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28 May 2007 17:50
Social grants are one of the most effective means of alleviating poverty among children, Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya said on Monday.
Speaking in Johannesburg at a symposium on child poverty coinciding with the launch of Child Protection Week, Skweyiya said social grants had been of great help to those children who would have otherwise been subjected to extreme poverty for the rest of their lives.
They would also not have been able to succeed in life, said Skweyiya.
“Most of the South African families and communities—in particulate those who were disadvantaged by the past regime—find it very difficult to get out of the poverty trap.
They have remained poor throughout their lifespan and in most cases across generations.”
Eight million children were receiving social grants while 400 000 received the foster-care grant.
Currently disadvantaged children who are under the age of 14 are by law allowed to receive social grants.
“We are doing all we can to ensure quick registration for social grants for children and other eligible persons, especially in remote rural areas,” he said.
“It also means that we can eventually totally eliminate the long waiting periods.
Katherine Hall, a senior researcher at the University of Cape Town, said child-support grants had proved to be effective in helping eradicating poverty as grants reached a large number of children, including those in remote areas.
“In reality it reaches an even greater proportion, because benefits are shared within households.
“In the absence of employment opportunities, child grants are often the only way to address the lack of income for children living in poverty.”
Hall said that social grants had also helped children overcome financial barriers that prevented them from going to school.
“According to a general household survey conducted by Statistics South Africa, school attendance for children between eight and 14 years is 98%. From 15 to 17 years children’s attendance rates start to drop and the survey shows that lack of money accounts for nearly 40% of these children in this age group not attending school”
“This clearly shows that child-care grants play a big part in helping to educate our children.”
The most important cause of poverty was the structural inequalities caused by apartheid, Hall added.
“Although children are being born in a time of democracy they are also born into inequality because they still live in a society where equal rights do not translate into equal opportunities.”
The household survey showed that over 63% of black African children live in households with a monthly income of less than R800, while only 4% of white children live in households that are this poor.
On the other hand, 64% of white children live in households with a monthly income of over R6 000.
Hall said these discrepancies show there was a need for the government to increase social grants and to raise the age limit for children to receive the grant above the present 14.
“The more children who access social grants, the more income to the household in which they live.
“Households with children under 14 years are currently better off than those with children over 14,” Hall said.
The symposium, held at the Sandton Convention Centre, will end on Tuesday with delegates, including child-care workers, handing in proposals and recommendations on how to reduce child poverty.—Sapa
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