Pretoria - Government has increased the age of its child support grant beneficiaries to 15 years, in an attempt to reach more vulnerable children.
"Cabinet has approved the extension of the Child Support Grant from 14 to 18 years and implementation will be phased in during 2009/10 starting with 15-year-old children," said Minister of Health Barbara Hogan, during a Social Cluster briefing on Monday.
Minister Hogan said due to the age extension from 14 to 15 years the number of children receiving grants will be 75 591, an increase from last year's 8 523 741.
The total number of beneficiaries for all types of grants is 12.6 million, which covers 2 344 595 people currently receiving an old age grant, 1 611war veterans grants, 1 370 195 disability grants, 474 012 foster care grants and 106 073 people have access to care dependency grant.
As at February 2009, the number of older men aged 63 and 64 years receiving older persons grant since July 2008 was 72 635.
Minister Hogan said the Department of Social Development has established an Intersectoral Child Care and Protection Forum, to address the gaps in service delivery to children of all ages, including children in the age cohort of 14 to 18 years, among other functions.
The government has also increased the monies paid out for the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) from R13.6 million in November 2008 to R57.2 million in January 2009.
The SRD is a temporary form of government assistance given to poor households facing undue hardship and can last up to three months. It maybe dispensed in the form of food parcels, vouchers and school uniforms.
The minister also reported that the National School Nutrition Programme, which supports about 5.6 million learners in quintiles 1, 2 and 3 in approximately 18 000 schools has received an additional R4 billion for the new financial year to enhance sustainability of the programme.
A quintile is a national ranking method used by the Department of Education to measure how poor a school is, with quintile 1 being the poorest of all quintiles.
The minister also noted that the cluster has increased the allocation of resources to provide financial assistance to trainees in Further Education Training colleges to help expand the availability of scarce skills.
"We are also continuing to work closely with universities to double the output of universities in priority sectors by aligning the National Student Financial Aid Scheme and subsidy funding with scarce skills.
"To this effect, the Department of Education has allocated R439 million to improve facilities at disadvantaged institutions for the support of key skills areas including the faculties of engineering and technology," she said.
As of January this year, 60 percent of learners were attending no-fee schools, a bid by government to eliminate compulsory school fees in 60 percent of primary and secondary schools.
Tools for the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy have also been made available to all public schools to popularise and implement measures for the prevention and management of learner pregnancy.
In September and October 2008, the first two of a three series insert to the Teacher newspaper called Genderations, which focuses on providing support to teachers in managing and preventing learner pregnancy, were published.
Minister Hogan also reported that the Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Sexual Violence and harassment in public schools have been finalised and printed.
A revised draft version of the National Schools Pledge has also been produced and the revised draft pledge will soon be presented to Cabinet for discussion and approval.