Child Support Grant on Target but Out of Sync

By Mohamed Motala · 21 Aug 2008

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Picture: slack12/Flickr
Picture: slack12/Flickr

A recent review of the child support grant (CSG) concludes that while the grant is reaching poor households as intended, it could do better by developing better coordination with other social relief programmes.

This finding was supported by evidence collected in an extensive survey of 2 640 households. The survey revealed that households receiving the grant, exhibit characteristics of poverty in relation to access to basic services, education levels, employment opportunities and expenditure patterns. Thus, demonstrating that the grant does reach the poor.

However, the study also found that the CSG, as a form of cash transfer, was not equally linked to all other poverty programs.

Whilst enrolment at schools and access to health care was high in households receiving the grant, participation in public works programs, adult basic education and other municipal support programs was low. 

At best, recipient households only had better access to electricity and cellular phones. They had lower access to refuse removal, water and sanitation and landline telephones, when compared to non-recipient households.

At the same time, while the grant reaches the poor, 13 percent of those who are getting the grant are not supposed to be getting it, while 21 percent of those that are supposed to get the grant, are not getting it. The more urbanised provinces of Gauteng and the Western Cape had higher exclusion rates, i.e., people who should be getting the grant, but are not.

When school fees were taken into consideration, there was no statistically significant difference between households receiving the grant and households that did not receive the grant - even though, according to the amended National Norms and Standards for School Funding (2006), recipients of poverty linked social grants are not required to pay school fees. A significant 63 percent of beneficiaries paid school fees when they were exempt, reflecting that an alignment of this grant to other social programmes could assist many more poor households than at present.

The survey suggests that by and large, with one exception, knowledge about the availability of social services is lacking. Less than 20 percent were registered as indigent with a local municipality and less than 20 percent had applied for a house, with less than five percent having participated in a public works program or in an adult basic education and training (ABET) class. In sharp contrast, knowledge about access to free public health care was much higher, being closer to 95 percent.

While successful applicants reported that they were relatively satisfied with the process of applying for grants, challenges with regard to documentation posed a persistent problem. More than half, i.e., 56 percent, indicated that they did not apply for the grant soon after the child’s birth. For 36 percent of those surveyed, the reasons behind this delay related to not having proper documentation.

The processing of applications for identification documents (ID’s) and birth certificates has indeed prevented faster access to the grant, with non-biological parents experiencing the greatest difficulties. These delays are causing several months to pass between the initial enquiry and eventual payout of the grant. One consequence of this holdup is that newborn babies are missing critical nutrition window periods, just after birth. 

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) claims to pay out within 21 days of application, but 27percent received the grant after the 21 day period, with half the recipients receiving the grant two to three months after applying, highlighting a sluggish system. 

Finally, mean and mean per capita incomes were higher in recipient households, indicating that the grant is linked to households with an increase in incomes. Caregiver’s personal incomes were also higher in recipient households. 

Over 56 percent of caregivers indicated that they took important financial decisions in their households and a further 22 percent took these with another member of the household, indicating that grant beneficiaries were in control of finances in their households.

Almost all the beneficiaries were women and their average age was 37 years old. While the survey did not specifically ask how the grant is spent, women, generally, are recognised as being more responsible in the use of household finances. Moreover, the survey did reveal that households receiving the grant spent 55 percent of their budget on food.

This review of the CSG was conducted by the Community Agency for Social Enquiry (CASE) on behalf of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Department of Social Development and SASSA. The findings are derived from a review of existing research, in depth interviews with SASSA officials and stakeholders, focus group discussions with adult recipients and non-recipients of poor households and a national representative survey of 2 640 households. 

The report provides valuable insight into not only the most critical grant, which addresses the needs of our children, but also the one, which is administered the most in South Africa.

The major findings of the report support an extension and improvement of the CSG.

Motala is executive director of CASE, the Community Agency for Social Enquiry.

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Rory Short
22 Aug

Universal Basic Income

I wonder whether government and the general public

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Peter Campbell
28 Aug


"The survey suggests that by and large, with one exception, knowledge about the availability of social services is lacking.

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