Findings of research study
The Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA) at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), today (06 March 2012) released the findings of a gender applied research study of one of South Africa’s largest social protection programmes, the Child Support Grant (CSG).
The research survey was conducted by Leila Patel, Director of the CSDA and Professor of Social Development studies at the University together with Tessa Hochfeld and Jacqueline Moodley, both CSDA researchers.
Since the introduction of the Child Support Grant (CSG) in 1998, the majority of the beneficiaries are now women. The grant reaches 10.7 million children which makes up approximately 55 percent of the total number of children in South Africa. The CSG is internationally recognized to be an innovative intervention to reduce poverty and promote child well-being.
The aim of the study was to assess the gendered impact of the CSG in Doornkop, Soweto, which is a poor urban community. A survey of 343 households was conducted which was systematically sampled. The findings may be generalized to other poor urban areas with high uptake levels of the CSG. This report contains the findings and conclusions of the study which are briefly summarized below.
A total of 81.9 percent of the households surveyed received one or more CSGs with an average of 2.2 CSGs per household. CSG beneficiaries were mainly younger women between 16 and 40 years (62 percent), who have a secondary education (55.6 percent), and are likely to be unmarried (48 percent) and the head of their households (52 percent).
The grant is well targeted at poor households and particularly the very poorest. The CSG is the only regular source of income in these households complemented by other diverse sources of income such as pensions and disability grants (33.5 percent), small business activities (24.1 percent), casual work (23.7 percent), and limited material and in-kind support from family and external agencies (17.4 percent). Some households receive private maintenance from the fathers of the children (24.5 percent) who are not living with them although many fathers do not pay maintenance (60.8 percent). Only 12.5 percent of CSG beneficiaries were employed. High unemployment among CSG beneficiaries is closely associated with high overall female unemployment nationally and the huge domestic and care responsibilities of women with young children.
Although the amount of the grant is small, it plays a key role in reducing income poverty among the very poor and especially in woman headed households. The gendered nature of poverty and the increasing financial and care burdens that women face is highlighted by the findings. The CSG also has other positive multiplier effects on for example, household food security, school attendance and performance, improved nutrition of children, care of children, family cohesion, access to services and the empowerment of women. CSG beneficiaries cared mostly for their biological children (60 percent) while 18.4 percent cared for biological grandchildren and 16.1 percent for other relatives. An overwhelming majority of beneficiary children lived with the caregiver in the household (92.2 percent). This indicates that children are cared for in their family of origin and in the extended family system thereby illustrating a high level of family cohesion. Beneficiaries were in the main very positive about the impact of the CSG on their lives. They indicated that they would not be able to survive without the grant (64.5 percent), that they are now better able to care for their children (79 percent) and that the CSG has improved their lives (82.3 percent).
Grant monies are mainly used for food (74.2 percent) and some basic non-food items such as school fees and uniforms (64.9 percent), health and transport (42.9 percent) and to some extent to reduce indebtedness (21.7 percent) and to build up savings (17.1 percent) to protect themselves against risk. Further, CSG respondents were positively engaged in care activities with the children often or on a daily basis such as helping with school work (64 percent) and playing with or reading to them (58 percent). Almost all CSG children were enrolled in school and attended school regularly (73.5 percent) with the majority having never failed a grade (74.1 percent). Children appeared to be in good health (91.6 percent), were immunized (96.7 percent) and lived in households with very good access to basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity. Just over half of CSG children lived within walking distance of their school. Some children did not have access to free school uniforms (16.5 percent) and the primary school nutrition programme (24.3 percent). Beneficiaries also spent grant monies on health, transport, electricity and water that should be freely available to them. Such expenditure erodes the value of the grant which is largely due to inefficiencies in the delivery of public services and in gaining access to some of the free services.