Income poverty & grantsIncome poverty & grants

Child Support Grants

Author/s: Katharine Hall
Date: November 2017

Definition

This indicator shows the number of children receiving the Child Support Grant (CSG), as reported by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) which disburses social grants on behalf of the Department of Social Development.

Data


Data Source South African Social Security Agency (2007 - 2017) SOCPEN database - extracted data on child grants by special request. Pretoria: SASSA.
Notes
  1. For the years 2005 and 2008, the child support grant was only available to children aged 0-13 years. From 2009, the grant was extended to include children aged 14 years. From 2012, the CSG has been available to children until they turn 18 years.
  2. SOCPEN figures are taken from the end of March each year (the financial year-end).
The right to social assistance is designed to ensure that people living in poverty are able to meet basic subsistence needs. Government is obliged to support children directly when their parents or caregivers are too poor to do so. Income support is provided through social assistance programmes, such as the CSG, which is an unconditional cash grant paid to the caregivers of eligible children.

Introduced in 1998 with an initial value of R100, the CSG has become the single biggest programme for alleviating child poverty in South Africa. Take-up of the CSG has increased dramatically over the years, and the grant amount is increased slightly each year, more or less keeping pace with overall inflation. At the end of March 2017, a monthly CSG of R360 was paid to 12,081,375 children aged 0 – 17 years. The value of the CSG increased to R380 per month from the beginning of April 2017.



There have been two important changes in eligibility criteria. The first concerns age eligibility. Initially the CSG was only available for children under seven years. From 2003 it was gradually extended to older children up to the age of 14. Since January 2012, following a second phased extension, children are eligible for the grant until they turn 18.

The second important change concerns the income threshold or means test. The income threshold remained static for 10 years until a formula was introduced – set at 10 times the amount of the grant. This means that every time the grant is increased, the means test also increases. From April 2017 the income threshold is R3,800 per month for a single caregiver and R7,600 per month for the joint income of the caregiver and spouse, if the caregiver is married.

There is substantial evidence that grants, including the CSG, are being spent on food, education and basic goods and services. This evidence shows that the grant not only helps to alleviate income poverty and realise children’s right to social assistance, but is also associated with improved nutritional, health and education outcomes.1

Given the positive and cumulative effects of the grant, it is important that caregivers are able to access it for their children as early as possible. One of the main concerns is the slow take-up for young children. An analysis of exclusions from the CSG found that exclusion rates for eligible infants under a year were as high as 43% in 2014, up only three percentage points from 47% in 2008. Exclusion rates were found to be highest in the Western Cape and Gauteng. The total rate of exclusion for all ages is 17.5% (over 1.8 million children).2 Barriers to up-take include confusion about eligibility requirements and the means test in particular; lack of documentation (mainly identity books or birth certificates, and proof of school enrolment, although the latter is not an eligibility requirement) and problems of institutional access (including the time and cost of reaching SASSA offices, long queues and lack of baby-friendly facilities). It is worth noting, however, that there has been improved up-take amongst children younger than two and children older than 15 and the infant up-take rate appears to have increased from 50% in 2011 to 57% in 2014.3

In 2016 and early 2017 there was widespread concern that grant payments would be disrupted when SASSA’s controversial contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) came to an end in March 2017. The invalid contract with CPS could not be further extended without the Constitutional Court’s permission, an alternative service provider had not been appointed, and SASSA did not yet have the capacity to take over the payment system. Civil society approached the Constitutional Court for assistance to prevent a disruption in grant payments. As a result, the Constitutional Court ordered that CPS should continue paying grants until 31 March 2018 and imposed a supervisory order to enable the Court (assisted by an independent expert committee) to monitor SASSA’s progress towards appointing an alternative service provider or developing in-house capacity. At the end of April 2017 just over 12.1 million CSGs were paid.4



1 For an overview of impacts, see: Grinspun A (2016) No small change: The multiple impacts of the Child Support Grant on child and adolescent well-being. In: Delany A, Jehoma S & Lake L (eds) South African Child Gauge 2016. Cape Town: Children’s Institute, UCT;
See also: Coetzee M (2014) Do Poor Children Really Benefit from the Child Support Grant? Econ3x3 Working Paper, 10 July 2014. Accessed 14 July: www.econ3x3.org/article/do-poor-children-really-benefit-child-support-grant;
Coetzee M (2013) Finding the benefits: Estimating the impact of the South African child support grant. South African Journal of Economics, 81(3):427-450;
Department of Social Development, South African Social Security Agency & UNICEF (2012) The South African Child Support Grant Impact Assessment: Evidence from a survey of children, adolescents and their households. Pretoria: UNICEF South Africa;
Woolard I & Leibbrandt M (2010) The Evolution and Impact of Unconditional Cash Transfers in South Africa. SALDRU Working Paper 51. Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, UCT;
Agüero JM, Carter M & Woolard I (2009) The Impact of Unconditional Cash Transfers on Nutrition: The South African Child Support Grant. Working Paper, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth;
Samson M, Heinrich C, Williams M, Kaniki S, Muzondo T, Quene KM & Van Niekerk I (2008) Quantitative Analysis of the Impact of the Child Support Grant. Produced by the Economic Policy Research Institute for the Department of Social Development, SASSA & UNICEF. Pretoria: UNICEF;
Budlender D & Woolard I (2006) The Impact of the South African Child Support and Old Age Grants on Children’s Schooling and Work. Geneva: International Labour Office;
Case A, Hosegood V & Lund F (2005) The reach and impact of Child Support Grants: evidence from KwaZulu-Natal. In: Development Southern Africa, 22(4), October 2005: 467-482;
Samson M, Lee U, Ndlebe A, Mac Quene K, Van Niekerk I, Ghandi V, Harigaya T & Abrahams C (2004) The Social and Economic Impact of South Africa’s Social Security System. Commissioned by the Department of Social Development. Cape Town: Economic Policy Research Institute.

2 DSD, SASSA and UNICEF (2016) Removing Barriers to Accessing Child Grants: Progress in reducing exclusion from South Africa’s Child Support Grant. Pretoria: UNICEF South Africa

3 DSD, SASSA and UNICEF (2016) Removing Barriers to Accessing Child Grants: Progress in reducing exclusion from South Africa’s Child Support Grant. Pretoria: UNICEF South Africa
SASSA and UNICEF (2013) Preventing Exclusion from the Child Support Grant: A study of exclusion errors in accessing CSG benefits; and see no. 6 above.
4 South African Social Security Agency (2017) Fact Sheet: Issue No 4 of 2017. Pretoria, SASSA.

The number of children receiving Child Support Grants is taken from the Department of Social Development’s administrative database – SOCPEN. The figures are taken from from daily reports for 31 March of each year, to coincide with the timeframes for the General Household Survey. For 2007 (the earliest year with available data from SASSA) the numbers are taken from the end of July.
Information on social grants is derived from the Social Pensions (SOCPEN) national database maintained by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), which was established in 2004 to disburse social grants for the Department of Social Development. Prior to this, the administration of social grants and maintenance of the SOCPEN database were managed directly by the department and its provincial counterparts.

There has never been a published, systematic review of the social grants database, and the limitations in terms of validity or reliability of the data have not been quantified. However, this database is regularly used by the department and other government bodies to monitor grant take-up, while the computerised system, which records every application and grant payment, minimises the possibility of human error. Take-up data and selected reports are available from the department on request throughout the year, and are also published every month on the SASSA website. Children Count provides grant take-up figures as at the end of March.