Policy on Linking Social Grant Beneficiaries to Government Services: DSD Briefing; with Minister

Social Development

22 March 2023
Chairperson: Ms N Mvana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Department of Social Development briefed the Committee about the Draft Policy of Integrating Children’s Grants into Government Services.

The Minister said that the draft policy of integrating Children’s Grants into Government Services was introducing practical solutions to the challenges people faced. She said the Department intended to initiate the necessary Cabinet processes for its institutionalisation, in the next financial year.

The Department called for a need to link all the services offered to children throughout their lives to ensure they get all the services they require throughout their life cycle. They also called for an end to the silo approach of issuing government services, and encouraged the departments to work together.

The Committee Members called for the Department to include issues such as child labour and human in their policy to ensure issues like this are dealt with. They also asked whether other departments had buy-in to ensure that they were committed to their roles in ensuring the success of the policy.

The Members also asked how the Department dealt with the issues of the misuse of children's grants and how they were planning to ensure the grants reached those who deserved them. They also asked the Department to deal with the issue of street children and have a plan to ensure the children stayed in school. They asked that more social workers be employed to enable this policy to be successful.

The Department notified the Committee that it was in talks with Treasury to get more funding to enable them to employ more social workers. They also said that they were training beneficiaries on managing the funds they received. They would also incorporate the issues of child labour and trafficking into their policy.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting. She acknowledged all the apologies and recognised the presence of the Minister and the Deputy Minister. She then invited Mr Linton Mchunu, the Acting Director-General for the Department of   Social Development (DSD), to make his remarks.

Mr Mchunu thanked the Chairperson and informed the Committee that another conference was taking place at that time on sexual reproductive justice. He also said that the conference was important to what they presented on that day.

Members were taken through the agenda, and it was adopted.

The Chairperson then welcomed the Minister to give her political overview.

Minister’s opening remarks

The Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, thanked the Committee for giving the Department and the Ministry the opportunity to participate in the meeting. She added that the work being done to end gender-based violence was encouraging. She also informed the Committee that it was World Social Work Day and that the Department of Social Development (DSD) plays an important role in the area. She said that some social workers who had been trained had not been employed and needed to be employed to prevent social ills.

The Minister said that the Department would be presenting on how it intended to contribute to the resolutions of a wider challenge that South Africans faced, which was a fragmented and uneven service delivery. This was owed to the silo approach to service delivery, which was entrenched in large parts of the state.

The Minister said that the draft policy of integrating Children’s Grants into Government Services was introducing practical solutions to the challenges people faced. She reminded the Committee that the draft policy should have been read from the context of priority four of the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) 2019/2024. This priority was a contribution towards the Nation Development Plan 2030. She added that they were proposing that government’s quality of life improving services should be integrated with children’s grants. This approach was necessary because human capabilities could not be realised by cash alone. The Minister said that identifying efficiencies throughout the ecosystem and utilising the benefits of data infrastructure would enhance these capabilities and translate them into economic benefits.

The Minister said that the Department intended to initiate the necessary Cabinet processes for its institutionalisation, in the next financial year. She then invited the Department to give a presentation on the draft policy.

Briefing by the Department of Social Development:  Integration of Children’s Grants Programmes

The Acting Director-General, Mr Linton Mchunu, started by saying that the country had demonstrated a continuing commitment to developing a robust social security system which was cemented in the country’s transition to a rights-based approach. The Department, through its policies and mechanisms, had championed this approach. He gave an overview of the presentation and then invited Dr Maureen Mogotsi, Director: Children and Family Benefits, to give the presentation.

Dr Mogotsi said they were doing the presentation because many children were multi-dimensionally poor and were vulnerable to the burden of disease. According to a study done by the Department in 2019, KwaZulu-Natal had the highest level of child poverty, followed by the Eastern Cape and then Limpopo. This study also showed that 61% of African children lived below the poverty line, and 37% lived below the food poverty line. These numbers have since increased due to the impact of Covid-19.

The Director said that the Department had a number of policies targeting children, but child-wellbeing and protection remained problematic. She added that the problem was that their policies were rendered in a fragmented manner and done in different departments, and there was lack of coordination. As a result, two out of three children live in poverty. This was prevalent in rural areas compared to urban areas. Although programmes were in place, they were not meeting the broader social protection agenda.

Dr Mogotsi stated that the Department of Social Development was responsible for developing social assistance to support those most affected by poverty. The Department has three grants targeted at children, namely the Child Support Grant (CSG), the Foster Care Grant (FCG) and the Care Dependency Grant (CDG). She added that the majority of children live with women who are also vulnerable. She said that social grants as a response to poverty and positive development are limited in achieving holistic social and economic development. One of the weaknesses of social grants, especially the CSG, was that the value was too small to protect the poorest children fully from hunger, malnutrition and stunting. She said that linkages with additional systems of care and services were a newly emerging developmental model supported worldwide. Although social grants such as the CSG in South Africa may successfully tackle poverty, if combined with access to services and infrastructure, these initiatives would more effectively reduce the extent of vulnerability in multiple ways.

The Director said that the proposal aligned with the National Development Plan, which recognises the value of, and commitment to, integrated services linkages and upholds the rights-based approach upon which the South African social protection model is built. She added that when the CSG was introduced, it was acknowledged that the small amount of the grant could in no way meet all the needs of children. It was agreed that the grant had to be seen alongside a range of other programmes and policies that were provided for the children. In 2010, a decision was taken to extend the CSG by attaching a soft conditionality of school enrolment and attendance. In this policy, the Department argued that social grants combined with care (cash plus care), in the form of integrating children’s grants to a basket of appropriate services, will offer a promising means of ensuring sustainable and resilient well-being development for children across the life cycle, as well as promoting increased economic prosperity for the country.

She said that the Department planned to have a future whereby social protection follows the life cycle of children. For the full potential to be realised, this needed to start even before the birth of a child. To get here, she said that they needed to build on the existing opportunities that were in place. They needed to consider the Multidimensional Argument for Service Synergy. The rationale for the formal integration starts with understanding the multidimensional nature of vulnerability and well-being of social services at scale. This approach is intended to remove access barriers to reduce inequality. They also needed to ensure that social grants were combined with services, promoting caring relationships to build resilience, challenge social norms and empower children.

Dr Mogotsi mentioned that an integrated programme provided a solid basis for consolidating a systems approach to social protection. The information and data from various databases would enable policymakers to easily capture the multidimensional nature of vulnerability and to develop policy responses. She added that the policy’s objectives were to strengthen the impact of children’s grants on household well-being and sustainable development, and to improve education, health care, and the developmental functioning of the country’s children to better enable the realisation of the identified rights of children within legislation. She said that access to information from an integrated platform would improve responsiveness times and inclusiveness of interventions to serve the chronically poor. This policy would give potential for more enhanced and sustainable socioeconomic and developmental impacts and break the intergenerational transmission of poverty. For this policy to be effective, services needed to be in existence, accessible, not costly, and not of poor quality. She added that consistent monitoring and evaluation are essential and should be overseen by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) at the national level.

Dr Mogotsi highlighted that they were missing a programme that started at the Early Childhood Development (ECD) level. She added that the policy also addresses some Strategic Development Goals (SDGs). The cost of the project could be covered through one or a combination of: reprioritisation of DSD’s budget or co-funding the system with other key stakeholder departments, National Treasury and or donor funding. She informed the Committee that there were three options for integration of information systems, which were: Information Sharing and Middleware (incremental change), or National Integration Social Protection Information System (NISPIS), or deploying a Services Orientated Architecture (SOA). She said that option one and two would be easier to implement and would cost around E12 million. Option three would more costly, at about R30 million.

The Department recommended that it was important to have a consolidated social protection policy. There was also a need for implementation of an e-government system that provided for comprehensive, inclusive, cross-sector and proactive life-cycle events, linked to an overview of their population. There was also a need to strengthen institutional structures, working with provincial, local and district-level social protection structures. The Department also recommended inter-sectoral agreements, dedicated social protection advisors at local level and development of programme guidelines, operational manuals and intense training and skills development. There was a need to consider linking other categories such as women and adults in receipt of a benefit for graduation.

Dr Mogotsi proceeded to give the Committee a progress update about a case study of linking children’s grants beneficiaries with the National Student Financial Aid System (NSFAS). She said that findings of this nature provided an opportunity to consolidate the existing evidence on the effects of grants on the educational outcomes of poor and vulnerable children in South Africa. Evidence indicated that Social Grant Beneficiaries are passing Grade 12 with admission into Bachelor Studies, Diploma Studies and Higher Certificate Studies and some beneficiaries are obtaining distinctions. Remarkable performance of these social grant beneficiaries in the National Senior Certificate(NSC) examinations in 2022 attests to the positive impact of social protection programmes in uplifting the lives of vulnerable individuals and the ultimate impact on society. She added that it was gratifying to see that social grants empowered vulnerable individuals, giving them a chance to develop their potential and realise their personal development goals. Whilst they had made positive in roads, they still had areas of improvement in this collaboration. Global lessons of experience, demonstrated that comprehensive and integrated responses could multiply grants’ impact in strengthening inclusive social development and equitable economic growth.

She concluded by saying that they were finalising consultations and intended to initiate the draft policy process to seek Cabinet consideration of the draft policy in the next financial year.


Ms A Abrahams (DA) asked whether the statistics were from Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) or the Department’s own statistics. She also asked if the Department could include the top-up grants in their report and how they are making use of the grant. She said that what had been presented on the future were things that were supposed to be happening; she asked for a follow-up report showing what, amongst those, is not taking place. She added that the presentation was silent on the use of grants and how DSD planned on improving that aspect. She also said that there was low reporting and prosecution of abuse. She commented that the presentation was mostly theory-based and lacked methodology. Lastly, she asked what Home Affairs’ commitment to this policy was and what the commitment of other departments to the linkages was.

Ms L Arries (EFF) asked what alternative measures they have, since the grant was too little for the children. She asked whether children not in school, such as autistic children, would be excluded from the grant. Ms Arries asked what the Department was doing in terms of social trafficking and child labour. She also suggested that more social workers be employed and that a more child-friendly helpline be put in place.

Ms P Marais (EFF) said that social workers were needed so that they were able to identify the problems children were going through. She also said that a National Feeding Scheme was needed. The grants should be interlinked with transport for children going to school. She also asked how the Department was sure that the database would be effective. Ms Marais congratulated the Department on the policy.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) congratulated the Department. She asked where the model had been implemented from. She also asked for research comparing violence in surrounding countries and South Africa. She asked whether foreigners were included in the grant. She also said that there should be buy-in by other departments for this policy.

Ms B Masango (DA) said the policy was a good step for the Department. She also said that she liked the acknowledgement of services not reaching all areas. She asked whether there was any work already taking place in support of the policy and whether there were timelines in place for the policy. She added that there was a resource problem and that the relationship between the Department and NGOs was not where it needed to be. For this policy to succeed, those partnerships needed to be intact.

Mr D Stock (ANC) also thanked the Department for the presentation. He asked how the DSD and other stakeholders planned to develop the relevant monitoring and evaluation structure. He also asked how the DSD would strengthen its collaborations with the different universities and research institutions to conduct analysis. He inquired how the DSD was going to make sure performance contracts were signed in accordance with legislation.

Ms K Bilankulu (ANC) spoke on the issue of appointment of social workers and asked how the policy addresses this issue. She asked the Department to find a way to assess and monitor the children grant to ensure it is channelled to the right people. She also added that there should be an indication of what is done to people who misuse the grant.

The Chairperson said that they needed to move forward and implement the policy. She also added that monitoring was important to avoid misuse.

Responses by the Department

Ms Brenda Sibeko, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Comprehensive Social Security, DSD, said that the policy was still at the draft stage and that they would take the various suggestions into consideration. Until Cabinet approved the draft, it would not be binding on the departments affected. She added that they had been working with the departments throughout the development of the policy.

Ms Sibeko said that the programmes that Ms Abrahams had referred to were in place but not as integrated programmes. She said that the policy aimed to ensure that all these services were integrated to ensure children could access all of them. She added that this had not been fully implemented but work had been done to ensure they moved in that direction. Through integration, they would be able to track a child's progress and know when the child is not receiving certain services.

Ms Sibeko said that all the departments involved had been included in the development process to ensure that they buy in and that they are aware of the systems and practices they needed to put in place to ensure the integration was successful.

Dr Mogotsi also said that this was a draft policy. Once it was adopted by government, they would start the process of setting guidelines. She also said that the statistics presented were from studies done by the Department itself.

She said that policy development process was long because of the complex nature of policymaking. She added that they would try to move the process along. However, some of the processes were outside the Department’s control.

Regarding the top-up numbers, she apologised for not including the numbers. By the end of February, she said that 34 272 children had received the top-up. She said that the Department would respond in writing as requested. She added that there would be a radio show on the 30th of that month to inform the public about the processes for getting a top-up grant.

On the abuse of grants, she said that majority of caregivers use the grant well. However, there was a percentage that did not. The Department had developed a booklet on basic finance to teach beneficiaries about utilising grants and the need for saving. This stopped during COVID-19 but they would continue with the process.

Regarding children not in the system, Dr Mogotsi said they would start with the children in the social assistance programme and then open up to all other children, caregivers and adults. She also said that they started with the programme because a database already exists for them.

On the Home Affairs matter, she said that they had met with them. She added that they were working on a strategy to prioritise children who did not have birth certificates, and they would be writing to Home Affairs soon.

Since the policy was still a draft, they worked with other departments through a Memorandum of Understanding. Once it becomes a policy, the departments would be bound to it.

Dr Mogotsi reiterated that, on the work being done outside the process, she said they had met with Home Affairs. There was an interdepartmental task team in place, which included some departments. Transport should have been in the team since it is an important role player in education.

She said that the value of the grant was (R480) until 31 March. The changes would be effected in April. She said that they would go back to the policy to ensure it speaks to areas such as child labour and human trafficking. She said that the issue on ECD was critical and that they would continue to consult the Department of Basic Education.

The Director informed the Committee that they were engaging with Treasury to request assistance in funds to enable them to employ more workers. On the relationships with NGOs, she added that they needed to improve how they work with them.

On monitoring and evaluation, she said that they were working on a cyclical approach. They also worked with the Department of Women to ensure that females were not absent from school. They had also looked into the national nutrition programme. They would also do a case study on post-matriculants to determine what works and what does not.  

Ms Isabella Sekwana, Acting DDG: Social Welfare Services, DSD, said that, as the Department, they needed to improve communication to ensure communities gain access to information. She added that they were working on a strategy that had a victim-centred rights approach. She said that they needed to identify issues and render interventions that dealt with issues of child labour and trafficking. They also needed to work on prevention by training communities. Regarding street children, they had programmes in place so that these children are taken off the street. For this, they also needed to collaborate with communities. 

Follow-up questions

Ms Abrahams asked what the difference between active and inactive in social grants beneficiary enrolments was. She asked what happened to children who aged out of the system. She also asked whether an incentivising programme was part of the policy.

Ms Marais asked that the Department do something about street children to deal with them missing school while still receiving grants.

Responses by Department

Ms Sibeko said that the Department had sought approval to extend the child support grant beyond 18 years of age but did not get approval. Support was now therefore offered through the SRD grant. Active social grants related to children who were not yet 18, who received the children grant while inactive, referred to children who had aged out of the system. The Department had done research in countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Nicaragua, which had informed their decisions on their policy.

The Chairperson thanked the Department for its presentation, and excused the officials from the meeting.

Committee minutes

The Committee considered and adopted minutes dated 16 and 23 November 2022, and 8 March 2023.

The Chairperson thanked the Members for their attendance participation.

The meeting was adjourned.

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