Minister Pravin Gordon’s budget speech has been largely regarded as cautious and wise with some concerns or rather, some stronger emotions, being expressed from COSATU regarding the youth employment subsidy and some members of the public regarding the new withholding tax on gambling gains.
But what about our children?
The direct impact of the 2011/2012 budgeting lies in the social protection and health sector budgets. Foster care grants will increase by R30 to R740, and the child support grant will increase from R250 to R260 in April, and to R270 in October. It should be noted that children are the second largest beneficiaries of social grant payments (35 per cent) after pensioners (38 per cent). In terms of health, R1.4 billion for improved district-based maternal and child health services.
However it is noted that the increases in grants that benefit children are below the rate of inflation and are therefore likely to deepen the level of poverty that the majority of our children live in.
It is also clear that the social development of children is seen entirely in the context of grants. No mention was made as to how resource challenges in the field of social services to children will be dealt with. The current budget amounts directed at the implementation of the Children’s Act are woefully inadequate.
The budget speech referred to children in the general context of expanding spend on housing, rural development, better community services and social assistance for the elderly, the disabled and children in need. Minister Gordon also allocated R80 billion for economic and social infrastructure over the next three years, and R30 billion for frontline service delivery. These budgets will hopefully directly and indirectly impact positively on children along with budget allocated for the new community-based family health-care programme that will be introduced as part of national health insurance.
It is expected that amongst those active in the children’s sector, the 2011 budget speech did not adequately address the financial resource required to meet needs of children in this country. The question is - how much more can and should government do? It is, arguably, the role of the Children’s Sector to make concrete and evidenced suggestions and actively, vociferously and effectively advocate to ensure that these resource requirements are acknowledged and met.
Minister Gordon’s proposed set of fiscal guidelines are informed by three principles which include mitigating inter-generational equity, “so that our children’s wellbeing is not compromised by short-term interests.” This is a positive and encouraging sentiment but what government is obliged to do and what the Children’s Sector is obliged to monitor is that this sentiment of not rhetoric but rather a meaningful notion that will be adequately resourced, properly managed and effectively implemented in partnership with civil society.
The Leadership and Innovation Network for Collaboration in the Children’s Sector (LINC) was launched in 2007 as a partnership between Convene Venture Philanthropy, Reos Social Innovation, The Synergos Institute and the South African National Department of Social Development (DSD) to explore the creation of a cross-sector initiative that could improve the effectiveness of the response to vulnerable children in South Africa.
LINC has a network of over 100 leaders from across the children’s sector from government, NGO, business and donors. South Africa has many challenges around children e.g. children that are orphaned, children that are required to care for parents who are ill or obliged to care for siblings due to lack of parents in their household. LINC was created to build leadership, collaboration and innovation in the children’s sector in order to bring about systemic change through cross-sector collaboration. It explores cross-sector approaches to improve the sector's systemic response to the unprecedented challenges facing South Africa's children.
Joan van Niekerk
Linc Media Team
Leadership and Innovation Network for Collaboration in the Children’s Sector