Child grant reports welcomed

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pretoria - Black Sash, a non-profit human rights organisation committed to making human rights real for all living in South Africa, has welcomed the two studies confirming that Child Support Grants (CSG) have reduced the depth and severity of poverty.

The reports entitled, 'The Impact of the International Financial Crisis on Child Poverty in South Africa', and 'Vulnerability of Children and Poor Families to the Economic Recession of 2008 - 2009', found that child grants served as a form of diversified income, making poor households less susceptible to the effects of the shock.

They were conducted by the United Nations Children's Fund, Financial and Fiscal Commission of South Africa and Social Development Department, with the aim of looking at the impact of the 2008 - 2009 economic recession on children in South Africa.

Black Sash Advocacy Manager, Ratula Beukman, said the organisation is keenly aware that social assistance grants are recognised worldwide as the most effective policy intervention to address severe child poverty.

"Child poverty, child hunger and malnutrition are rife every day for millions, and have been exacerbated by the recession. The social assistance grant for children has clearly helped cushion the effects of this devastating economic environment.

"The question remains: how many reports like these will it take to convince ambivalent decision makers and the disgruntled employed that we simply cannot afford to cut back on our social assistance programme to the poor?" Beukman told BuaNews.

The reports noted that the existence of a well-functioning social protection system before the crisis was very important for protecting the poor.

Beukman stressed the need for society to be prepared for the spiralling costs of food, which erode the real value of grants, with dangerous consequences for child health.

The University of Cape Town's Centre of Criminology points out that children need nourishing food, especially in their first years, to grow their brains and bodies and to "increase their chances of becoming employable, self-reliant adults". The centre says this is why the Department of Social Development should plan to increase the value of the CSG, sooner rather than later.

Black Sash also supported the Department of Social Development's assertion that the child grant should be more inclusive.

"It should include vulnerable asylum seeker and refugee children, who are currently fending for themselves. It should also include poor families who now live outside of the security net due to the very low means test that is applied by government.

"Our unconditional Child Support Grant, recently approved for children up to age 18, is held up around the world as a beacon of social solidarity... We need to stand together to defend this very important anti-poverty instrument and to work to extend social assistance to all households in need of income, particularly in the light of our very high unemployment rate and severe levels of chronic illness," Beukman said.

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