Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini. Picture: Masi Losi.

Johannesburg - Youth unemployment and the effect of Aids are compelling many older people to become parents for a second time, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini heard on Monday.

Many were looking after grandchildren orphaned by HIV-related-illnesses, or whose parents were too sick to fulfil their duties.

Other children unable to look after themselves because they were unemployed, also often sought refuge with grandparents.

Several elderly people told the minister at the first senior citizens' parliament that they needed help from government, her department said in a statement.

The parliament was organised by the department and the Gauteng legislature.

Requests made during the meeting included better pensions, larger RDP houses for the elderly and their families, and state assistance in generating their own income to supplement grants.

To this end, the department, SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) and National Development Agency (NDA) had launched the Co-operative Shop Project.

The project aimed to link those who received social grants, especially child caregivers, to meaningful socio-economic opportunities.

“Through the project, members of co-operatives, mostly women, are assisted to supply school uniforms to schools in rural areas - a market that has been dominated by large manufacturers,” the department said.

The elderly also called on government to provide them with health and fitness facilities, and protection from abusive loan sharks. They complained that money was being deducted from their grants for micro loans and airtime without their permission.

The minister assured senior citizens her department would do everything in its power to end the real or perceived exploitation of social grant beneficiaries, especially the elderly.