Dept investigating Bolsa-Familia-type grant

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On Tuesday, in reply to a parliamentary question raised by a member of the opposition on whether the department has considered the Brazilian Social Reform System, Dlamini said her department was currently investigating the possibility of following a similar consolidation process to that of Bolsa Familia which is conceptualised as a family or household grant.

This work was likely to be completed in the current financial year, she said.

The minister said in contrast to South Africa's social-assistance programme, Brazil's Bolsa Familia was a much more targeted programme.

"Typically there is geographical targeting, followed by targeting of households within the chosen areas," she said.

The minister said in place of a relatively simple means test, grant eligibility is usually determined by more complicated formulae, which often include a range of factors besides income.

However, she said a downside to Bolsa Familia was that the formulae used to determine grant eligibility was often not made public. This, she said, made it difficult for applicants to know whether they were eligible or not.

"CSG [the Child Support Grant] is superior in this respect in requiring far less administrative and other labour-intensive costs to implement, imposing less cost on government and applicants, being much more transparent, and thus enabling the poor to have a better sense of their rights and better ability to know if government is denying them these rights," she pointed out.

The department was also studying Bolsa Familia's use of conditionalities in the provision of social grants.

This follows Dlamini's announcement in her Budget Vote in May, that the department would be looking to ensure that conditions around the receipt of child support grants were met by grant recipients.

Bolsa Familia imposes conditionalites that relate to education and health - in that children of school-going age must attend school, while health conditions are imposed in relation to very young children.

Dlamini said non-compliance with conditionalities was interpreted in Brazil as a sign to federal and local authorities that a family could be at risk or need additional services, she said, pointing out that the programme's focus was on assisting families who comply with conditionalities, rather than uncovering non-compliance.

Repeated non-compliance can lead to blocking, suspension and cancellation of the benefits.

Dlamini said similarly in South Africa, conditionalities were not intended to penalise beneficiaries but to ensure that they attend school.

"These conditions are not punitive as the Constitution provide for the right of access to social security without necessarily providing for a condition of school attendance," she said.

However, she said Brazil was experiencing challenges around ensuring compliance with conditionalities, as well as challenges around monitoring of conditionalities, which leads to an interruption of payments to beneficiaries.

She said in South Africa, her department had entered into an agreement with the Department of Basic Education to ensure that there was a regular exchange of statistics related to school enrolment and attendance of child support grant beneficiaries.

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