On Tuesday 21 April 2020, after a public call from civil society, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the much needed social relief measure that Child Support Grant (CSG) beneficiaries will receive an increase of R300 in May and an increase of R500 for the next five months. The Black Sash and the public understood this to mean that each child who receives the CSG grant will benefit from this measure. We all look forward to its implementation.
The Black Sash is concerned that the Department of Social Development (DSD) and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) have a different, and we believe an incorrect, understanding of how this measure will be implemented. In a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on Thursday, 23 April 2020, DSD and SASSA explained that the increase of the Child Support Grant is per ‘caregiver’ from June, and not per child. This was stated in a context where many children now no longer have access to food through the school feeding schemes. From June 2020, the Child Support Grant will therefore essentially remain at the meagre level of R440 per child as the grant increase is effectively being paid to the caregiver and not the child. DSD and SASSA must address this discrepancy urgently as the President made it clear that Child Support Grant beneficiaries (not caregivers) will receive R300 more per month in May and R500 more per month from June until October.
The term ‘caregiver’ is used for a biological parent and anyone with legal or social responsibility for a child. A caregiver may have one, or even three, children in her (or his) care. A grandmother on the Older Persons Grant might also be a caregiver for her grandchildren. Often a caregiver is a woman who is unemployed, engaged in domestic or seasonal farm work, a student, or a precariously employed casual worker who earns below the SASSA-determined means test. Many of these women are part of the informal economy but have no access to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) during the Covid-19 pandemic. Caregivers should be eligible to qualify for a Social Relief of Distress grant in their own right, regardless of whether their children receive a CSG.
There are also different monetary values accorded to caregivers, who will be receiving R500 from June for five months, and those who apply for the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant of R350 for six months. However, both these grants target women and men with no or little income between the ages of 18 to 59 years. There should be one standard approach to the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant, with the same value.
In addition, grants of R350 and R500 are too small. The SASSA food parcel is valued at up to R1,200 and the upper-bound poverty line is R1,227. The Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant must therefore be increased to at least R1,000.
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