ATC101026: Report Study Tour to Brazil

Social Development

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on a study tour undertaken to brazil on 26 July – 5 August 2010, dated 26 October 2010




The Portfolio Committee on Social Development conducted a study tour to Brazil on 26 July - 5 August 2010. It held briefing sessions with the Ministry of Social Security; National Institute of Social Security (INSS); the Minister and the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger; the National Secretariat of Social Assistance and Continuous Cash Benefit (SNAS); the National Secretariat of Citizen Income (SENARC); International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA); the Ministry of Sport and the Parliament’s Chamber of Deputies. 




Ms Yolanda Rachel Botha (Chairperson)    Member of ANC

Ms Mapule Veronica Mafolo                     Member of ANC

Mr Vuselelo Vincent Magagula                 Member of ANC

Ms Hope Helene Malgas                          Member of ANC

Ms Joyce Mabel Masilo                            Member of ANC

Ms Wendy Joy Nelson                             Member of ANC

Ms Phindisile Pretty Xaba                                     Member of ANC

Ms Pamela Tshwete                                            Member of ANC

Ms Semakaleng P Kopane                                  Member of DA

Ms Helen Lamoela                                              Member of DA

Ms Nonkululeko P Gcume                                    Member of COPE

Ms Helen N Makhuba                               Member of IFP


Ms Lindiwe Magdelene Ntsabo: Committee Secretary

Ms Yolisa Nogenga: Committee Content Advisor

Ms Siyavuya Koyana: Committee Researcher

Ms Ipeleng Phetlhe: Assistant to Ms Joyce Masilo


Purpose of the study tour


Brazil is regarded as the country with one of the most extensive and indeed one of the most successful strategies to deal with food insecurity. The programme known as the Zero Hunger Strategy has brought together various social security and economic development initiatives to develop and implement one of the biggest food security programmes globally.


The programme is led by the Minister for Social Development and Fight Against Hunger. The Ministry also oversees the Bolsa Familia Programme which is Brazil’s social assistance programme, which reaches 43 million people on a monthly basis.


The Brazilian social and economic context is very similar to South Africa’s.  Until recently Brazil was the most unequal society in the world. South Africa has similar dynamics in relation to rural poverty as opposed to relative high levels of development in most urban areas.  The Zero Hunger Strategy including the Bolsa Familia component has been the biggest contributor to Brazil’s reduction in both its poverty and inequality levels.

Over and above the aforementioned, Brazil has a well established single national registry for all social programmes called Cadastro Único de Programas Sociais (CadÚnico)[1].  It is aimed at identifying the socio-economic profile of the entire poor population of Brazil to inform the Federal Government on the effective demand for pro-poor policies. It is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger (MDS). It was created in 2003 with the authority and responsibility to plan and execute social assistance and food security policies within the Federal Government. It is the largest and most comprehensive database on poor households and individuals, serving as a back-bone for Bolsa Família and other programmes. This database provides beneficiary data to all programme systems, where the other dynamic functionalities as well as the more specific data on beneficiary and household livelihoods are stored. These programmes are linked to each other hence their beneficiary database is the same.


Given this, there are significant lessons that South Africa can learn from the Brazilian Programme.  The study tour afforded the delegation an opportunity to have in depth discussions with the ministers and senior public servants as well as the research institution that developed the concept in 2003. The delegation also visited Natal, which is one of Brazil’s cities in which the Zero Hunger Campaign through Bolsa Familia has had significant impact on poverty reduction. 

The study tour thus gave the Committee first hand experience on how Brazil has implemented the Bolsa Familia programme, particularly on how ministries in charge of social development work together through the single registry. The concept of single registry is particularly important for South Africa as it is faced with the challenge to institutionalise social assistance programmes in order to strengthen their long term poverty reduction interventions. Currently, poverty reduction programmes are fragmented as they are implemented by various government departments. The South African Government’s goal is to develop a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy that will address the needs of the vulnerable groups, namely children, women, youth, people living in rural areas and urban settlements, people with disabilities or chronic illnesses and the elderly.[2] With the information gained from the interaction with the Brazilian Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger, research institutions and representatives during the site visits, the Committee stands in a better position to oversee and monitor Government as it transforms and integrates its services.   


Study tour visit to Brasilia: 26 July – 27 July 2010


Briefing at the South African Embassy


On 26 July 2010 the Committee was briefed by South Africa’s Ambassador, Hon. Bangumzi Sifingo. His Excellency gave an overview of Brazil’s social development and hunger eradication strategies. His Excellency indicated thatBrazil is regarded as the country with the most extensive and most successful strategy to deal with food insecurity. The programme known as The Zero Hunger Campaign has brought together various social security and economic development initiatives to develop and implement one of the biggest food security programmes globally.  The Zero Hunger Programme was started at the end of 2003 as a strategy to reduce social vulnerability and strengthen family farming by fighting hunger and malnutrition. The Ambassador acknowledged that the Zero Hunger programme, including the Bolsa Familia component has indeed been the biggest contributor to Brazil’s impressive reduction of poverty and inequality levels.

Brazil has established good practices to integrate different ministries dealing with social programmes. It managed to develop a strong agricultural sector as food security is one of the country’s priorities. It also committed itself to promoting good health. It has a strong preventative system, that is, data collection and compilation of health profiles of people located in the same area. Pharmacies have blood banks and generic medicine is sold to ensure access to medication for the people who cannot afford it.  Despite the aforementioned advances, the Ambassador mentioned that Brazil still lags behind in terms of providing quality education, particularly public education. Furthermore, Brazil still has high racial inequality and it can be particularly seen in the education system.    




The Ambassador raised concerns with regard to many South African youth, especially the unemployed who are arrested in Brazil on charges of drug trafficking. It was pointed out that in most instances these youth are not drug traffickers but are involved as a means to raise money for school fees. His Excellency also told the delegation that about 90% of these prisoners are living with HIV and AIDS. There are currently more than 142 South African prisoners in Brazil and the number is steadily increasing. His Excellency also indicated that those arrested in some instances are young women who are unemployed and need money to raise their children. Another concern raised was that once they are released they often do not have air fares back to South Africa and they end up on the streets of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. It was acknowledged that intervention is required to address this problem. His Excellency explained that the embassy visits the convicted prisoners twice a year. In addition, there are Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that provide support to homeless South Africans living on the streets.


His Excellency further explained that another challenge facing South Africa is the growing tendency of Nigerian citizens using the South African passport in Brazil en route to Venezuela for drug related businesses.


It was acknowledged that intervention is required to address this problem.


Meeting with the President of the National Institute of Social Security (INSS)


The President, Mr Valdir Moisès Simão, welcomed the delegation. Mr Benedito Adalberto Brunca took the delegation through the presentation. He explained that INSS falls within the Ministry of Social Security and Fight Against Hunger and it delivers social security services for the elderly and people with disabilities. It is responsible for verifying eligibility, performing medical inspections and paying retirement and social security benefits. This social security service is referred to as General Social Welfare Policy (RGPS – Regime Gerald a Previdência Social). It is a mandatory contribution and it is for the private sector[3]. The contribution is made by employers, employees, domestic servants, temporary workers (they have no direct link to the employer and their work is provided through employment agencies), rural workers and individual/independent/self employed workers. Included in the social security are retirement benefits, disability benefits and benefits for the family of an incarcerated person. Employees contribute an amount of $BRL 1040.22 (9% of their income) and domestic workers contribute an amount of $BRL 1733 (11% of their income). Employers contribute 20% towards the scheme.  


The General and the Public Servants’ Policies to which public servants make their social security contribution are autonomous, parallel, working on separate budgets and there is a specific legislation for each.  


Retirement benefit (pension) for old age is paid to 65 year old men and to 60 year old women in urban cities. In rural areas it is paid to 60 years old men and 55 years old women. The retirement payment is payable to men after they have contributed for 35 years and 30 years to women. The benefit includes a spouse, parents and children as dependants.  


INSS is made up of the following offices: office of a Director, Human Resource, Finance Department, Legal Department, General Audit and General Affairs. It has a Board of Directors, which supervises the work of the Director and other senior managers. It operates through agencies of social security (including Caixa Economica Federal (bank), five (5) networks of superintendants, 100 executive managers and 124 units that serve the public. The Caixa bank has an exclusive agreement with INSS to pay social assistance. It pays for services and transactions made by beneficiaries and in return it gets beneficiaries as clients. The bank also provides monthly statements to the beneficiaries. It also assists beneficiaries in completing income return statements.


INSS has a call centre, which attends to queries about social assistance and scheduling of appointments for consultation and applying for social assistance. In 2009, the call centre received 65 million calls. In the same year, the scheme had 27 million beneficiaries. The institute aims to expand its coverage to 1 684 municipalities.  




It was explained that the challenge facing Brazil is that by 2050 the old age population pyramid of Brazil would have substantially grown. This is due to the lifestyle changes by families deciding to have fewer children, for example three children per couple. The implication for this growth is that there will be an increased demand for social assistance for the elderly. Another challenge is that about 11 million to 18 million of the population still need to be included in the scheme to avoid them being dependent on the public social security.







  • Corruption


In the aftermath discussion it was explained that to prevent corruption in the payment of social assistance, the Ministry and the bank signed a contract that stipulates that beneficiaries should renew their identity documents every year. Furthermore, the bank has to perform its services within specified deadlines and it should report to the Ministry whether it had adhered to the deadlines or not. The bank has the authority to cancel the transaction should it detect some inconsistencies, for instance, if the account lies dormant for a period of time. The bank also has a control measure which registers deaths, births, marriages and any other changes in the household. This system is linked to the database of an agency that reports deaths to the bank each month. The report is then matched with the bank’s beneficiary records. In addition to the above, the Federal Government through its database updates the INSS database, which in turn updates the bank. The bank then reimburses INSS for this service. To further strengthen the system, INSS conducts regular audits on the database to verify the beneficiaries’ records.


  • Medical personnel


Regarding medical specialists who conduct disability assessments, it was explained that INSS employs its own doctors who are specifically dedicated to perform INSS services. These doctors use standardised assessment guidelines. The assessment results are recorded in the INSS database – no paper work is involved in order to eliminate irregularities. The speaker mentioned that INSS receives 650 000 applications for assessment a month and it performs 600 000 medical examinations (including those who go for repeated examinations) a month.


  • Population pyramid


Pertaining to the challenge of the old age population pyramid it was noted that Europe had 100 years to address this challenge, while South Africa and Brazil have a short period of time to address it. The reduction of the young population who are supposed to contribute to the social security means that there is a need for the Federal Government to revise the existing social security model.


  • Turn around time for social assistance applications


The delegation was told that the turn around time for an application for social assistance since 2009 is 30 minutes. INSS uses the national population registry to verify the details of an applicant.


INSS operates with a staff complement of 39 000 civil servants, 500 physicians, 11 000 social workers and 28 000 social security officers. In rural areas INSS uses the service of unions or associations to assist applicants to access INSS and obtain required documents. There are 4 500 unions in Brazil. Over and above the service of the unions, INSS uses the register of rural farm workers to identify beneficiaries.


Meeting with the Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger


The delegation was welcomed by the Minister and Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger. The Deputy Minister briefed the delegation on the strategic initiatives taken byBrazil to forge co-operation with African countries, such as Kenya, Mozambique, Ghana and Angola. He also noted that in August 2010 the South African Minister of Social Development, Ms Edna Molewa and the Brazilian Minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger were going to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on social assistance. The memorandum has since been signed.  


Ms Gabriela Bastos, Advisor to the Minister of Social Development on Foreign Affairs briefed the delegation on The Zero Hunger Strategy. The Strategy was started at the end of 2003 as a form of reducing social vulnerability and strengthening family farming, through fighting hunger and malnutrition. It is led by the Federal Government and carried out through programmes implemented by the Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger (MDS). The Strategy is guided in articulating three dimensions important to overcoming hunger and poverty:

  • promoting immediate relief of poverty through the direct transfer of income to the family;
  • strengthening the exercise of basic social rights in the areas of health and education, through the compliments of conditionalities, thus contributing to families unable to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty;
  • coordinating complementary programmes that are aimed at the development of families, so that the beneficiaries of Bolsa Familia are able to overcome the situation of vulnerability and poverty. The complementary programmes include, among others, programmes to create jobs and income, adult literacy and provision of civil registration.

One of the sub-programmes[4] falling under The Zero Hunger Programme is the Bolsa Familia Programme (PBF), which aims to ensure the right to adequate food, promoting food security and nutrition and contributing to the eradication of extreme poverty. It was created in 2003 as an income transfer programme for poor Brazilian families. PBF was launched to integrate four different Federal Government initiatives - Bolsa Escola (School Grant), Bolsa Alimentação (Food Grant), Auxilio Gas (Cooking Gas Grant), and Cartáo Alimentação (Food Card). Most of these early programmes faced internal organization challenges.

Following the integration of cash transfer programmes, a single national registry for all social programmes with targeted scope was created by Presidential Decree in 2001. The registry, called Cadastro Único de Programas Sociais (CadÚnico) which is translated as a Single Registry, aims at identifying the socio-economic profile of the entire poor population of Brazil to inform central government on the effective demand for pro-poor policies. CadÚnico is the largest and most comprehensive database on poor households and individuals, serving as a back-bone for Bolsa Família and other programmes. The registry is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger (MDS).

Another poverty alleviation programme is called the Food Products Procurement Programme, which aims to ensure a market at reasonable price for products from small-scale farmers. Some of the methods used are direct procurement of products during harvest time for maintaining local food security stocks; advanced procurement of products at planting time; local procurement by local governments to be used in school feeding programmes, hospitals and a programme supporting milk production and consumption benefiting producers with limited production and bargaining power. This programme delivers food products in partnership with the National System for food and Nutrition Security (SASAN) institution.  Brazil has assisted the Mozambique government to implement a similar food security programme.

Another poverty alleviation programme is called the Integral Family Care Programme (PAIF) and it is implemented by the Social Assistance Reference Centre (CRAS). It is aimed at making follow up visits on families that are considered to be vulnerable so as to foster their independence and improve their living conditions. The CRAS are public state units that implement the social assistance policies, and are located in areas of high rates of social risk and vulnerability. The MDS allocates funds to the municipalities for the co-financing of the PAIF.




  • Reduction of infant and maternal mortality

It was explained that one of the impacts of the Bolsa Familia programme is the reduction of the infant and maternal mortality. Furthermore, in part, the food surveillance system conducted periodically by the Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger has noted a positive impact on the reduction of mortality rate.

  • Monitoring and evaluation

The Ministry has a dedicated unit that conducts periodic monitoring and evaluation of the programmes. In addition, the Ministry in partnership with universities and research institutions conduct impact analysis research studies. To monitor the performance of NGOs the Ministry and the Federal Government in accordance with the legislation signed performance contracts with NGOs. The contracts stipulate that NGOs need to regularly report on their performance. Parliament also plays an important role in monitoring NGOs and ensuring that government policies are implemented and the social assistance budget is transferred to beneficiaries. To further strengthen monitoring and evaluation, the Ministry and the municipalities conducted community surveys to assess whether services it renders, meet the needs of the communities. 


Enrolment to education improved due to the positive impact Bolsa Familia has had on family income. Research found that since its implementation children who had dropped out of school had returned to school because families can afford school fees and uniforms. About 40% of family income is spent on school fees and uniforms. Furthermore, the school nutrition programme has served as an incentive to improve school attendance.

  • Housing

Migration from rural to urban areas resulted in problems of housing to accommodate the increasing population in cities. To address this, in March 2009 the Government launched The National Housing Plan, My Life, My House ('minha Casa, Minha Vida') programme that aims to increase the number of homes available all over Brazil. With an initial governmental investment of over $BRL 64 billion, 1 million houses during the time of the study tour were in the process of being built and allocated to families on a means tested basis. Households with a total income of up to three (3) times the minimum wage (currently at $BRL 465 per month) can access the full allowance without any insurance and notary registration costs to pay.


Households with a total income between three (3) and six (6) times the minimum wage can gain income supplements for loans; a discount on the cost of insurance; a 90% reduction on the notary registration cost and access to the guaranteed fund (which will cover in the case of unemployment, death or other specified circumstances). Households with a total income of between six (6) and ten (10) times the minimum wage can receive lower costs of insurance, an 80% reduction on the notary registration cost and access to the guaranteed fund.


The programme is administered by Caixa Economica Federal (bank). Under the programme households are able to purchase a house with a close to zero interest rate and refinance it over 36 months. For instance, households that are earning up to 3 times the minimum wage are allowed to purchase a house up to the value of $BRL 52,000, on which the scheme contributes $BRL 46,000 leaving the buyer to provide the remaining $BRL 6,000. The $BRL 6000 is usually borrowed from the Caixa Economica Federal. Those in the higher income brackets are able to access smaller subsidies and finance packages. 

A number of incentives have also been granted to the Brazilian construction industry including loans at 1% above the TJLP (the long-term interest rate); reduced or completely eliminated tax structures; and extended repayment/grace periods. The Caixa Economica Federal approves each housing development in conjunction with state or municipal governments.


  • Corruption


Brazil is a significantly large country with a population of 189 million and due to this it often takes some time before corruption is detected at federal level. Nevertheless, an Enquiry Committee was established by Parliament to identify corrupt practices. In addition the government has a national website which the public can access to find out about the performance of a certain programme.


Meeting with the Secretariat of the Social Assistance and Continuous Cash Benefit (SNAS)


SNAS presented the National Social Assistance system to the delegation. The social assistance system was established in accordance with the 1988 Federal Constitution, which gives guidelines for the management of public policies, and the 1993 Organic Law of Social Assistance (Loas). Social assistance is divided into three pillars targeted at specific audiences – social assistance, health and social protection. It is administered according to two modalities - the Continuous Cash Benefit (BPC) and the Possible Benefits. 

Social assistance programme


The social assistance programme is a non-contributory scheme designed to meet universal basic needs of the people. It is a decentralised policy with municipalities performing a coordinating and operating role. The Ministry regulates and finances the implementation of the programme. Social assistance is paid to the family and not to the individual.  The records of all beneficiaries are stored centrally in the single national registry.


Within the Social Assistance Programme, there are a number of sub-programmes, including PAIF discussed earlier. Other sub-programmes include:


  • Child Labour Eradication Programme (PETI)


PETI is aimed at eradicating all forms of child labour. Municipalities play a key role in fighting child labour, as they are responsible for investing the funds from the Federal Government in social educational activities for children and teenagers during non-school hours.


  • Continuous Cash Benefit (BPC) Programme


This programme ensures income security for the elderly (people over the age of 65 years) and for people with disabilities who are unable to live independently or to be employed. In both cases, they must have a per capita family income that is lower than 25% of the minimum wage in Brazil. The minimum wage is $BRL200. The benefit is administered by MDS, which is responsible for its management, monitoring and evaluation. It is funded by the National Social Assistance (FNAS).


The BPC programme at the School is coordinated by the Ministry of Social Development and Fight against Hunger (MDS), the Ministry of Education (MEC), the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Special Secretariat for Human Rights of the Presidency (SEDH/ PR). Synonymous with access to education, BPC contributes to school children and adolescents up to the age of 18 years. Beneficiaries of the BPC are able to access school and stay in the school network.


The performance of the BPC at the School is focused on four areas, namely:

·          Identification of beneficiaries of 18 years old who are at school and those outside the school,

·         Identification of the main barriers that hinder people with disabilities from accessing education and enrol them in BPC,

·         Conducting studies and develop strategies for overcoming these barriers, and

·         Conducting systematic follow-up actions and programmes of the federal entities joining the programme.


The coverage of BPC is as follows:


Number of beneficiaries




14 533  000

$BRL 1 423 790


People with disabilities (in 2000)

24 600 256

$BRL 806 720


People with disabilities

26 000 000

$BRL 1 625 625





One of the challenges encountered in the implementation of BPC is that in some instances families that are engaged in informal work are not able to produce proof of income. The other challenge is that some people who are supposed to assist people with disabilities and the elderly to access BPC solicit bribes from them. Lastly, due to the large population of Brazil the system needs to expand its coverage to cover the population that is not registered in Bolsa Familia.


Meeting with the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger


The Deputy Minister, Mr Onaur Ruano, noted that the Federal Government under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is committed to the implementation of poverty alleviation programmes, which include the National Social Security and National System of Food Security. In order to effectively implement these programmes, the States had to strengthen their information systems, policies and management. All these policy advancements are as a result of the country’s legislation recognising the socio-economic rights of the citizens, such as, right to food security. This right was included in the amendment of the Constitution in 2010.






  • Public participation


In response to the question of ensuring public participation in law making, the Deputy Minister explained that the 1988 Constitution requires law makers to conduct public participation when drafting policies. In addition to that, law makers are required to conduct follow up surveys to get feedback on policies. Public participation is done at the Federal Council, State and municipality levels.


Presentation by the National Secretariat of Citizenship Income (SENARC)


SENARC is one of the MDS secretariats and it is responsible for implementing the Bolsa Familia programme. It was established in 2003 to unify different poverty alleviation programmes, such as programmes on education, health and energy.


Study tour visit to Natal28 July – 29 July 2010


Meeting with the Natal Municipality


The delegation was welcomed by the Mayor of Natal, Mrs Wilma de Faria. She congratulated South Africa for hosting a successful Soccer World Cup. The delegation was briefed on the implementation of Bolsa Familia in Natal. Bolsa Familia is implemented integrally between the Ministries of Social Development, Education and Health. Agents from these ministries and CRAS, including school directors, were trained to assist families to apply and receive Bolsa Familia. The municipality also conducted a successful public campaign to educate the public about Bolsa Familia. As a result of these efforts Natal managed to register 46 427 beneficiaries. The Municipality acts as an implementing agent of the Bolsa Familia on behalf of the Federal Government.   


Site visits


The delegation visited six centres which implement Bolsa Familia services. The aim of the visits was to gain first hand experience on how Bolsa Familia is implemented and ascertain the impact it has had on the lives of the beneficiaries. 


Bolsa Familia Centre


The centre receives applications for Bolsa Familia. The centre is divided into sections or units that deal with different aspects that applicants or beneficiaries will require assistance on. It has a unit where appointments are made for applicants to come and apply for the grant. This unit is the first entry point that applicants go to on their initial visit. The applicants are given application numbers and date of appointment. This is done to avoid applicants having to queue.


The other unit offers services for elderly people. It consists of social assistance workers and psychologists. It also provides services for people with disabilities who have to prove that they do not receive any income due to disability. Assessment for these services is done by INSS doctors and by social workers who conduct home visits. The other unit offers family counseling for problems such as substance abuse.


Public Centre for Work


The centre links beneficiaries to economic activities/employment opportunities. Beneficiaries receive training on various courses, such as business management, telemarketing, computer, psychology, manicure, hotel and reception and language courses. It is affiliated to 900 companies to which it forwards profiles of the beneficiaries for placement. The duration of the courses is 160 hours (7 days). The centre also assists beneficiaries to start small businesses by organising access to micro-credit investors.


Centre for Social Assistance (CRAS)


CRAS is the centre that falls within the Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger. The Ministry has 80 CRAS centres across the country. These centres assist households at risk, such as substance abuse and domestic violence by offering counseling services through home visits. They also assist beneficiaries with Bolsa Familia and BPC programmes.


The CRAS visited by the delegation reported that it gives services to 75 adolescents on a daily basis and it conducts 10 visits for psychological service daily. It has a staff complement of four social assistant workers, a manager, three intern psychologists, educator and a managing assistant. 


Inputs from beneficiaries


The beneficiaries at the centre reported that CRAS and Bolsa Familia have benefited them by:


  • Providing income support for their families. As a result they can afford school fees and other family needs.
  • Involving them in good courses designed to assist families, for example there are training courses for young adults and after school classes for children.
  • Improving food security.   


Notwithstanding the above the beneficiaries indicated that, even though the grant is minimal it provides some relief in terms of income. They however, indicated their desire to get employed so that they will not continuously depend on the grant.


Specialised Centre for Social Assistance


The centre offers two services, counseling offered by social educators and services for victims of sexual abuse. It also offers services for children living in the streets and other vulnerable children. These children are registered in the centre and are assisted by specialised educators. It also offers services for elderly people and homeless adults. In some instances when specialised service is required, which the centre does not offer, it refers the beneficiaries to centres that offer that specialised service. In that instance the centre will monitor progress of the intervention. In comparison to CRAS, which offers basic social services, the specialised centre offers specialised services for vulnerable families.


The centre also receives calls from courts to make follow up visits on victims of crime and neglect. The aim of this is to re-integrate the victims back to their communities. The centre offers social and legal assistance to the victims.    




During discussion it was explained that the centre does not deal with perpetrators. It only attends to victims of crime. Perpetrators are referred to specialised courts. In cases of sexual abuse the centre either removes the victim from the family to the centre or removes the perpetrator from the family if it receives consent from the family. In cases where the family does not give consent, the centre provides services to the whole family and when that does not work, it removes the victim to a place of safety.


Health Centre (Emergency Unit for Health)


The centre operates as a public emergency clinic. It is equipped with a computerised system in which upon entry a patient’s details are captured and a patient number is issued. The patients then wait at the reception for their numbers to appear at the overhead computer indicating that they can report at the reception, where based on the seriousness of their illness, they are given a tag. The red tag indicates that the patient needs urgent attention and a yellow tag indicates that the patient’s condition is not critical. The patient is then referred to the consulting room that has the same colour as the tag. In addition to the computerised system, the clinic has modern medical equipments. It has a staff complement of five specialised doctors and 13 professional nurses. The services are free to everyone.


Caixa Federal Bank


The bank has a contract with the Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger to pay Bolsa Familia. It introduced a bank account that is accessible to low income people. The account has about 10 million users and the bank aims to increase this number by seven million by the end of 2010. The increase will be due to the expansion of the Bolsa Familia to reach people who are not in the programme. The bank pays the grant through the bank card. The grant is paid on the dates specified in a schedule/calendar which each beneficiary receives. Each bank card has a number that corresponds with the pay date. For example all the beneficiaries whose bank card number end with number 9 are paid on the second last day of each month. There are 10 payment days per month.


It was explained that in instances where the beneficiary is unable to access the bank due to ill health or old age, he/she is supposed to inform the Mayor’s Office. An official from the office then visits the family and based on the findings of the assessment a decision is made to have a family representative to withdraw the grant on behalf of the beneficiary.



Study tour visit to Brasilia: 02 – 4 August 2010


Having undertaken a study tour visit in Natal city, the delegation returned to Brasilia to have briefing sessions with the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth, which is part of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Institute for Applied Economic Research and the Ministry of Sport. It also had a briefing session with the Senate Committee at the Chamber of Deputies in Parliament.


Meeting with the United Nations Development Programme   


The delegation was briefed on how the Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) programmes were conceived in Latin American countries – Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. CCT programmes in these countries differ in their objectives and their place in the social protection system. In some countries they are implemented as short term safety nets and in others as long term safety nets. In countries such as Mexico, Chile, Brazil and Uruguay CCT programmes were introduced in line with the institutional reforms. While in Argentina, Colômbia and Uruguay they were conceived as a response to socioeconomic crisis. In Paraguay and El Salvador they were introduced as strategies to reduce poverty in the context of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


However, despite their (CCT) different forms, the speaker argued that for these programmes to be sustainable they need political support. In addition, they need to be viewed as not necessarily exclusive policies but as programmes that can be integrated with other programmes run by other ministries, such as education and health. These can be integrated as supplements to the mainstream social protection policies.


Origins and designs of CCT programmes


Brazilian Bolsa Familia


Bolsa Familia was implemented as an unconditional component of the Zero Hunger Strategy. It was designed as a short term intervention for a minimum duration of two years. It does not use proxy means test and has coverage of 25%. It is implemented in places where there are no supplies of health and education services. Its implementation involves a strong role of municipalities at the local level through the Use of New Public Management tools.


Uruguay Panes and Family Allowance


PANES was designed as a temporary programme, running from April 2005 to December 2007 with a quasi-experimental evaluation. It had a conditional cash transfer component called Ingreso ciudadano. It uses a proxy means approach to select beneficiary. It reached 10% of the population. The reform in 2008 of the contributory family allowance resulted in its expansion with the aim to cover all children with the intention to cover 50% of Uruguayan children regardless of adult‘s contributory status. It is the first CCT programme to be incorporated in the Social Security System in Latin American countries. It includes cash transfer for teenagers in secondary education.  


Chile’s Puente and Chile Solidario


The Puente and Chile Solidario are not considered as a CCT programmes as they target the extreme poor not reached by existing social protection/policy programmes. Families/beneficiaries sign a contract with government requiring them to work in seven dimensions, education, health, housing, identification, income and family dynamics. Families should also receive psychosocial support. Despite the low value of the transfer, there is an array of subsidies that the extreme poor families have access to, such as housing and water, electricity and family allowance. Families are registered for two years under Puente and three years under Chile Solidario, but eligibility to other transfers is independent of the permanence in the CCT programme.


Impact of CCT (Bolsa Familia)


The research conducted in 2008 by the centre (International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth) revealed that Bolsa Familia has had the following impact on families:


  • Even though it contributes only 10% to the family income, it was found that it contributed to 21% of the decline in income inequality,
  • It has contributed to the increase in the family consumption on food and clothing;
  • It has contributed to the increase in school enrolment and retention (that is, reduced drop out rate);
  • Increased families’ access to health care - vaccination;
  • Increased families’ opportunities to access or seek employment. This has resulted in women, in particular, being involved in family decision making over financial issues. This was further found to dispel perceptions that Bolsa Familia may lead to dependency by discouraging beneficiaries from participating in the labour market. 




It was reported that the implementation of the social protection programmes in the above mentioned countries faces challenges of trying to establish their identity in terms of whether they are short term or long term safety nets within the social protection system.


Another challenge highlighted by critiques is that Bolsa Familia should be expanded and not viewed only as a tool to fight poverty but it should be seen in a broader social protection context in which other programmes from Ministries of Education, Health and Housing can be integrated as complementary programmes. The rationale for this proposal is that Bolsa Familia assists families to have access (or afford) to other social programmes of these ministries.


It was also reported that Brazil is still lagging behind in establishing monitoring and evaluation laws compared to Mexico and Chile.     





Meeting with the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA)


Mr Jorge Abrahoo de Castro Director of Studies and Social Policies gave an overview of the institution which among others is to monitor and evaluate social policies, including social security and to conduct economic research. The institution is also responsible for the monitoring and evaluation of life conditions of the Brazilian population. There is a staff complement of 60 researchers of which most of them are economists. 


Social policy


Social policy is divided into different sections, namely, pension and retirement system, health system and social rights. The Brazilian social policy was implemented based on the European best practices. 


Pension and retirement system


This is the biggest component of the social policy in Brazil and it utilises 11% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is aimed at covering risks in the labour market as well as in the life of individuals. 


Health system


It is the second biggest component of the social policy in Brazil. It provides free health care services to both Brazilian citizens and foreigners. Brazil has developed strong prevention strategies in the health sector. The levels of infant mortality and HIV and Aids have declined due to programmes that have been put in place to combat this pandemic. In overall expenditure, the public health sector uses 3.5% of the Gross Domestic Product and the private health system uses 3% of the GDP.


Social Assistant System


Bolsa Familia programme is located under the Social Assistant programme. In 2010 it celebrated its 7th year. Its success is attributed to the successful registration of families to the database. The database assists government when developing policies and being able to respond quickly when a crisis arises.  The database consists of 17 million families. 


Social Infrastructure


The delivery of social infrastructure is regarded as one of the critical aspects of the social policy.  “My house my life” is one of the programme that falls under the social infrastructure.  Despite the successful implementation of this programme, Brazil is still faced with challenges of lack of mechanisms to address the housing backlog, roads and sanitation. This is due to financial constraints. In addition, with a population of 190 million the programme is running at a deficit of $BRL 5.6 million. Approximately 50% of families are in need of housing.  Negotiations between government and with various banks to source funding were ongoing during the time of the visit.


Social Promotion


The government extended the benefit of the unemployment insurance fund from four to six months.  Unemployment insurance only assists families who had formal employment and can produce proof of employment. It was explained that it is difficult to compensate those who worked in the informal employment who comprised 50% of the population because they often cannot produce proof of employment. 


Education system 


Primary education in Brazil is compulsory and mandatory.  However, about 40 million people in Brazil are illiterate and mostly are at the age of 40 years and above. 


The recent policy shifts recognised the rights of women to education and that has improved the status of women. This has resulted in more women being absorbed in the labour market. However, salaries paid to women are 30% lower than of the salaries paid to men. 


It was also reported that the quality of education in Brazil is of a poor standard. Furthermore, universities use a quota admission system which enables admission of children from rich families. As a result an estimation of 13% of young people between the ages of 18-24 have managed to reach the university level.  The delegation was further told that before the 1988 Constitution, the education system in Brazil excluded the black population. The 1988 Constitution recognises education as a human right and stipulates primary education as compulsory. However, due to the history of slavery, Brazil still has a high rate of racial discrimination against black people.


To address this, the Federal Government has established the Ministry of Gender and Racial Equality mandated to mainstream issues of racial and gender equality. In addition, universities introduced equalisation of admission to all learners.




Brazil has a high rate of agrarian reform because 50% of Brazilians live in rural areas. Rural farmers are responsible for about 70% of food production. However, the challenge has been that the agriculture sector is primarily focused on commodity export. A dedicated ministry was established to address challenges faced by people living in rural areas and the agrarian sector as a whole. 


Meeting with the Ministry of Sport


The Ministry briefed the delegation on its Segundo Tempo programme highlighting its objective to increase children’s access to sport activities. It aims to increase access to vulnerable children who are exposed to substance abuse, poverty and violence. The programme is implemented in low income communities. The Ministry uses the national registry to identify children for the programme. The programme is implemented in 25 States, 139 City Councils, 62 public organisations, such as the army and 33 NGOs. Since its inception in 2003, 1 072 660 children have benefited from the programme.


Sport activities are either organised for individual sport or group sport. Children can participate in three sport activities per group or individually. Selection of the type of sport depends on the location, infrastructure and resources the Ministry can provide in a certain community. Through the programme the Ministry also finances the sport kit – uniforms for children and professional (trainers), motor co-ordination evaluation and complementary material. The recruitment of professionals is done by the Ministry’s human resources department.  The programme also provides minimal nutritional reinforcement.


The programme has had a direct and indirect impact on the lives of children. The direct impact has been realised in the improvement of children’s self esteem. The children are also helped or taught coping mechanisms that help them cope with their family and/or community problems. It has also improves children’s motor co-ordination capacities, skills and human development.


The indirect impact include the reduction in exposure to social risks, improved school results, the reduction in school drop out rates and the improvement in the sport infrastructure in the public education system and in the community. The programme has also created opportunities for job creation.


To expand the programme, the Ministry of Sport has forged international co-operation through the Technology Transfer programme. The key drivers of this initiative are the Ministries of Sport, Foreign Affairs and the Brazilian Agency of Co-operation. The requirements for co-operation are that Brazil and a partner country should sign a co-operation agreement at the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Subsequently the programme is implemented in eight phases of the technology transfer. The representative from the South African embassy in Brazil, Mr Arnold Lyle, informed the meeting that in 2009 South Africa and Brazil signed the international co-operation agreement which was mainly technical. It was subsequently amended to include social inclusion.




It was explained that the programme does not offer a graduation programme for children to participate in professional sport. It mainly focuses on human development. However with the monitoring of children’s performance by the trainer, a child can be recommended for selection for professional sport by the Ministry of Sport. 


Meeting with the Senate Committee at the Chamber of Deputies


The delegation was welcomed by Deputy Vieira Da Cunha, President of Commission on Social Development (CSSF). He told the delegation that when the social protection programmes were initiated they were faced with criticism from the opposition parties. Critiques argued that these programmes did not provide enough resources to create job opportunities. However after the Bolsa Familia had been implemented and its success was realised the criticisms faded away. He reported that more than 23 million people moved from living below the poverty line due to Bolsa Familia. This was due to the fact that more than 10% beneficiaries managed to find employment. The success of Bolsa Familia increased the support for President Lula to over 80%.


The expansion of Bolsa Familia resulted in a budget increase from $BRL 10 billion in 2009 to $BRL 13 billion in 2010.




  • Oversight/Monitoring and evaluation  


Parliament conducts monitoring and evaluation through the assistance of an organisation called the Federal Audit Court (TCU), which is located at the federal level. However, all the States have similar courts. Monitoring and evaluation is conducted over the budget expenditure and performance of government. Parliament is mandated to approve or disprove the budget/accounts report submitted by TCU. If the accounts are proved to be incorrect, criminal charges can be imposed on the government institution who is found to be guilty of the offence. The same report is also submitted to the Public Ministry of Prosecution. Parliament also has powers to propose amendments to the budget as stipulated in the Law of Budgetary Directives (LDO) and in the Guidelines and Pre-Annual Plan for Investment.


In addition, Brazil has a Commission which follows up on the expenditure of the budget. The Commission has powers to call institutions to account to Parliament.      


  • Relationship between NGOs and Parliament


The delegation was told that it is difficult for Parliament to monitor the performance of NGOs because they come from various sectors. Oversight is conducted only when an NGO has been specified or singled out for monitoring.


  • Legislation and public participation


The President, Supreme Court and Members of Parliament have the competency to introduce legislative processes. Since 1992 the public can participate in the law making process. However, this is still a challenge because of the large population in Brazil. The majority of people have not yet been involved in public participation. The result is that the public participation in Brazil is still very low. Notwithstanding this challenge, there had been instances when legislative processes attracted a significant number of public inputs. For instance, a Bill that prohibits candidates who have a criminal record from running for elections attracted a lot of public inputs. Public participation on the Bill resulted in 1.5 million signatures in support of the Bill.





  • Federal Audit Court


The Court and the Commission have the highest status over the monitoring of government accounts and budget expenditure.



Key findings and lessons learnt


South Africa and Brazil have a number of striking similarities such as a commitment to democratic values and the building of equitable and culturally heterogeneous societies.[5] They also face similar challenges such as high levels of poverty and inequality, historical exclusion of majority from the benefits of social and economic development. Hence, the two countries concluded that social development strategies are crucial for social and economic development of its citizens[6]. This therefore underscores the importance of the two countries learning from each others’ best practices.


While South Africa has made considerable strides in its poverty alleviation programmes, it faces challenges regarding strengthening synergies between these programmes and address gaps in their coverage. Hence the focus of the Department of Social Development is to establish a comprehensive social security system[7]. One of the key components of achieving this is developing systems that integrate services of relevant departments. The Brazil single national registry provides a good best practice for South Africa to learn from. A single registry will enable stakeholder departments, such as Departments of Social Development, Health, Home Affairs, Education, Public Works and Agriculture to integrate their data to enhance the profiling of the beneficiaries.


These departments have already forged collaboration in the implementation of policies such as the Extended Public Works Programme, social assistance programme (with the recent policy pronouncement of Social Assistance Regulations that requires Departments of Health, Education and Social Development to integrate their services) and food security, among others. However, alignment between different departments is still a big challenge. For instance, regarding social security, the Department of Social Development through the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the Department of Home Affairs linked their database systems but they still need to establish the same link with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. The challenge regarding this, has been that it has been difficult to detect whether a woman applying for a social grant, already receives child maintenance from the father of the child(ren).  


Furthermore, there is need to align the Department of Social Development with the database of the Department of Home Affairs regarding records on changes that happen in the families, such as death, marriage, births, etc. Again Brazil’s system of integrating such a database with banks, Federal Government and an agency that keeps such records provides a good best practice for South Africa to emulate.


The 2010 State of the Nation Address[8] identified the creation of job opportunities as one of the government’s key strategic objectives. As a response, the Department of Social Development committed itself tolinking grant eligible grant recipients to economic opportunities through Grants Plus – Activation Strategies[9]. These include skills development, FET opportunities and link to jobs and adopting a Jobs-Centre model. The Brazilian model of linking Bolsa Familia beneficiaries to the Food Products Procurement Programme is a good learning area for South Africa (or the Department of Social Development) to draw lessons from.


The programme not only creates income generation for families but also it encourages farming (thus ensuring food security) and makes sure that a market is created for the produce. South Africa still faces challenges regarding access of poverty alleviation projects to markets. This came up during the Portfolio Committee on Social Development oversight visits. As indicated earlier, the Food Products Procurement Programme ensures that products of small scale farmers are procured by local government to be used in school feeding programme, hospitals and in other agricultural programmes. Once again this highlights the need for collaboration between the relevant departments - Departments of Education, Health, Social Development and Agriculture to ensure that Grants Plus – Activation Strategies become a success.


In addition to the aforementioned, the model of having an umbrella or integrated food security strategy such as The Zero Hunger Strategy, which has been a major success in Brazil, provides a learning area for the South African government, particularly the Department of Social Development. It further supports the need for an integrated anti poverty strategy, which South Africa is in the process of implementing through the National War Room on Poverty. The Department of Social Development has a mandate to conduct the nationwide household survey and develop a database of households living in poverty, identify and implement specific interventions relevant to these households and align and co-ordinate anti-poverty programmes[10]. These include the Social Assistance Programme, universal school feeding schemes, food banks, Integrated Nutrition Programme and Micro Agricultural Finance Institute of South Africa, among others.


Furthermore, as part of The Zero Hunger Strategy, Brazil established popular restaurants, which are subsidised by the Ministry of Social Development, to cater for low income families. The Department of Social Development through the Community Development Programme implemented soup kitchens and vegetable gardens. Learning from the popular restaurant model, the Department may consider expanding soup kitchens to popular restaurants and use vegetable gardens to supply the restaurants with vegetables.  


To strengthen the payment of social grants, SASSA implemented the model of migrating the payment of social grant to banks, such as Post Bank. This initiative is similar to the contractual agreement the Brazilian INSS has with the Caixa bank, which pays social grants at low bank charges. This is the best practice that SASSA can imitate to encourage banks to have standardised low bank charges.  


One of the challenges in the payment of social grants is the problem of long queues at the pay points. SASSA can therefore learn from the Brazilian system of the grant payment schedule whereby the schedule links the card number of the beneficiaries with the calendar date. SASSA may consider introducing a system similar to that of Brazil wherein beneficiaries can be categorised according to their birth dates and banks would allocate dates of payment.


In Brazil basic social protection is provided through Social Assistance Reference Centres (CRAS). These work as focal points for a network of social assistance services at the local level, basically giving guidance to families on how to access public services. They work with the Specialised Social Assistance Reference Centres (CREAS) in cases of more serious social breakdown involving sexual abuse, child labour and homeless people. South Africa can learn from this initiative by integrating its programmes, like the Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP) into an overall comprehensive social security.




Whilst the South African Embassy and NGOs have been visiting South Africans who are incarcerated in Brazil prisons for drug trafficking charges, the Departments of Social Development, Justice and Constitutional Development, South African Police Service, Home Affairs and Education should conduct awareness and advocacy programmes highlighting the problem of drug trafficking, particularly instances where South African women are used as drug mules. The awareness programmes should emphasise that the South African Government is not obliged to provide any support and assistance to people who have been arrested in foreign countries.


As a follow up on the signed memorandum of understanding between the South African Minister of Social Development and the Brazilian Minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger, the Department should brief the Committee on how it envisages to implement it.


The Committee would like to thank the South African Embassy in Brazil for their assistance and support in helping it to compile the itinerary and by ensuring that the Committee arrived on time for its meetings with the government departments, research institutions and oversight visits. The Committee came back wiser and informed because it visited a country that has more relevance to the South African socio-economic context.   


Reference list


Briefing by the Department of Social Development on its Contribution to 2010 State of the Nation Address.  12 February 2010. RSA Parliament.


Briefing by the Department of Social Development, 13 October 2010. RSA Parliament.


Briefing by the Department of Social Development on its Budget and Strategic Plan 2010-2015 to the Select Committee on Social Services.  21 April 2010. RSA Parliament.


Da Silva, K. C. and Mostafa, J. (2007) Brazil’s Single Registry Experience: a tool for pro-poor

social policies. Available from (Accessed 8 September 2010).


Government Communication and Information System (2008) Apex Priorities – Business Unusual: All hands on desk to speed up change.

State of the Nation Address by the President of the Republic of South Africa, at the Joint Sitting of Parliament, Cape Town, 11 February 2010 . Accessed on 10 September 2010




[1] Da Silva, K. C. and Mostafa, J. (2007) Brazil’s Single Registry Experience: a tool for pro-poor social policies.

[2] Government Communication and Information System (2008).

[3] Public servants contribute to the Public Servants’ Welfare Policies

[4] Brazil has 30 poverty alleviation sub-programmes, including include Food Banks, Local Development Consortiums and Food and Nutrition Education sub-programmes.

[5] . Accessed on 10 September 2010

[6] ibid

[7] Briefing by the Department of Social Development on its Budget and Strategic Plan 2010-2015 to the Select Committee on Social Services.  21 April 2010. 

[8] State of the Nation Address (2010)

[9] Briefing by the Department of Social Development on its Contribution to 2010 State of the Nation Address.  12 February 2010.

[10] Briefing by the Department of Social Development, 13 October 2010.


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