Durban - The Constitutional Court has ruled that foster child grants and child support grants cannot be deducted from loss-of-support claims made against the Road Accident Fund.
The court, which handed down its ruling on Monday, was dealing with a case in which a Western Cape mother, Noelle Beyers, died in an accident in 2002, leaving behind three children.
After her death, her parents were appointed as foster parents to the children and received foster child grants.
Advocate Wayne Coughlan, who was appointed as a curator on behalf of the children, brought a claim for loss of support because of Beyers’s death.
The fund agreed that R112 942 as loss of support was due to the children, but it argued that R146 790 paid to the grandparents for foster child grants had to be deducted from the loss-of-support claim.
The fund said since the grant amount exceeded the claim, it did not have to make any payment for loss of support.
The matter went before the Western Cape High Court which ruled in favour of the grants not being deducted, but the fund took the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which ruled in its favour.
Coughlan then applied for leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court.
The fund had argued that its funds and social grants came from the National Treasury, and if the grants were not deducted, there would be “double compensation” at the expense of the taxpayer.
The Concourt said foster child grants were paid to foster parents whereas loss of support was paid to the children.
“The approach advanced by the RAF (the fund) that foster child grants are deductible would lead to results that are illogical, unjustifiable and inconsistent with the constitution.” The court found that it was not “double compensation” as the grants arose from constitutional obligations of the state to provide for children in need of care.
The court also found that child support grants were on the “same footing” as foster child grants and should not be taken into account when an award for damages for loss of support was made.
Ann Skelton, director for the Centre for Child Law, said on Monday that the judgment was “important” for children, who were in foster care or receiving child support grants, whose parents died in road accidents.
“The Supreme Court of Appeal had upheld that the money paid out in foster grants or child support grants must be deducted from the total amount that the fund will pay out. The Constitutional Court has stated a clear principle that in future these social assistance grants are not to be deducted.”