Social grant increase does little to better the lives of over 18 million beneficiaries who bear the brunt of the current economic crisis.
The increase in social grants announced by the Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in the Budget Speech on Wednesday 26 February 2020 does little to better the lives of over 18 million beneficiaries who bear the brunt of the current economic crisis. The meagre R20 increase to the Child Support Grant to R450 per month does not take into account Statistics South Africa’s food poverty line, set at R561, which is the minimum amount of money needed to provide basic sustenance. As in the case of the Foster Care Grant, the Child Support Grant must be extended to those between the ages of 18 to 21 years to ensure that all children have access to basic nutrition during their school years.
While government boasts savings of R1 billion per annum as a result of the new social grants payment system, these savings have come at a high price to grant beneficiaries. Since SASSA reduced the number of cash pay points from 10 000 to 1, 740 in 2018 the cost of accessing grants has increased in all social grant categories. This is largely as a result of an increase in bank transaction and transportation costs. The closure of pay points was ill advised, given the impact of the limited National Payment System (NPS) as well as the SAPO infrastructure on the elderly and the disabled in rural areas. These beneficiaries now have no option but to travel long, costly and often unsafe distances to access their grants. The additional costs rob the country’s poor and most vulnerable of the right to receive the full value of their grant, let alone benefit from the current increases.
The unemployment rate, currently at 29,1%, continues to increase over time. Minister Mboweni further stated that over 8 million South Africans between the ages of 15 and 34 are ‘not in education, employment or training.’ While we note the work of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention which helped to create over 250 000 jobs, the pace of job creation is not keeping up with the growing number of job seekers, retrenchments and new entrants to the labour market.
In 2015, South Africa ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Government now has an obligation to report back to the United Nations Committee by October 2020 on the recommendations made in 2018 which included: raising the levels of social assistance benefits to ensure adequate Standard of Living for grant recipients, and that those between the ages of 18 and 59 years with little or no income have access to social assistance. Government can and must do more to uphold its constitutional duty to provide social assistance to the growing number of unemployed people.
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