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Social development initiatives focus on children

Written by Amukelani Chauke

Budget votes

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has widened the social security net for child grant recipients.

Government has extended the child support grant beyond the age of 18.The Minister said government intends to extend the child support grant beyond the age of 18 for children who continue attending school after they turn 18.

She said this would not include all children, and only targeted children would be eligible for the support depending on their circumstances.

This could range from orphans to those in child-headed homes, the Minister said.

“The child support grant is a huge investment in human capital development, and to this extent we need to ensure that it is not terminated when the child turns 18. To this end, we intend to work with families to save a portion of the child support grant every month to be available when the child turns 18.

“Similarly, we have made notable strides in increasing the uptake of the Older Persons’ grant by amongst others increasing the means test threshold to ensure that more elderly people benefit from the grant. 

“The increase in the means test threshold brought in 82 000 new recipients of the Older Persons’ Grant in November 2014,” she said.

The Minister said the proposed increase will help children to remain with their siblings in the family home and within their communities.

Thokozani Magwaza, a Deputy Director-General at the department, said this would not include all children.

Magwaza said the children who would benefit were those aged 18 to 21 and who were still at school when they turned 18.

“The reason why we are doing that is that on the foster care side, the foster care child when he turns 18 is not removed from the system; they carry on until they turn 21,” he said. 

Brenton Van Vrede, an acting Deputy Director-General at the department, said this would cost not more than R3 billion to implement, and that the department was in talks with National Treasury on when it would be fiscally possible to implement it.

Social grants taking families out of poverty

Minister Dlamini said, meanwhile, that social grants are important as they help take vulnerable families out of the cycle of poverty.

The Minister said this in response to a question on the sustainability of social grants during a media briefing following her budget vote speech, which she tabled in Parliament recently.

My question has always been: ‘Is poverty sustainable?’

“Our social assistance focuses on vulnerable groups. Social assistance is for children, older persons, and people with disabilities.

“If you look at the number of children that are grant recipients, it shows that we are actually focusing on taking families out of the cycle of poverty. Our children who are grant recipients go to school but what is important is that they have a meal a day.

“Grants are not a luxury; they are a must for our people.”

Government prioritises early childhood development

The Minister said Early Childhood Development (ECD) remained a top priority for government as it contributes to good development of a child from an early age.

Cabinet approved the publication of the draft ECD Policy for public comment after it was regarded as a public good.

Once finalised, the policy will make it possible for government to provide a comprehensive package of services for children with special needs, children with disabilities and other developmental needs.

“Universal access to ECD services by all children remains uppermost in our minds, and the Department will continue to promote the establishment of non-centre-based ECD services to children in poor communities, rural areas, informal settlements, farms as well as children with disabilities,” she said. 

The Minister also said that non-centre-based ECD services such as mobile ECD and toy library programmes are being rolled out in the provinces.

Similarly, efforts are being made to ensure that ECD infrastructure is adaptable to the needs of children with disabilities. No child must be left behind,” she said.

Ahead of delivering her budget vote speech at the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), the Minister handed over keys to the newly built Dalukhanyo ECD centre in KwaLanga township in the Western Cape.

The hand-over of the newly built centre, with three classrooms, a jungle gym and a food garden, came after the centre’s previous structure burnt down as a result of an electrical fault.

Speaking after the launch, the Minister said the re-opening of Dalukhanyo ECD centre was significant as it would ensure that the overall well-being of children – especially as they are mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds – would be well catered for.

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