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Good Practice Brief: 8 key actions to implement adolescent-responsive cash and voucher assistance

26 October 2022 — By Plan International, Women's Refugee Commission

Adolescents are chronically overlooked in humanitarian responses. While humanitarian practitioners are increasingly accountable to adolescents, adolescents continue to be forgotten or neglected because they don’t fit neatly into child- or adult-focused assistance. Neither child nor adult programming offers the tailored supports that are required to address adolescents’ age-specific needs and capacities. Adolescents are often invisible in humanitarian data, as they are either grouped with the broader child population, with youth, or with adults. As a result, humanitarian needs analyses and response plans fail to reflect the age-specific needs of early and late adolescence and the gendered risks and barriers facing diverse adolescents. Despite the momentum created by the Youth Compact (2016), humanitarian programming still mostly uses a one-size-fits-all approach that overlooks adolescents in all their diversity. This omission also exists in cash and voucher assistance (CVA).

While CVA has great potential to contribute to adolescents’ protection, education, health and wellbeing, it is not systematically considered when targeting adolescents. Research conducted by Plan International and the Women’s Refugee Commission shows that practitioners have little understanding of how CVA can be safely and effectively integrated into adolescent programming. As CVA is not yet used at scale in adolescent programming, there is little evidence on (i) the possible benefits and risks of making adolescents direct recipients of CVA and (ii) CVA’s ability to contribute to adolescent wellbeing.

The IASC Guidelines for Working with and for Young People in Humanitarian Action (2020) describe key actions to promote adolescent- and youth-responsive programming. These actions are relevant for CVA actors and may result in more tailored and evidence-based approaches for using CVA with adolescents.