Minister promises to expand child support grant, but no tangible progress yet

| Michelle Korte
Children playing in Mfuleni. Photo by Masixole Feni.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini announced plans in June to expand child support grant eligibility from age 18 to 23.

Dlamini revealed this expansion on 10 June at a conference in Boksburg about access to safe abortion. She said young people are normally left to fend for themselves when they turn 19, but government is looking into supporting them until they complete tertiary education.

Dlamini’s spokeswoman Lumka Oliphant told The Mercury, “Once a young person reaches the age of 19, Social Development says you are now old and security services are ceased. Foster parents are also unable to get a government support grant for them.”

Oliphant said, “Although we are saying if they pass matric they should go to FET college [further education and training], how do they get to the FET?” Terminating grants at age 18 means that people growing up in children’s homes are then sent out to the streets, she said.

According to SABC News, Minister Dlamini said at the conference, “In 2015/2016 financial year we are going to be looking into the issue of children up until the age of 18. Secondly we want to look into the issue of foster children between the ages of 19 and 23 and many other children who are grant recipients but their parents are unemployed. We want to come up with a comprehensive programme to ensure that children don’t get disturbed up until they are 23.”

Whether such changes will affect the existing Child Support Grant, Foster Care Grant, or both, remains unclear. Spokespersons from the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) said that plans are being ironed out for the eligibility expansion and nothing has been finalized.

A SASSA spokesperson told GroundUp that Minister Dlamini would announce the expansion in her budget address to Parliament last Wednesday, 16 July, but Dlamini made no such mention.

She spoke of the need to increase uptake of the Child Support Grants by 70 percent for infants because “early intervention yields better outcomes for children.” She also said she would appoint a Ministerial Committee to assess the foster care system “to ensure that no child falls though the cracks as a result of administrative processes.”

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