BLACK SASH MEDIA STATEMENT – In response to STATISTICS SA SURVEY on SOCIAL GRANTS.
For Immediate Release: Friday, 24 July 2009
The Black Sash welcomes the report released yesterday by Stats SA that considers the effects of social grants on vulnerable and poor households in South Africa. Their general findings support our long-held belief that income support has important and positive developmental consequences as well as a significant impact on alleviating poverty and inequality.
However, we must not lose sight of the harsh reality that those who receive grants are still desperately poor and are battling to provide basic food and shelter for their families. According to the stats, 60% of households in which someone is receiving a grant, live on less than R1100 a month, illustrating the devastating impact of the high levels of unemployment and poverty in our country. Currently our grant system only supports children, the aged and the disabled. Surely we must consider extending some form of income support to the unemployed and working poor in South Africa?
Lack of Service Delivery
The Black Sash is also deeply disturbed by the findings that “grant recipients are significantly less likely to have access to basic services than non-grant recipients.” 30% fewer still do not have access to a flushed toilet and 20% fewer don’t have piped tap water in their house or yard. What this means is that the basic quality of life of those receiving grants is still unacceptably low. Along with other South Africans, the Black Sash is watching the increase in service delivery and poverty protests with growing concern. As a society, we need to face up to the fact that fifteen years into democracy, many people are not yet able to live in dignity, and that their patience is running out.
Low uptake of grants
The Black Sash is concerned that the up-take of social grants is still so low. According to the stats, nearly a third of low-earning households who are eligible, are still not receiving a social grant. This is especially prevalent in marginalised communities and indicates that government needs to do so much more to ensure social security is extended to our most vulnerable members of society.
Extension of Child Support Grant
The Black Sash would also like to reiterate our call on government to extend the Child Support Grant to all children under the age of 18. The Stats SA report states that school attendance is “significantly higher in the grant recipient population than amongst households not receiving grants.” By extending the grant to all needy children under the age of 18, we will significantly increase their chances of completing their schooling and finding employment. An education is not only the right of all children, but what our country urgently needs.
The Black Sash also believes that the Stats SA report supports our conviction that placing conditions on those receiving the Child Support Grant is unnecessary and could be counter-productive. School attendance is already higher in households which receive the grant. Conditions will impose an administrative burden on the State, and would jeopardise access to the grant, especially within communities where the persistence of apartheid spatial geography makes it harder to travel to State institutions.
A Chronic Illness Grant
The Black Sash would also like to comment on the findings that grants have provided essential support to households affected by HIV. We are aware of the current policy debate within government which is considering introducing a standardised tool to assess ‘disability’. This will possibly exclude people managing chronic illnesses, such as those on ARVs. In this context, the Black Sash, together with other civil society organisations, is advocating for a Chronic Illness Grant which will provide much needed income support to those battling the dual challenges of poverty and chronic illness. With the support of such a grant, those who are ill will be able to eat healthily, keep warm and access their treatment, thus enabling their participation in society and relieving our desperately over-stretched health system.
More still needs to be done
While we acknowledge the real progress made by government in extending much needed social grants to more households, the Stats SA report shows us that we have much more to achieve as a country which remains dangerously characterised by poverty and inequality. We are acutely aware that the impact of the global economic crisis places a huge responsibility on the State, as the most significant driver of economic recovery, to make this fundamental need a reality. The Black Sash challenges all sectors of our society to acknowledge the seriousness of our situation and to work together to make dignity a reality for all who live in South Africa.
Here is the link to the Statistics SA report -http://www.statssa.gov.za/Publications/P03181/P031812007.pdf
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Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager
Cell: 072-174 3507
Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager
Cell: 082-429 4719