The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on people across the country leading to difficulties in accessing basic necessities and continues to threaten the survival of a large number of people in the country.
Amongst these groups of people are youth care leavers (YCLs). Youth care leavers are individuals who have completed their stay in child care institutions (CCIs) and aftercare hostels and are now trying to transition into mainstream society.
Youth care leavers who left institutions and hostels in the wake of the pandemic and after the lockdown find themselves in a vulnerable situation with a lack of basic necessities and socio-economic support to fend for themselves. Youth leaving institutions at this time find themselves unequipped to smoothly transition into the society due to lack of job opportunities or loss of the same, lack of financial support to pursue education, lack of shelter, and legal documents to avail schemes, services and scholarships.
At this juncture, it is crucial to take into account the needs of and challenges faced by youth care leavers to enforce mechanisms that would provide them adequate support during their stay and coordinate with them upon their departure to ensure that they are able to settle down.
In this context, a study was carried out through telephonic interviews with YCL spread across Maharashtra. A total of 442 respondents agreed to participate in the survey and this report is based on data analysis of their responses to the structured interview schedule that was used to get responses from them.
This section focuses on the district-wise data of 442 respondents collected through a telephonic survey.
It focuses on factors such as gender wise breakdown of respondents, age, disability status, parental status, educational status before the lockdown, marital status, employment status before the lockdown and the availability of legal documents as proof of identity, bank account and health insurance amongst youth care leavers.
|City/District||No. of YCLs|
Table 1. District Wise Data of Respondents
The total number of respondents are 442 and the demographic composition of the data includes four states, namely: Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
Majority of the respondents belong to the state of Maharashtra with the highest number of respondents belonging to Kolhapur followed by Thane, Pune, Mumbai Suburban and Palghar. The states of Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh had only one respondent each respectively.
From a total of 442 respondents, 123 respondents belonged to Kolhapur thus constituting the majority at 27.8%. This is followed by 23.3% in Thane district, 14.7% in Pune and 14.5% in Mumbai Suburban while the population in the rest of the five districts ranged from 1.4% to 6.3%.
While interacting with the youth care leavers, it was understood that most of them had been migrating from urban to semi-urban or rural spaces after leaving institutional care due to the expenses for basic needs such as food and accommodation in urban areas being higher than their income.
From a total of 442 respondents, 234 were male thus constituting 53% of the data whereas the female respondents were 208 in number and 48% of the total.
|Sr.No||Age Group||No of YCLs||Percentile|
|1||Below 18 years||5||1%|
|2||19 to 21 years||73||17%|
|3||22 to 23 years||79||18%|
|4||24 to 25 years||65||15%|
|5||26 to 30 years||110||25%|
|6||31 to 35 years||62||14%|
|7||36 and above||48||11%|
Table 2. The age group of YCLs
Table 2 shows that majority of the youth care leavers belong to the age group of 26 to 30 years which is 25% of the total respondents.
Further, while eligibility criteria designed for the study focused on youth care leavers above 18 years of age, the data also comprises of 5 individuals below 18 years of age.
It is also significant to pay attention to the fact that individuals from the age group of 19 years to 23 years, together constitute 35% of the total number of respondents. The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 states that support must be provided to young adults leaving aftercare institutions upon the completion of 18 years of age however, the data showed that these individuals have not been provided financial or other support by the system.
Respondents who have only recently left institutions in the wake of the pandemic, with a lack of financial assistance from the government, are more susceptible to poverty and lack of basic necessities and therefore require urgent assistance.
As can be understood, from amongst 442 respondents, 96.6% of the respondents that is 427 were non-disabled persons whereas 3.4% of the respondents that is, 15 respondents were persons with disability.
While data describing the type of disability could not be gathered, the challenges faced by persons with a disability during a pandemic are manifold require urgent attention and assistance.
Figure 4. Parental Status of Youth Care Leavers
It can be understood that majority of the youth care leavers, that is 65.9% of them are orphans. Only 18.2% of the care leavers have and extended family while 6.8% come from a single-parent household whereas only 2.8% have both parents. Further, in the case of 6.8% of the respondents, their familial status is not known.
Thus, orphans constitute the majority of the population. Leaving institutional care without any familial support which is further marked by a lack of financial support from the government could severely affect an individual’s transition into the society. The lack of training and support to face the world and more so in the middle of a pandemic can severely affect these youth care leavers not only socio-economically but also in terms of their mental health.
The aforementioned issues can also emerge in cases of youth care leavers who have a single parent who may either be the only earning member or may have lost employment due to pandemic, in case of family and extended relatives, it would also be difficult if the family does not accept them or lacks resources to shelter them.
These are therefore serious issues questions that have emerged and need to be looked into.
|Status of Parents||Yes||Percentile||Not Applicable||Percentile||No||Percentile||Total (in numbers)||Percentile|
Table 3. Parental Status and Status of Anath (Orphan) Certificate amongst YCLs
From the aforementioned data, it can be seen that only 6 orphaned respondents and 1 respondent with extended relatives have received the Anath certificate. 297 respondents therefore do not have the certificate as a proof of identity to access services and schemes.
In 2012, the Government of Maharashtra issued an affidavit stating that an Anath certificate would be issued to orphaned individuals while leaving the child care institutions (CCIs). Further, in 2018, the Government of Maharashtra granted 1% reservation to orphans holding the Anath certificate in the education and employment sector.
As per the ‘Aftercare for Young Adult Orphans’ policy paper published in July 2019, as of January 2019, 70 youth care leavers had applied for the Anath certificate and 22 certificates had been issued.
The data obtained as a part of this study also goes on to highlight the delay in the issuance of Anath certificates. Amongst the several reasons for delay, a lack of knowledge and direction to the youth care leavers regarding officials and authorities to contact for the issuance of these certificated and delay on the part of the administrative authorities in issuing the same. There is a need for the establishment of a database to keep a track of the certificates issued and to be issued to ensure accountability.
This is a matter that requires urgent attention in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic when the availability of this certificate could have helped the respondents avail educational and employment opportunities.
|Sr. No||Educational Status||Male||Female||Grand total|
|1||Below 8th standard||19||11||30|
|6||Appeared for Graduation||29||24||53|
Table 4. Educational Status of YCLs
From amongst a total of 442 respondents, majority of the respondents had completed their HSC.
From amongst this 113, 60 were males and 53 were females therefore not showing a wide gender gap in access to education. This is followed by 97 having completed SSC from amongst which 56 are males and 41 are females.
From amongst all the age groups, females have a higher number in comparison to males with regards to completion of graduation. However, the number of students below HSC and below SSC is comparatively higher and almost similar to that of graduation and therefore calls for attention.
This data also brings to light the importance of formulating scholarships for children in institutions and youth care leavers to access education. When individuals who have had a lack of access to education or have not completed the same during their stay in the institution due to several reasons, stepping out in the real world during a crisis situation entails a large number of difficulties in not only finding employment but also further continuing education and the financial burden associated with the same especially during the pandemic.
Table 5. Status of Marriage amongst YCLs
As can be understood from Table 5, the majority of the respondents are single with 160 males and 105 females, respectively and in summation constituting 60% of the total respondents.
However, the number of respondents who are married is higher amongst females as against males with 90 females and 74 males being married, respectively with the total adding up to 37%.
While none of the male respondents has been deserted, 13 female respondents have been divorced/deserted constituting 3% of the total respondents.
The implication of their marital status can further be understood through the number of children borne by the YCLs from the table below.
The implication of their marital status, as mentioned in Table 6 can further be understood through the number of children borne by the YCLs from the table below.
|Status of Marriage||If Married/Divorced and No. of Children||No. of YCLs||Total in Number||Total in Percentile|
|Single||Not applicable (NA)||265||265||59.95%|
|– No children
– 3 children and more
|– No children
– 2 children
– 1 child
Table 6. Marital Status and No. of Children Borne by YCLs
From amongst 442 respondents, 265 respondents are single, thus constituting a majority whereas 164 respondents are married.
From amongst the 164 married respondents –
On the other hand, the number of deserted/divorced respondents is very low with only 2.4% of the respondents (13) belonging to the aforementioned category. From amongst these respondents –
Marital status has a crucial role to play in the roles and responsibilities that the youth care leavers may have to fulfil and how they sustain themselves. During the pandemic, with the lack of access to basic resources and socio-economic issues, the youth care leavers may face multiple challenges especially if they have no financial support and are the sole earner.
|Sr. No||Employment Status||Total|
|2||Part-time job and part-time education||30|
Table 7. Employment status of YCLs
From amongst a total of 442 respondents, majority of the respondents, that is 159 were unemployed whereas the other majority, 142 were employed full time. The number of self-employed individuals on the other hand was 50.
The number of students amongst YCLs was also high with 61 respondents pursuing education full time and only 30 pursuing education on a part-time basis along with a job.
With a majority of the candidates being unemployed before the pandemic, questions regarding financial support and other forms of assistance provided by the government as per the act come forth. Further, with the impact of the lockdown on access to education and employment status, there is a possibility of a decline in the number of respondents being able to access education, be employed and sustain their businesses.
This also brings to light the need for not only financial support from the government but also access to skill-based and vocational training programmes and guaranteed 1% reservation in employment in accordance with the GR issued by the Government of Maharashtra on April 2, 2018.
From amongst 442 respondents, in all of the categories, the males were doing comparatively better in comparison to women in terms of their employment status before the lockdown.
The number of females is highest in the unemployed category constituting 90 females whereas the males have the highest number in terms of full-time employment. The number of males pursuing education full time and the number of males who are self-employed is also higher than that of females.
It is only in terms of a part-time job and part-time education that the male to female ratio was almost equal.
This gender-wise breakdown of employment status raises questions about the sustenance of household in the wake of a pandemic which has not only led to the loss of jobs but also a decline in recruitment. All of these factors have a crucial role to play in understanding how the youth care leavers sustained themselves before the lockdown and currently are, during the lockdown.
One of the major challenges faced by children and youth in institutions is the lack of documents that serve as proof of identity. Not only do a large number of youth enter institutions with none or not more than one legal document as a proof but also that a significant percentage of them go on to leave institutions without any legal proof.
Child care institutions have a crucial role to play in helping children and youth avail these documents but often fall behind in doing the same. This can be understood through the table below:
|Sr. No||Legal Documents||Yes||Percentile||No||Percentile||Total||Total Percentile|
Table 8. Legal documents amongst YCLs.
From amongst all the legal documents, the majority of the respondents have an Aadhar card and Pan card. However, half of the respondents do not have a voter ID and ration card which is an issue of concern. These documents are essential not only as citizens to exercise one’s right to vote and prove identity but also that to receive ration from the public distribution system (PDS) and to avail any scheme, citizens are required to present their ration card as proof.
The lack of a ration card serves as a major hurdle, particularly during the lockdown where acquiring ration through the PDS or the requirement of a ration as proof to avail any other benefit would serve as a hindrance and further aggravate the socio-economic condition of the youth.
It is therefore crucial for the government to create mechanisms and provide support to the youth care leavers to avail documents during their stay or immediately after leaving the institution.
|Sr. No||Bank Account||Number||Percentile|
Table 9. No. of YCLs with a bank account
Bank accounts have a crucial role to play in order to avail government schemes and while a majority of the respondents had one, in case of 10.63% of the participants who do not have a bank account, there is a need to look into the factors that have curtailed them from making an account and provide assistance with regards to the same and provide cash transfer to offer respite during the lockdown.
With the availability of a bank account, the government can provide financial assistance on an immediate basis at present to help improve the situation of the youth care leavers.
|Sr. No||Health Insurance||Number||Percentile|
Table 10. No. of YCLs with a health insurance
As per the aforementioned table, 88.24% that is 390 participants do not have health insurance while only 50 respondents have health insurance.
This is particularly concerning during the COVID-19 pandemic with access to health care being financially straining. With the pandemic and lockdown affecting the physical and mental health of individuals, health insurance is of immense significance at this point in time, particularly for youth care leavers who find themselves lacking social support.
In accordance with the aforementioned issues and challenges that have come forth, the following recommendations need to be looked into in order to ensure a smooth transition of youth care leavers into the society and their holistic development.
YCLs do not have a strong social support system to rely on and therefore need direction and support from the state in order to avail access to basic necessities such as shelter, healthcare, financial security etc.
There is a need for attention towards the challenges faced by YCLs during the pandemic and urgent intervention to deal with the same in accordance with these recommendations.
Lack of housing is a primary issue of concern for youth care leavers. With no social support to rely on, the YCLs are left to fend for themselves. Further, the situation is dire for the YCLs in the wake of the pandemic due to lack of housing on rent or the rent being beyond the financial capacity of the YCLs.
It is therefore crucial for the government to provide support and guidance in having shelter post their release, especially in the wake of the pandemic so as to ensure that they can smoothly transition into the society.
Health Insurance – Over the course of the years, the central government has put forth various health insurance schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana for the marginalised.
Similarly, at the state level. Maharashtra’s Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Scheme has had a crucial role to play in providing access to subsidised health care to the marginalised population. It is in lieu of this that we suggest the amendment of the Mahatma Phule Jan Arogya Scheme to include youth care leavers and ensure their access to the same.
Further, the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Anudan Scheme is applicable for destitute individuals aged below 65 years of age, orphaned children, persons with disabilities and those suffering from TB, cancer, AIDS and other such critical illnesses. It is crucial to ensure that before leaving the institutions, YCLs who are orphans and persons with disabilities are made aware of and are included as beneficiaries to the scheme.
Youth in institutions are mentally vulnerable when brought into the institution, during their stay and post leaving due to the lack of a solid support system. It is therefore crucial to focus on their mental health during their stay and more so upon their exit from the institution.
The mental health of YCLs is an issue of concern and requires more attention during the pandemic with the YCLs being let out into the world with no support mechanisms to rely on.
It is in lieu of this that free counselling services must be provided to the YCLs. Peer to peer support groups should be established through the institutions amongst the youth leaving institutions to ensure that they remain in contact and can support each other. There is a need to orient the youth before living institutions regarding helpline numbers to avail counselling and other services provided by professionals for free.
Many YCLs had saved money from their first job in order to pay for their higher education but are now forced to use these savings to meet basic needs since they did not receive any support from the government for accessing basic supplies such as rations and groceries for free or at a subsidised rate during the lockdown due to the pandemic which has led to an exhaustion of their savings.
Majority of the youth leaving the institutions do not have a long term career plan or any form of support to guide them through the initial years of their career post leaving the institution. This problem has been further aggravated in the wake of the pandemic and lockdown in the state of Maharashtra which has reduced the mobility of youth within their own cities and also put a halt on their migration to different parts of the state for employment.
This calls for a need for change in the long term aspects and looking into short term aspects to provide immediate relief.
The government must provide a six-month relief pension to the youth care leavers in order to reduce their financial burden with regards to rent and to help them avail other basic necessities.
Now more than ever, it is important that the government of Maharashtra ensures the speedy implementation of the 1% reservation policy that it has instituted for the orphans in higher education and employment to provide respite to the youth in the wake of the pandemic. In order to ensure the same, there is a need to work on reducing the gaps and challenges in availing the Anath certificate in order to ensure that majority of the youth care leavers are able to avail the benefits of reservation and secure themselves professionally.
This, therefore, calls for increased interaction between the YCLs and the bureaucratic systems at the local, regional and national level for creating peer groups amongst YCLs in order to work together to improve their lives socially and professionally, to work on advocacy on the issues of YCLs and engage in public campaigns.
The aforementioned are particularly important in the wake of the pandemic whereby social distancing can lead to isolation, loneliness and other such feelings and therefore a strong network and connection amongst youth through electronic media would help them stay in contact with one another, provide support and encourage solidarity.
Legislative Policy, Reforms And Documentation
There is no clear guidance/advisories during covid-19 and beyond which are specific to the YCLs. Care authorities are accessible only remotely which does not provide the required support. This is further aggravated by the fact that the majority of the YCLs have not been able to access social protection schemes and avail other benefits due to the lack of legal documents that serve as identity proof.
Legal documents serving as proof of identity and bank accounts are crucial for the youth care leavers to access essential services and schemes provided by the government. It is therefore vital for a mechanism to be put into place to ensure that the process of availing these documents initiated immediately after their arrival in the CCIs or before their leave.
In the wake of the pandemic, these documents have a vital role to play to access essential services and the lack thereof shall affect the youth care leavers manifold and it therefore pivotal for the government to take into consideration the aforementioned and work speedily at the moment to provide documents to the YCLs.
There is a need to maintain a comprehensive database from the period of their institutionalisation in order to map their transition and provide support. This institutionalisation of a system would help in developing a care plan and ensure a smooth transition into the society with regular follow-ups and tracking by social workers, probation officers or other officials as prescribed.
Such a comprehensive database from the time of institutionalisation would ensure that when leaving, the youth are equipped with and are provided necessary documents, adequate skills and financial support to transition into the society.