SA’s child care grant for disability falls short

Published Jan 31, 2024


The Care Dependency Grant (CDG) for children with disabilities in South Africa is insufficient to meet the needs of these children and to ensure the social protection of their families.

This is according to Dr Zara Trafford from the Institute for Life Course Health Research in the Department of Global Health at Stellenbosch University (SU). Trafford received her PhD in Psychology at SU recently.

“None of the South African government’s cash transfer (“grants”) programmes are intended to serve as standalone social protection, but there is a particularly dire lack of responsibility for disability and support for disabled children from government bodies beyond the Department of Social Development,” said Trafford.

She said the CDG is a greatly under-researched topic compared to the Child Support Grant and the adult Disability Grant. She added that the CDG is not top of mind for politicians because government has not prioritised disability enough.

As part of her study, Trafford interviewed parents who receive the CDG, South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) officials, doctors who conduct CDG assessments, social workers, activists, academics and adults with disabilities. She also held focus group discussions with some of the parents.

Trafford said that although the CDG provided much-needed support to families, it was simply not enough to support children with disabilities due to high unemployment, the lack of respite care, and a lack of complementary services and provisions from other government departments.

“All stakeholders were aware of the excessive costs involved with childhood disability but knew that the CDG was usually absorbed into an income pool and used to care for everybody in the household, and to pay for other services that should be free or heavily subsidised by Government, such as accessible transport, appropriate education and disability-inclusive healthcare for their child with disability.”

She added, however, that stakeholders differed in their understanding of the intended purpose of the CDG.

“Caregivers felt that because they often had to stay away from work to provide proper care to their child, the CDG should provide for all of their disabled child’s needs, at the very least.

“Doctors saw the CDG as a fund that would allow families to cater to the developmental needs of their disabled child but were also aware that state budgets were strained and worried that there might be problems with fairness across the country.

“SASSA officials saw the CDG as an acknowledgement of the full-time care often required for children with disabilities, but also emphasised that the CDG was not intended as total income replacement.”

Trafford said these different interpretations stem, in part, from the vagueness of the Social Assistance Act, which defines the CDG as being for the primary caregiver of a person under 18 who requires “permanent care or support services due to their physical or mental [sic] disability”. The nature and extent of the care and services in this definition is not otherwise detailed, leaving room for conflicting interpretations and confusion, she added.

“Partly because of the confusion around purpose and eligibility and the gatekeeping power available to frontline administrators and health workers, many children who would benefit from the CDG (and should technically be eligible) seem to be excluded.”

Trafford noted that social workers and assessing doctors also indicated that families struggled to access the CDG early enough.

Cape Times