A Comprehensive Social Security System for South Africa: hearings

Social Development

09 June 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTOFORLIO COMMITTEE

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
10 June 2003
COMPREHENSIVE SYSTEM OF SOCIAL SECURITY FOR SOUTH AFRICA: PUBLIC HEARINGS

Chairperson:
Mr E Saloojee (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Aids Law Project and Treatment Action Campaign (TAC): Report
Alliance for Children's Entitlement to Social Security (ACESS): Submission
Amazing Grace Children's Centre: Submission
Business South Africa: Memorandum
Economic Policy Research Institute: Submission
Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa): Submission
Programme for Land & Agrarian Studies (PLAAS): Submission
Centre for Social and Development Studies: Submission
South African Catholic Bishops' Conference: Submission
South African Congress for Early Childhood Development: Submission
South Africa Council of Churches: Submission
Child Welfare: Submission
The Children's Institute: Submission (PowerPoint Presentation)
Thusano: Report (PowerPoint Presentation)
South African Human Rights Commission: Statement
South African Human Rights Commission: Submission
Children's Institute: Submission
Report of the Committee of Inquiry into a Comprehensive System of Social Security (Taylor Report) [see under May 2002 documents on Social Development website]

SUMMARY

Although organisations differed on the way they saw a social security grant being introduced, there was widespread support for the introduction of a Basic Income Grant (BIG). Members were concerned that not enough attention had been given in the submissions to the affordability of the grant and the practicalities of administering such an ambitious programme.

Children's Institute
Ms H Meintjies said that their submission was specifically on children orphaned by HIV/Aids. The current child grant system failed children who had lost caregivers through Aids because it stipulated that once a caregiver had died the grant had to stop. Also, support was given to the foster parents of children over nine years of age but not to the biological parents of children in the same age group. The Institute supported the recommendation of the Taylor Report, that a universal Basic Income Grant (BIG) be phased in. However, the Report was not clear about children affected by HIV/Aids.

Discussion
Professor L Mbadi (UDM) asked whether the research concerned had covered deep rural areas. His sense was that Aids-related poverty among children was largely an urban problem.

Ms Meintjies replied that rural areas in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo Province had been included in the research specifically because Aids-related poverty occurred in these areas.

Ms Borman (DA) asked what the Institute's views were on children's homes.

Ms S Giese replied that children's homes were expensive to run and did not fit in with the community care model used. It was the Institute's opinion that children's homes had a limited role to play in caring for children affected by HIV/Aids.

Dr E Jassat (ANC) asked whether the recommendation was that an additional grant be given to children affected by AIDS over and above the proposed BIG. Ms Meintjies said that a comprehensive package should be made available to all children, while a care dependency grant should be given to children affected by HIV/Aids.

The Chair asked what the financial implications of these proposals were.

Ms Meintjies replied that they were in the process of costing this. Ms Giese added they had submitted a document to the Department with recommendations and would forward the figures concerned to them once these were available.

Ms O Kasienyane (ANC) asked if any research had been done regarding the transfer of foster grants from province to province should a child move once a caregiver had died.

Ms Meintjies replied that, under the present system, grants could not be transferred.

Mr M da Camara (DA) wanted to know if the research had given any insight into the impact of faith-based assistance for children affected by HIV/Aids and what the role of faith-based organisations might need to be.

Ms Meintjies said that this varied from place to place, but that there was definitely a role for faith-based organisations.

SA National Council for Child and Family Welfare
Ms L Schreuder said that the Council's submission related to chapters 5 and 7 of the Taylor Report. The Council supported the introduction of a BIG and the phased-in approach recommended in the Report. They urged Government to prioritise the needs of children, although BIG should not replace the child support grant. While they commended Government on the extension of the CSG, they asked what would become of children who were older than 14 in 2005. While they described the Children's Bill as being a positive piece of legislation, it was vital that the necessary financial resources be put in place in order to ensure its implementation.

Discussion
Ms J Chalmers (ANC) commended the Council for its good work. She wanted to know whether any research had been done to investigate whether the Save Our Souls (SOS) village system could be adapted for Aids orphans heading households.Ms Schreuder replied that the Council encouraged community-based care and that people were recruited from the communities in which orphaned families were living to provide support. She emphasised that no child should be heading a household.

The Chair asked what kind of alternative to an identity document was proposed in the submission when determining whether or not a child qualified for a grant.

Ms Schreuder said that she was not sure how to address this problem, but that the process for obtaining grants had to be made easier.

Ms Kasienyane asked about the role of volunteers and how they were monitored.

Ms Schreuder replied that, where children were orphaned, the Council recommended that suitable non-governmental organisations assisted in securing the grants concerned. They were also training home-based caregivers who were expected to ensure that these grants reached the children.

Dr E Jassat (ANC) asked about the possibility of subsidised adoption in poor families without the resources to care for orphaned children.

Ms Schreuder replied that an orphaned child should, ideally, be placed with a member of the extended family. If the extended family had no means, the State had to assist.

Professor Mbadi felt that too much emphasis was placed on households headed by children affected by HIV/Aids. He wanted to know what was being done about other households where Aids was not a factor but where, in keeping with African culture, nieces and nephews were cared for when their own parents did not have the means to do so. Could relatives also apply for grants in such situations?

Ms Schreuder said that the Council's submission referred to all orphaned children. There was a long history attached to foster care grants, but things were changing. Extended family members could now become foster parents and apply for grants.

Alliance for Children's Entitlement to Social Security (ACESS)
Ms P Proudlock said that ACESS supported the Taylor Report, but was concerned that a more sustainable long-term solution was needed. ACESS also had problems with the phased-in approach that had been proposed.

Discussion

Dr Jassat referred to the inter-sectoral approach proposed by ACESS, asking whether they had participated in the imbizos. He said that the Department had mobile units to assist in rural areas.

Ms Proudlock replied that ACESS ran grant awareness campaigns and facilitated grant application and registration processes. She confirmed that ACESS had participated in imbizos.

Ms Borman asked about corruption among caregivers.

Ms Proudlock replied that caregivers abusing the system were in the minority. Reports of corruption tended to be anecdotal.

Professor Mbadi asked how ACESS envisaged Government raising the funds needed for a universal child grant.

The Chair commented that, thus far, none of the submissions made had proposed how a universal child grant should be administered or commented on its affordability.

Ms Proudlock replied that the Department had figures about the number of children who were not receiving grants. Money was available, but the problem was administrative capacity. Also, many social workers did not know about changes to the legislation and were therefore not helping as much as they could.

Ms Chalmers asked whether ACESS had interacted with the government departments concerned on proposals in the submission for overcoming barriers to receiving grants.Ms Proudlock replied that ACESS was already engaging with the Department of Home Affairs on these proposals. However, the departments themselves needed to be more pro-active on the issue.

South African Congress for Early Childhood Development
Ms H Jodhun, Vice Chairperson of the Congress, recommended that early childhood development (ECD) programmes should form part of the social security system. Poverty resulted from a lack of access to developmental programmes and facilities as well as a lack of financial resources. Currently, only 1% of children had access to ECD programmes.

Discussion

The Chair asked for clarity on ECD in the context of a social security system.

Ms Jodhun replied that ECD centres catered for the needs of pre-school children and should be regarded as a basic service, as part of an holistic approach to social security.

Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS)
Ms F Hassan (Centre for Applied Legal Studies) commended the Taylor Report on its proposals but said that the means test excluded significant numbers of people in need from accessing social grants. The clinical stage of an individual living with HIV/Aids should not be the determining factor in qualifying for a social grant. The phasing in of a universal BIG was unacceptable. Three people from TAC then presented their problems, as people living with HIV/AIDS, with accessing social grants.

Discussion

Mr da Camara wanted to know whether any research had been conducted on the impact of anti-retroviral treatment on children born HIV positive and whether such treatment might actually increase the number of vulnerable children.

Ms Hassan replied that research (conducted nationally and internationally) had indicated a significant improvement in the overall health of HIV-positive children being treated with anti-retrovirals. This reduced the load on public health services and resulted in significant savings.

Ms N Tsheole (ANC) referred to opportunistic diseases associated with Aids. The TAC was suggesting that people with Aids be given an extra grant. She asked how one would then explain to someone suffering from an opportunistic disease, but not Aids, that they were not eligible for this grant. This would also force disclosure on HIV status. She asked whether being HIV-positive qualified as a permanent disability.

Ms Hassan said that HIV testing and disclosure were voluntary. Being HIV-positive did not mean that one was automatically disabled. The definition of disability needed to be broadened to reflect this.

A member asked about the rationale for requesting that non-citizens also qualified for social grants.

Ms Hassan replied that permanent residents from other countries often experienced difficulties in accessing grants. She referred to the situation where these foreigners were married to South Africans, but were unable to access grants . Since we form part of SADAC where free movement occurs between the countries, this has to be addressed.

THUSANO
Mr T Noko said that THUSANO was an early childhood education organisation operating in the cross border region between the Northern Cape and North West Province. In their experience, when people had no identity documents or birth certificates they could not access the grants to which they were entitled. The Departments of Home Affairs and Social Development should work together to address this problem.

Discussion
Ms Tsheole referred to the problems encountered by children in paying school fees and remarked that the Minster of Education had announced the previous day that school fees were not to be demanded from poor children. She also asked how effective feeding schemes were in THUSANO's experience. What effect did the churches' expectations of regular contributions from church-goers have on poor families?

Mr Noko replied that their programme included a small food grant but focussed on ECD. He added that churches had traditionally relied on donations from their members to fund their activities and that it was difficult to intervene.

The Chair asked what specific recommendations THUSANO was making.

Mr Noko replied that he would want to see more focus on the needs of rural communities.

Ms Kasienyane asked whether THUSANO had approached the government departments concerned in dealing with the problem of lack of identity documents.

Mr Noko replied that they had approached municipalities and worked closely with them. However, systems tended to differ between local authorities and from province to province.

Ms Chalmers asked if support groups existed for pensioners in the areas where THUSANO worked, to assist them in accessing their grants.Mr Noko replied that they did.

A member asked what kind of interaction had taken place with Government officials.

Mr Noko said that this had been limited because departmental officials were not necessarily knowledgeable about the communities in which they worked. Training was needed to address this.

South African Council of Churches (SACC)

Mr D Tilton said that the Taylor Report should be seen as a first step in the process of formulating policy for a comprehensive social security programme for all South Africans.

Discussion
Prof Mbadi referred to the fact that most of the presenters had argued against the means test. He asked why the presenter felt this was the case.Mr Tilton replied that the means test did not reach the intended target effectively because of the extensive bureaucratic procedures involved. The poor can therefore not afford to access the grant. The abolition of the means test would result in the burden being placed on the rich and on the SA Revenue Services. This is far easier to administer since there is more information available on rich households than on poorer households.Ms Tsheole (ANC) said that the SACC's proposals amounted to a call for a universal social security grant and wondered whether the SACC had ever commissioned any research on the implications of this for the tax system.

Mr Tilton replied that the SACC had recommended several options for financing the grant. It was important that the method finally chosen should be aggressive and distributive. The members would be able to obtain such information from the Economic Policy Research Institute.

Dr Jassat noted that it was the view of some poor Christians in KwaZulu-Natal affected by the Aids pandemic that the Church was only interested in them when they died. In Uganda, the Church was in the forefront of the fight against Aids.

Mr Tilton replied that the SACC and related churches were committed to a programmatic response to the Aids pandemic.

Mr da Camara asked whether the SACC had any idea of the cost of a universal comprehensive social security grant or the savings that might result from abolishing the means test.

Mr Tilton replied that, as he recalled, the Inter-Governmental Fiscal Review had referred to these savings but that he was unsure of the details.

Ms Kasienyane (ANC) asked for clarity on the administrative costs of applying a means test. All that was necessary was to look at each applicant's income. She wondered if capacity building would help to resolve the problem.

Mr Tilton replied that lack of capacity was only one of the concerns. There were other difficulties like the number of people to be tested, opportunities for corruption and the volume of paperwork.

Ms Tsheole asked whether the SACC was aware of any country in the world that had implemented a universal social security system effectively.

Mr Tilton said that he was not. However, if the cost of not implementing an effective social security programme were to be calculated, this would be enormous. It was essential to give people the minimum resources with which to take charge of their lives.

South African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC)
Mr P Pearson said that, in keeping with the Churches commitment to justice and morality, the SACBC fully supported a BIG.

South African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) Mr P Pearson said that, in keeping with the Churches commitment to justice and morality, the SACBC fully supported a BIG.

Discussion
The Chair wondered whether the Church envisaged any practical difficulties in implementing a BIG, bearing in mind that the current system was already presenting so many difficulties.

Mr Pearson admitted that administering BIG would present challenges and called for more work in this regard. Abolishing the means test might be one way of ensuring improved delivery.

Ms Tsheole said that identifying beneficiaries in the rural areas would be difficult. She was disappointed that most of the presenters had not properly applied their minds to the practicalities of implementing such an ambitious system.

Mr Pearson said that the churches were ready and willing to volunteer their resources to facilitate the process even though they lacked expertise in this area. He noted the dilemma faced by Government in terms of delivery, but encouraged policy makers to find creative ways of addressing the problem.

Ms Chalmers wondered whether R100 per month would be adequate for covering the basic needs of the poor.

Mr Pearson said that human nature was such that no amount of money would ever be enough. This initiative would also not exclude PWPs, as the two programmes could work together. The amount could increase with time as more resources became available. One has to bear in mind that the grant is proposed as a long term initiative and is not aimed at being implemented indefinitely.Ms Tsheole wanted to know how churches would ensure that a large proportion of the BIG did not end up in the collection box.

Mr Pearson replied that the bulk of church income did not come from contributions from the poor.

Comment by Member of National Treasury
A member of the National Treasury referred to an earlier statement that the introduction of the BIG had been costed at R23 billion, saying that this was inaccurate as Government had never said anything to this effect.

Amazing Grace Children's Centre Ms Grace Mashaba said that the Centre was a place of safety for orphaned and/or vulnerable children. The Centre supported the extension of the child support grant to all children under eighteen years of age. A BIG, together with skills training, would help build a better future for young people from poor backgrounds.

Discussions
Ms Borman asked know how the Centre funded its activities.

Ms Mashaba explained that the Department of Social Development subsidised each child and that the Centre received donations from individuals, organisations and some international donors.

Ms Kasienyane commended Ms Mashaba on the good work done at the Centre. She asked whether it offered skills training to children who had grown up there.

Ms Mashaba replied that the Centre did not have the capacity to set up a training facility, although the municipality had been approached for help.

Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS)

Dr C de Swardt said that the administrative infrastructure for the existing grant system was cumbersome, under-resourced, under-staffed and not geared for dealing with developmental realities, especially in rural areas. An uncaring ethos complicated bureaucratic procedures that characterised the inefficient administration of social grants in general. The existing grant delivery system had to be extended and strengthened through increased resources, more appropriately trained staff and delivery systems appropriate to conditions in poor communities. The means test should be removed in respect of grants with the potential to impact significantly on the majority of South Africans. Evidence had shown that a means test was not an effective mechanism for identifying suitable grant beneficiaries. Grant allocations often appeared arbitrary in terms of poverty-related criteria

Discussions

Ms Tsheoli asked for clarity on the allegation that poverty is more severe in rural than in urban areas.

Dr Swardt replied that access to health and education as well as job opportunities was particularly difficult in rural settings.

Ms Tsheole said that conditions in rural areas needed to be addressed.

Dr Swardt agreed. A BIG would not make a dramatic change to the lives of rural communities but was an important short-term intervention.

The Chair asked if Dr Swardt had any thoughts on the practicalities of implementing a BIG.

Dr Swardt acknowledged that he envisaged many problems and suggested that the issue of appropriate technology should be looked into carefully. However, although delivery would be a major challenge, this should not be allowed to shift the focus of the debate away from need.

Dr Jassat wondered whether PLAAS has considered that the only way in which poverty in rural areas could be addressed was through industrial development, which would lead to job creation.

Dr Swardt said that this was a long-term solution. A short-term solution needed to be found in the meantime.

Centre for Social Development Studies
Mr C Meth said that poverty was a deterrent to investment. However, there was general agreement among stakeholders that only economic growth could address poverty in the longer term. High levels of inequality were one reason for slow economic growth. A basic social grant would be an appropriate short-to-medium term intervention and public works programmes could help.

Discussion
Ms Tsheole asked how long it would take for a programme of the size envisaged to be implemented.

Mr Meth regretted that a lot of time had been lost since 1997, when policy makers had first begun considering a BIG.

Ms Tsheole commented that, since the private sector were key players in job creation, efforts to address poverty through public works programmes should not undermine their role.

Mr Meth argued that private investors tended not to create the kinds of jobs needed to alleviate poverty but instead focused on maximising profit. The sustainability of public works programmes was an important factor.

The meeting was adjourned.

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