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Covid-19 grant top-up is for caregivers, not children

When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that child support grant beneficiaries would receive an extra R300 a month in May and R500 from June to October, it was widely assumed that the extra funds would be applicable to each grantee.

But the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) says the increased grant is for each
caregiver regardless of the number of children they have. So, if a person has three child support grantees, that person would receive an additional R500 every month from June to October and not an extra R1500 a month.

“This is a massive difference that shows that all the modelling that has been done to show how this top-up would reduce extreme poverty is incorrect, says Ruth Hall, who is associated with the C19 People’s Coalition, an alliance of social movements, unions, nonprofits and community organisations.

The effect of the child support grant top-up is significantly lower than previous estimates “because it is per beneficiary rather than per grantee”, she says.

According to the civil society organisation, the child grant supports 13-million children in the country. Indirectly, it reaches a total of 30-million people.

The top-up of R500 will cost an extra R6.3-billion a month, the coalition said.

In April about R15.2-billion in grants were disbursed to households, according to Sassa.

The decision to top up the child support grant is expected to provide significant relief to some of the most vulnerable people in South Africa as the country uses a lockdown to fight the spread of the coronavirus, which is resulting in a loss of income and jobs.

In a statement issued last week, the coalition had forecast that the number of people in extreme poverty will still increase to nine million even if the government provides additional funds for
child support grants. The coalition proposed that the child grant top-up be accompanied by an additional Covid grant and a basic income grant.

“The problem is not that there is not enough food, it’s that individuals cannot afford it. So the increase of social grants is the quickest and most effective way of dealing with the food crisis,” Hall says.

The increase in child support grant is one part of the government’s temporary six-month coronavirus grants, to which a total of R50-billion has been directed.

All other grant beneficiaries will receive an extra R250 a month for the next six months.

(John McCann/M&G)

A new temporary grant, the social relief distress grant of R350 a month, will also be paid out to people who are unemployed and do not receive any form of social grant or payments from the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

The grants are to provide temporary relief to South Africa’s most vulnerable people during this time of the pandemic, but Hall says that withdrawing the top-up once the six-month period is over carries political risk. “There are two dimensions. One is removing the top-up or removing the special Covid grant for those who have lost their jobs in the informal sector. Those two measures would bring along significant political risk for government,” she says

In a joint meeting of the portfolio committee on social development and the select committee on social services on Thursday, Sassa said it initially wanted more money for child grants, but the numbers were too big. Sassa officials said they have 18-million beneficiaries and they have added an estimated six to eight million informal workers who have lost their sources of income and will also be getting the grant.

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Thando Maeko
Thando Maeko is an Adamela Trust business reporter at the Mail & Guardian
Tshegofatso Mathe
Tshegofatso Mathe
Tshegofatso Mathe is a financial trainee journalist at the Mail & Guardian.

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