Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA), in a strategic partnership with the Authority of Social Contribution – Ma’an, has launched a project to develop family counseling services in  Abu Dhabi and enable the concerned authorities to support parents of children aged between 0 and 8-years, helping them to cope with the challenges posed by family conflict issues.

The project falls within the framework of Ma’an’s Social Impact Bonds System (SIBs), which is the first-of-its-kind in the Gulf region, and aims to develop sustainable solutions to complex social challenges.

The initiative reflects the two organisations’ commitment to work together to provide effective programs that can help address the effects that divorce can have on children through innovative and sustainable solutions that can be measured by results.

“Together with our strategic partner, ECA is working on promoting cooperation and coordination with Ma’an to execute joint programs, share information, and form operational working groups to address social challenges related to supporting the children’s holistic development,” said Thamer Al Qasimi Acting Executive Director Special Projects & Outreach at ECA.

“The two sides are responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of the project, to ensure achieving its sustainable and positive social impact.”

The project aims at raising awareness of parents who are experiencing divorce about the serious impact that social impact can have on children, Al Qasimi said.

The project’s value was evaluated based on the studies carried out by Ma’an within the framework of Social Impact Bonds to ensure they can achieve the required deliverables.

First introduced in the UK, Social Impact Bonds are an internationally established and successful way to finance the delivery of public services. They involve the government, a social service provider and a social investor – using multi-party partnerships to bring together the right organizations to solve social challenges.

The contract operates on a pay-for-success basis, whereby social service providers will have the freedom to innovate and come up with a solution that delivers the social outcome. Private investors, such as high net worth Individuals or investment funds, will then invest in the Social Impact Bond and the government will pay back the investor – with interest – but only if the outcomes are achieved.

The counseling program adopts an evaluation model to measure its impact and identify specific outputs per the approved economic and social feasibility study, which shall be identified by the project’s steering committee, who will assess the social and psychological impacts that divorce can have on both parents and children.

The ECA will provide funds to the social investor implementing the project after achieving tangible social outcomes with a sustainable impact on children’s holistic development where the success of the desired results will be measured at the end of the project. This will be based on the social objectives that have been agreed upon by the independent evaluator that has been appointed by the Steering Committee.

The project will be completed in three phases. The first phase includes developing the project’s operational plan and sourcing the main project partners by identifying the informed counseling intervention that aims to reduce the negative impact of parental divorce on children ages 0-8, the desired social outcomes and approach to measuring their impact, an independent evaluator to conduct an on-going assessment of the intervention and to measure its impact, and the target group, service providers and the social investor.

The second phase will feature concluding contractual agreements with service providers and the social investor within the SIB, to address social challenges facing early childhood development, while the project will be implemented and followed-up by the steering committee in its third phase.

Complementing the three phases, the project also contains three levels; the first focuses on spouses and children in a bid to improve parenting skills both during and after the divorce stage, by enhancing parental inter-personal skills during divorce, boosting parents’ self-confidence and competency in upbringing their children after divorce, relieving parents’ psychological pressure, increasing parents’ ability to support their children’s social-emotional development, and minimizing children’s behavioral and emotional problems.

The second level targets improving communication between family members, reducing family disputes, and enhancing adaption, well-being levels after divorce. Meanwhile, the third level focuses on the early childhood system through improving the child’s mental and physical health, thus decreasing the need for legal intervention, reducing children’s behavioral problems, fostering involvement in education, and increasing participation in positive activities.

Faisal Al Hammoudi, Acting Executive Director for Social Incubator and Contracting at Ma’an, said that more than 40 countries worldwide use Social Impact Bonds, because they provide innovative solutions based on results of partnerships between social service providers and social investors, and other partners. The first-of-its-kind programme in the region, Ma’an pioneered the use of SIBs in the Gulf because they are a proven and successful international tool with which to finance public services.

Al Hammoudi said: “Last year, we launched the first project under Ma’an’s Social Impact Bonds system, ‘ATMAH’, which was created to provide people of determination in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi with professional skills and expertise, helping them to enter the employment market and seek meaningful employment.

“We are continuing this pioneering path by launching our second Social Impact Bond project, this time in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority. This project will contribute to improving the lives of people by providing them with the support and guidance – all of which further enhances Abu Dhabi’s strong reputation as the best place in which to live and work”.

ECA seeks to back partners’ efforts in supporting the early childhood sector, and assess all services offered to this sector in Abu Dhabi, to formulate appropriate plans, policies and programs with the aim of advancing services and preserving resources. In addition, ECA is working on achieving Abu Dhabi’s Early Childhood Development Strategy for 2035, which aims at ensuring children, parents, and caregivers have access to appropriate services to support optimal child development, as well as creating a robust ecosystem to promote accountability and continuous quality improvement.

About ECA:

ECA is a government entity established under Law No. (21) Of 2019, with the aim of overseeing the early childhood development sector in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The Authority adheres to the highest standards, placing the child at the heart of its interests. ECA aims at promoting optimal child development and well-being through four sectors: Health and Nutrition, Child Protection, Family Support, and Education and Early Care, from the early stages of pregnancy to the age of eight years old.

About Ma’an

Ma’an was established in February 2019 under the Department of Community Development in Abu Dhabi with the aim of bringing together the government, the private sector and civil society to support a culture of social contribution and participation. The authority will deliver solutions for social challenges with five main pillars of work – a Social Investment Fund, a Social Incubator Program, Community Engagement Programs and the introduction of a new type of public contracting, Social Impact Bonds, as well as Outreach Management.

Ma’an will support the third sector to flourish in Abu Dhabi, enabling responsible not for profit associations or foundations and social enterprises to contribute to the development of strong, active and connected communities.

Ma’an Authority for Social Contribution is a ‘Ghadan 21’ accelerator programme initiative, supporting Abu Dhabi to become one of the best places in the world to do business, invest, live, work and visit.

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