Children can’t wait for Cabinet

Cabinet is unlikely to decide on changes to social services — including the possible introduction of a basic income grant — until early next year, according to government sources close to the process.

However, an alliance of organisations concerned with children have called on government to take immediate interim steps to alleviate the conditions of poor children.

“Children cannot wait,” says Shirin Motala, spokesperson for the Alliance for Children’€™s Entitlement to Social Security (Acess). “One in four South African children are stunted from malnutrition and undernourishment and HIV/AIDS is making the situation worse.

“Children cannot afford to wait another two or three years while Cabinet looks at the proposals from the Committee of Inquiry into a Comprehensive Social Security System.”

Prof Viviene Taylor, who heads the inquiry, will present Cabinet with a range of policy options by the end of this month. Her report will include the pros, cons and a cost analysis of each of the major options.

The demand by Cosatu and others for all South Africans “from the cradle to the grave” to get a R100 basic income grant is among the options being considered by Taylor’€™s committee.

However, given that the options are long term and have serious cost implications, Cabinet will only be able to debate them seriously and take decisions at its annual lekhotla in January 2002.

Acess, which has membership of over 40 organisations including child welfare, is calling for a basic income grant to be available immediately to all children under the age of 18. This could be done by extending the current childcare grant of R110, says Motala.

“At present, the childcare grants are only for children under seven, but they are actually being shared by whole families so they are not enhancing the nutritional status of the small children,” said Motala.

“The primary caregivers of all children under 18 must be able to apply for a childcare grant without having to undergo a means test. Means testing is too difficult and expensive to administer. The tax system can be used to get money back from those families who don’€™t qualify for the grant.”

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