Scheme to support children who lost both their parents or caretakers to the COVID-19 pandemic. The detailed guidelines for the scheme were issued recently. According to these guidelines, the objective of the scheme is to ensure comprehensive care and protection of children who lost their parent(s) to the COVID-19 pandemic, enable their wellbeing through health insurance, empower them through education and equip them for self-sufficient existence with financial support on reaching 23 years of age. The scheme extends support to these children by gap funding for ensuring education, health, monthly stipend from the age of 18 years, and lump sum amount of Rs. 10 lakhs on attaining 23 years of age.
Children who lost their caretakers to the pandemic are eligible
All those children who lost both parents or the surviving parent or legal guardian/adoptive parents/single adoptive parent due to the COVID-19 pandemic starting from 11 March 2020 (the date on which WHO declared COVID-19 as pandemic) till 31 December 2021 are eligible to avail the benefits of the scheme. The child must not have completed 18 years of age on the date of death of parents. The eligible children should be enrolled between 29 May 2021 and 31 December 2021 to avail benefits of this scheme. The scheme is expected to continue till the time when every identified beneficiary shall turn 23 years of age.
Support to children covering their health, education, and accommodation
Under the scheme, the children are given support for boarding and lodging, assistance for education, health insurance, and financial support. Details of the support extended under each of the heads for different age groups is explained below.
Support for boarding & lodging:
Efforts to be made to ensure that siblings stay together. Financial support under Child Protection Services (CPS) Scheme shall be provided to Children (in account with guardian) for non-institutional care. If the child is in institutional care, a maintenance grant will be provided under the CPS Scheme to the Childcare institutions. Support under State schemes will also be provided.
- 4 to 10-year-olds: The District Magistrate and the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) will make efforts to rehabilitate the child with their extended family, relatives, kith, or kin. If such a family is not found or if they are unwilling to accommodate the child, or if the child is not willing to live with them, the child will be placed in a foster care unit as per the directions under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. If the foster family is unavailable, the child will be placed in age-appropriate and gender-appropriate Childcare institutions.
- Children above 10 years old: If the child is not received by the extended family or foster family or those who are living in childcare institutions, the child may be enrolled in Netaji Subhash Chand Bose Awasiya Vidyalaya, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Eklavya Model Schools, Sainik School, Navodaya Vidyalaya, or any other residential school by the District Magistrate, subject to the respective guidelines.
Assistance for Pre-school & School Education:
- Children below 6 years: Anganwadi services for supplementary nutrition, immunization, health referrals and health check-ups, and pre-school education will be provided.
- Children below 10 years: Children will be given admission in the nearest Government, Government aided, Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs), or Private Schools as a day scholars. If in Government Schools, they will be provided two sets of free uniforms and textbooks under Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan. In private schools, tuition fees shall be exempted.
- Children between 11-18 years: Admission to the nearest Government/ Government aided School/ Kendriya Vidyalayas / Private Schools as a day scholar is to be ensured if the child is living with extended family. The child may be enrolled in Netaji Subhash Chand Bose Awasiya Vidyalaya, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, or any other residential school as seen earlier. Alternate accommodation should be provided to the children during vacations at childcare institutions or other places.
Only under circumstances where the child is unable to receive the above benefits, the fee will be paid from the PM-CARES for Children scheme as per Right to Education (RTE) norms. The scheme will also pay for the expenditure on uniforms, textbooks, stationary, and notebooks for all students, irrespective of age.
Assistance for Higher Education:
For higher education, assistance will be provided to the child for obtaining education loan for Professional courses /Higher Education in India. Interest for education loan will be paid from PM-CARES for Children Scheme if the child is unable to avail interest exemption under existent schemes. Children are also eligible for scholarships being provided under schemes of other ministries.
Each child will be enrolled as a beneficiary under Ayushman Bharat Scheme (PM-JAY) with a health insurance cover of Rs. 5 lakhs. The cover under the scheme includes all expenses incurred on medical examination, treatment, and consultation, medicine and medical consumables, non-intensive and intensive care services, post-hospitalization follow-up care up to 15 days, among others.
Corpus fund of up to Rs. 10 lakhs for each child will be created, depending on the age of the child through upfront investment. This corpus will be utilized for providing a monthly stipend to the child once they attain 18 years. The child will receive a monthly stipend for five years starting from 18 years. And upon turning 23, they will be given the corpus amount of Rs. 10 lakhs as one lump sum for personal and professional use.
Ministry of Women & Child Development is the central nodal ministry for the execution of the scheme
The nodal ministry for the execution of the scheme is the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development. The functions of the ministry are to implement the scheme, coordinate with other nodal agencies, provide guidance, manage the online portal containing beneficiary details, and release & transfer funds. However, other related ministries/departments will also be involved in the implementation such as the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice & Employment, and others.
The District Magistrate acts as the guardian of the children under the scheme
While the Department of State/UT government dealing with Juvenile Justice will be the nodal agency at the State level, the District Magistrates will be the nodal authority at the district level. The State agencies supervise the activities of the district-level agencies, coordinate between departments to ensure delivery of services to children, and facilitate the inter-state transfer of students for education, sports, professional reasons, etc. The District Magistrate acts as the guardian of the children under the scheme. Other responsibilities of the district magistrate include identification, registration, and verification of beneficiaries, opening accounts for the children, and transfer of corpus funds to the eligible accounts.
845 children have been identified to avail benefits under the scheme
According to the latest news reports, a total of 845 COVID-19 orphans were identified and approved for receiving benefits under the PM-CARES For Children Scheme as of 05 October 2021. Ever since the dedicated scheme portal was launched in May 2021, a total of 3,915 applications were submitted by citizens, of which 845 were selected as of 05 October 2021. The applications may be sent up to 31 December 2021.
Those of you who know of children orphaned due to COVID-19 can go ahead and register on the dedicated portal.
Featured Image: PM-CARES for children