Although Finance Minister Trevor Manuel made no moves to make social income grants accessible to older children, over 60 organisations dedicated to addressing social security issues on behalf of South Africa’s millions of poor and vulnerable children welcomed the R20 increase in the child support grant, but hastened to add that it was still not enough.
There was also disappointment at the fact that the grants had not been extended to children affected by the AIDS epidemic or those with mild disabilities.
Manuel announced that the 2002 Budget would give priority to reducing poverty and vulnerability through sustained economic growth, increase spending on social grants and step up assistance to communities to improve access to affordable basic services.
Asking members of parliament to chant, “hunger is in trouble”, Manuel announced he would increase old age pensions and other social grants to R620 per month (up from R570) from April 1 and child support grants by R20 to R130 per month.
He said the grant would be extended to a further 1,2-million children by the end of next year.
The increases come amid harsh statistics revealing that between 60% and 70% of children in South Africa live in poverty.
According to the Alliance for Children’s Entitlement to Social Security (ACCESS), an alliance of 66 organisations assisting children, the children support grant is not enough. It is only available to children aged 0 to 6 while children between 7 and 18 have no social security regardless of the fact that 60 to 70% of them are living in extreme poverty, a situation that is becoming bleaker as they are orphaned amid a raging AIDS epidemic.
“In South Africa there are 10,5-million children living in poverty. To date, only R1,5-million children are receiving the child support grant,” ACCESS said in a statement.
Spokesperson Paula Proudlock said entire families were surviving on one child support grant or a single pension.
Proudlock said there were contradictions in Manuel’s number of children reached by the child support grant, adding that reaching three million children by next year was still not enough.
She said there was confusion whether the R50 increase had been extended to the foster child grant and care dependency grant. “If it has been extended we will be very happy.”
Proudlock said although the child support grant had been increased by 18%, the amount was still very low.
Manuel said that with stable finances, improved financial management, the strong growth in transfers to provinces would reinforce accelerated delivery of pro-poor programmes.
The minister said there had also been a remarkable record of progress with Social Development and Welfare departments paying 1 942 000 old-age pensions and 706 000 disability grants per month. There are 1,7-million children registered for child support grants now, Manuel said.