The assumed necessity of continuing to grow the Social Security Benefits especially in relation to grants for children - the child support grant and the foster care grant. The issue is that not the increase in the grant amounts because this is essential, but rather the increases in the number of beneficiaries from 13.1 million in 2009 to 15.8 million in 2013 and is projected to rise further to 16.5 million by 2016/17. If economic and job creation projects are really succeeding as claimed, would there need to be an increase in social security recipients – especially child recipients? If expenditure on health is successful in reducing the impact of HIV and AIDS and reducing serious illness and death – should we not see a decrease in orphaned and vulnerable children needing foster care and child support grants?
The increase in child related grants are indeed very small in relation to the increase in the old age pension. However, it is acknowledged that many old age pensioners have children in their care and that their pension may support others in the family, including children.
Does the projected increase in the take up of social security reflect government’s own lack of confidence in their own policies and implementation of budgetary commitments?
The increase in the roll-out of the antiretroviral (ARV) programme to HIV infected persons including children is warmly applauded, as this will reduce orphaning and vulnerability of children and therefore dependence on state social security.
What we would like to see is greater monitoring of compliance once on an ARV programme, as this was an issue highlighted in the recent review of the National Strategic Plan on HIV, TB and STI’s.
Government is also congratulated on increased school enrolment and the school nutrition plan, but appears to remain challenged on increasing the optimal use of the money allocated to these programmes. One cannot avoid commenting on the concerns expressed by many on the poor return on investment in education in relation to scholar achievement, despite the increasing Matriculation ‘pass’ rate. The percentage fall out of learners between primary school and matriculation is cause for great concern as these children are less likely to find employment and enter adulthood with self-confidence and the skills and knowledge to achieve success.
Investment in infrastructure, such as water, sanitation, electricity and housing has a beneficial impact on children and allocations to these budgets are welcomed.
Some of the achievements put forward by the Minister in his budget speech ring somewhat hollowly - e.g. number of jobs created – has to be measured against jobs lost, increased access to education has to be measured against the declining quality, the average increase in income has to be measured against the rise in inflation.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment in the budget was the lack of a comprehensively supported strategy against corruption and the misuse of public funds, which diverts money away from programmes such as social security and improved services. This failure adds to the pervasive concern about ‘Nkandlagate’ and may continue to erode support for the ruling party.
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