Children's Grants; Clarifying Sections 75 and 76 Issues in Children's Bill: briefing

Social Development

09 February 2005
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

9 February 2005

Mrs T.J Tshivhase (ANC)

Relevant documents:
Presentation on Children's Grants

Splitting of the Children's Bill

The Committee was briefed on children's grants and proposed suggestions for further splitting of the Children’s Bill. The
Child Support Grant might be progressively increased to children between 15-18 years in the future. There was proposed policy on this but it still required Cabinet approval.  The Department was also considering introducing a universal grant for children instead of having differing amounts for the Foster Child Grant and the Child Support Grant. The Committee believed it was important to know what percentage of the GDP South Africa could afford to spend on social assistance in order to evaluate if a universal grant would be sustainable. The Department said that access to grants provided an enabling environment and it believed that it was not a contributing factor towards teenage pregnancy.

The following people attended the meeting: Ms R van Zyl (South African Law Reform Commission: Researcher), Dr M Mabetoa (Department of social Development: Chief Director), Mr P du Preez (Department of Social Development: Legal Advisor), Ms L Stuurman (SALRC: Researcher), Ms P Naicker (Director: Social Policy) and Ms U Mguye (Department of Social Development: Deputy Director).

Ms Naiker outlined the different grants payable to children. Mr du Preez identified sections that should be taken from the section 75 Bill to the section 76 Bill and vice versa (see documents attached).

Mr M Masutha (ANC) said that there should be a policy review to resolve the issue of who qualified for a particular type of grant. The proposed types of grants no longer existed. They were proposed by the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) but were thrown out by Cabinet. The Department was expected to come up with a new policy framework. National Treasury was concerned about the sustainability of the grants. He asked if the Department and National Treasury were working on finding a new sustainable package. The way the Committee would conceptualise the different forms of care would influence the ultimate design of the grant.

Ms Naicker replied that the Department had initiated a review of social security policy. A comprehensive social security policy would look at all stages of human development to ensure that everybody was covered at all stages of development. A Committee would look at child grants to ensure equity and uniformity in order to reduce duplication. It was important to have a universal grant amount so as to stop people from not applying for the child support grant of R170 but getting relatives to apply for the foster care grant of R510. The special needs of a child had to be addressed because it cost a little extra to take care of a disabled child. The short-term needs would be addressed in terms of the Social Relief or Distress Policy. This policy was at a fairly advanced stage in terms of its development. The Department and National Treasury were working closely on this policy.

Mr W Morwamoche (ANC) noted that the only
requirement for a foster care grant was a court order. There were two types of courts in terms of the Constitution: traditional and magistrates courts. He asked if the Department accepted recommendations from traditional courts. He wondered why a person could get a foster care grant and a child support grant at the same time.

Ms Naicker replied that there was no requirement that the order had to be from children's court, traditional or magistrate's court. The foster care grant was initially not seen as part of social assistance but as a form of social protection for the child. It was also an incentive for foster care parents to take care of the child and was payable for two years. The foster care grant supplemented the other grant.

Dr Mabetoa added that it had to be the Children's Court that had declared the child to be in need of care.

Mr Morwamoche said that the Department still treated men and women unequally in that women qualified for old age pension at the age of 60 whilst men qualified at the age of 65 years.

Ms Naicker replied that the Department had inherited the policy and its rationale was not clear. The issue was receiving a lot of debate. There was a case before the Constitutional Court on this issue and the Department was awaiting the court's decision. Men and women were equal in terms of the Constitution. Feminists would argue that the unequal treatment was justifiable given the fact that, traditionally, men had the means to accumulate wealth for their retirement whereas women were housewives.

The Chairperson said that there were men who had retired before they reached the age of 65 due to ill health. She asked how the Department took care of such people.

Ms Naicker replied that such people normally got early retirement packages and therefore did not qualify for social grants. They could, depending on their age, access social grants once they had exhausted their retirement packages. There was, besides a disability grant, no support for people who retired early. It was naturally assumed that one would get an annuity or lump sum that would sustain them for the rest of their life. A comprehensive social security policy was looking at all gaps.

Mr Masutha asked if there were children who did not access the social security system because the Department had insufficient funds or simply because their parents did not apply for grants.

Ms Naicker replied that no child who qualified for a grant could be turned away.

Mr Masutha asked if the Department was using the foster care grant, for instance, as a benchmark to target the new grant system. It was important to know how much the new system would cost. He wondered if Treasury used any guide - in terms of a certain percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – that South Africa could afford to spend on social security. An answer to this question would indicate how much the Department could get to spend on social security – at any stage of South Africa’s economic development.

Ms Naicker replied that the costing of the new package was still in its early stages. The cost would depend on the design of the grant. There was no guide from National Treasury on what percentage of the GDP could be spent on social grants. In terms of Millennium Development goals all signatories had committed themselves to spend 5% of their GDP on social development. An analysis revealed that social spending was increasing and South Africa could not afford slow expenditure on social security. It was important to conduct research on the costs of the basis needs of children.

Mr M Waters (DA) noted that social grants provided an enabling environment for teenage pregnancies. He further noted that the Department intended to extend grants to cover people who were 18 years old. He asked if any research was done on this and when the extension would come into effect. He felt that people who were using anti-retroviral drugs were not supposed to receive the disability grant because they could actively participate in the labour market.

Ms Naicker replied that there was no commitment on the table on the extension of social grants to 18-year-olds. The Department's priority was to improve the administration of grants by the Social Security Agency.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) had problems understanding how the universal grant would work given the fact that it was not clear how much it would cost and what percentage of the GDP South Africa could afford to spend on social security.

Mr B Solo (ANC) said that the fiscal situation and the administration of a Basic Income Grant (BIG) was challenging. The debate around BIG was over and one should move towards what was feasible. He lamented the fact that the media was exaggerating the rate of teenage pregnancy and this was causing a lot of confusion.

Mr Masutha said that it was not clear whether the policy was mooted within the Department. It was also not clear if it constituted a policy shift and was considered within government. He asked if 5% of the GDP would be sufficient to cover all children in terms of a universal grant. He also asked what percentage of the GDP was taken up by existing social grants.

Ms Naicker replied that 1.4% of the GDP was spent on social assistance. The 5% benchmark was not for social security alone but for social development in broad terms. South Africa had not developed a benchmark on social assistance and there was probably a need to do this. National Treasury was working towards developing a poverty line and this would allow the government to have a uniform benchmark. Each department had its own poverty line.

Ms Chalmers noted that the means test was to be reviewed. She highlighted the fact that the threshold was based on the 1998 poverty data. There had been inflation since then and the number of children per household might have increased.

The Chairperson asked if the Department was working with other institutions to ensure effective service delivery.

Dr Mabetoa replied that the Department was establishing child care forums in each community. Traditional leaders also participated in the forums.

Mr Solo said that it might be important to have a provision in the Bill to address the role of traditional leaders in the forums. One might also consider amending the Traditional Leaders Act.

The Chairperson said that non-governmental organisations should account for monies they receive from donors. Dr Mabetoa agreed with the suggestion.

Splitting of the Children's Bill
Mr du Preez indicated the clauses that should be removed from the section 75 Bill [national matters] and placed in the section 76 Bill [provincial matters] and vice versa (see document attached)

The Chairperson asked who kept the National Child Protection Register.

Ms van Zyl replied that the register was not yet in existence.

Mr Masutha noted that the Section 75 Bill might have blank Chapters once some clauses had been removed and incorporated under the Section 76 Bill. He asked if it was proper for the Committee to pass a Bill with blank Chapters.

Mr O Kellner (State Law Advisor) replied that there were Bills that had been passed with blank chapters. The Committee would not be bound to pass the section 76 Bill. The section 75 Bill could be amended by changing the numbering should the Committee decide not to consider the section 76 Bill. The section 76 Bill would amend the section 75 Bill.

Mr Masutha could not understand why Parts 3 and 4 of Chapter 8 of the Bill were not in the section 75 Bill. Whether a particular issue should be addressed under the section 75 or 76 Bill was not an issue of convenience but of law.

Ms van Zyl replied that those parts were in the section 76 Bill due to the implications they had on provinces.

The meeting was adjourned.


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