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Calls mount for the child support grant to be increased

The Children, Social Assistance and Food Security research report has revealed that over 12 million children benefit from the grant, up to the age of 18. The grant of R460 is below the Food Poverty Line which is currently valued at R744.96 per person. Picture: Courtney Africa-African News agency(ANA)

The Children, Social Assistance and Food Security research report has revealed that over 12 million children benefit from the grant, up to the age of 18. The grant of R460 is below the Food Poverty Line which is currently valued at R744.96 per person. Picture: Courtney Africa-African News agency(ANA)

Published Feb 24, 2022

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Specialist scientist at the South African Medical Research Council, Dr Wanga Zembe-Makabile, says a recent study has found that most of the child support grant monies are spent on foods of poor dietary quality and quantity.

She said this during the launch of the Children, Social Assistance and Food Security research report, hosted by Black Sash.

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The report reads that over 12 million children benefit from the grant, up to the age of 18. The grant of R460 is below the Food Poverty Line which is currently valued at R744.96 per person.

According to the report, the grant needs to cover many basic needs for a child – not least nutrition. “However, the reality is that the grant is primarily used to buy food; food that is insufficient in quantity and quality to contribute to adequate nutrition. The grant for each child is paid out to a designated caregiver, who manages the funds on a child’s behalf,” she said.

Zembe-Makabile said caregivers need to make constant trade-offs in food and other essentials such as educational costs. Therefore, hunger has become a norm.

She added that a cash-plus care approach to the implementation of the grant is needed to link children to other essential free basic services such as early childhood development, free school uniform, free school transport, electricity, adequate housing and healthcare.

In addition, Zembe-Makabile recommended that macro-food policies need to subsidise the food basket of grant recipients.

She said that through continued advocacy, the child support grant could most likely be increased. “We can only do it by continuing to build and provide evidence which shows the costs of not increasing the grants. Through advocacy and through initiatives such as this research report, hopefully someone will listen sometime.”

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Senior researcher of the The Children's Institute, Katharine Hall, said the child support grant is just too small to bring people out of poverty.

“While we keep hearing about policy commitments to increase employment, we can’t keep reiterating these promises.

“There is a reverse dependency as adults are depending on child support grants,” she said.

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Black Sash national programme manager and food and nutrition researcher, Theresa Edlmann, said good nutrition in childhood lays the foundation for good health in adulthood.

“We cannot be a society that is comfortable and accepts that children go hungry… and worse… that children die of malnutrition.

“No amount of nutrition education and preaching will help mothers feed their children better if they cannot afford to buy the necessary food,” Edlmann said.

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Catherine Reyneke of the Genadendal Legal Info Desk called on the government to invest in feeding schemes in rural areas and increase the basic income grant.

“Food is expensive. It is difficult to provide healthy meals every day,” she said.

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POLITICAL BUREAU

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