CAPE TOWN, 28 April 2020, A group of academics, civil society leaders and development partners sent a submission to the Ministers of Finance and Social Development on Freedom Day, 27 April 2020. The submission draws attention to concerns that the social relief package announced by the President last week is inequitable, punitive to women and children, and needs revision.
On Tuesday, 21 April 2020, the President announced a social relief package that included pro-poor measures to support families facing increased poverty and food insecurity during and after lockdown. Subsequent briefings by SASSA, the Minister of Social Development, and the Minister of Finance, indicate that the relief package is not as pro-poor or as extensive as it initially appeared. The President had announced that child support grant (CSG) beneficiaries will receive an extra R300 in May and from June to October they would receive an additional R500 each month. However, subsequent briefings by SASSA, the Minister of Social Development, and the Minister of Finance, indicate that although all CSGs will receive an increase of R300 in May, from June a R500 increase attached to the CSG is a single increase for the caregiver (the recipient of the money) rather than the beneficiary (the child for whom the money is intended).
It also seems likely that the 7.1 million caregivers who receive CSGs on behalf of children will be excluded from accessing the R350 Covid-19 grant if they are unemployed. Given the increases that have now been announced for the other grants, modelled estimates show that if the R500 CSG increase is attached to the caregiver rather than each grant, this will leave 2 million more people below the food poverty line than would be the case if the increase were attached to every CSG.
The relief package needs to acknowledge and cater for the fact that, in addition to job losses and rising food costs, around 10 million children have since March lost their daily main meals due to the closure of the school and ECD feeding schemes. Whereas all other grants have received increases of R250, it is unclear what the R500 CSG increase represents. It is either a caregiver grant or it is a CSG. If the latter, then the adult recipient should be eligible for a Covid-19 grant and exclusion from it is unjustified. If the former, then the question is why the CSG, unlike other grants, is not being increased – which in turn raises the question as to whether the state has taken adequate measures to mitigate the closure of the school feeding scheme. Either way, children and women get a raw deal.
The endorsing organisations and individuals have called on Cabinet to reconsider the manner in which the allocation of grants will occur, bearing in mind the necessity of an urgent pro-poor response that protects children, the unemployed, and the informal sector. They have called on government to attach the CSG increase to each grant paid, to ensure that unemployed caregivers are not excluded from the Covid-19 grant, and for the government to share its assumptions and protections for the Covid-19 grant so that there can be informed engagement in defining the eligibility criteria and mechanisms for widespread, equitable and rapid uptake.
The submission was signed by;
Prof Shanaaz Mathews (Director: Children’s Institute, UCT),Prof Ann Skelton (Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Professor of Child Law, UP) ,Karabo Ozah (Director: Centre for Child Law, UP)
Noncedo Madubedube (General Secretary: Equal Education),Prof Murray Leibbrandt (Director: South African Labour and Development Research Unit, UCT), Nurina Ally (Director: Equal Education Law Centre)
Assoc. Prof Maylene Shung King (School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town), Umunyana Rugege (Executive Director: Section 27), Prof Ruth Hall (Institute for Poverty, Land & Agrarian Studies PLAAS) Koketso Moeti (Executive Director: amandla.mobi), Prof Ingrid Woolard (Dean: Faculty of Commerce, University of Stellenbosch), Dr Gilad Isaacs (Director: Institute for Economic Justice),Lynette Maart (Director: Black Sash), Christina Nomdo (NPC Commissioner), Russel Rensburg (Director: Rural Health Advocacy Project)
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