For over nine million South African children, child-support grants provide a lifeline from a life of utter poverty.
Children are disproportionately represented in poor households. In 2007, two-thirds of children (68%) lived in the poorest 40% of households, according to the Children’s Institute website.
The same website also says that 38% of South African children live in a household where no adult is employed.
The grants have proved to be effective in helping to eradicate poverty and often the benefits are spread throughout households where there is no other form of income.
Perhaps most importantly, the grants also enable children to attend school, where a lack of money for school fees plays a big part in non-attendance. According to a Stats SA survey, the provinces with the biggest increase in school attendance from grant-aided homes were Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape.
Number of children receiving grants, by province
The Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo have been identified as the areas most in need. The number of children receiving R240 every month is also set to grow, as the age threshold was increased to 15-years-old in January 2009 and there is talk that the Department of Social Development is planning to extend the grant to children under 18.
A grant can be applied for if the primary care giver — a person who looks after the daily needs of the child — earns no more than R9 600 a month and lives in a formal dwelling. The guidelines also say that ‘the grant should follow the child” in that if someone else becomes the primary care-giver, then the grant should go to that person.
Stats SA researcher Isabelle Schmidt was quoted as saying earlier this year that there was a ‘surprising lack of abuse” of the system, suggesting people who claimed did not continue to apply for grants once their economic situation had improved.