Rural Health Advocacy Project rallies behind the findings of the Child Poverty report

09 October 2023

In a compelling development, the Child Poverty report, commissioned by the National Department of Social Development (DSD) and masterfully crafted by the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town, took centre stage on Friday, 06 October 2023. The report, titled ‘A review of child poverty and the value of the Child Support Grant,’ casts an unwavering spotlight on the complex issues enveloping child poverty, all while scrutinizing the efficiencies of the Child Support Grant (CSG).

At the heart of the report lies a pivotal concern – the value of CSG. At present, this lifeline provides financial assistance to 13 million children, each receiving R510 a month. The budget earmarked for the CSG in the 2022/23 fiscal year stood tall at R77 billion. However, beneath these staggering numbers lies a harsh truth – even though the CSG reaches the outstretched hands of 13 million children, seven million continue to languish beneath the cruel threshold of food poverty. This threshold, firmly set at R663 per person per month in 2022, remains elusive to many.

Yet, the Child Poverty report delves beyond the numerical façade to uncover the stark reality of child poverty that has gripped our nation. It lays bare a disheartening truth: a staggering eight million children in South Africa grapple with inadequate nutrition, a blatant violation of our constitutional mandate to ensure that every child is provided with the fundamental right to access basic nutrition. This revelation, undoubtedly distressing, seeks to exert immense pressure on the Treasury, urging them to reconsider their policy stance on financial consolidation and the persistent reduction in social spending.

It is the researchers, Katharine Hall and Paula Proudlock, who discussed their findings, along with a range of proposed modelling options aimed at strengthening the efficiency of the CSG. Their meticulously research work also casts a discerning eye over the three official poverty lines published annually by Stats SA, casting a spotlight on the glaring disparities in poverty rates that afflict our men, women, and, most heartrendingly, children.

During the era of the CSG’s expansion, between 2003 and 2013, child poverty rates experienced a remarkable 20% decline, providing a glimmer of hope in the fight against this pressing issue. However, it’s a sombre reality that this progress flatlined post-2013.

The report, with unwavering resolve, draws attention to the undeniable fact that poverty rates are disproportionately higher for women than men, and strikingly more pronounced for children than for adults. Additionally, it underscores that child poverty, like a shadow cast by the unequal sun, is still disturbingly unevenly distributed based on race and geography. African children, particularly those dwelling in the confines of former homelands, bear the disproportionate burden of poverty. For instance, while the national food poverty rate stood at 33% in 2019, it surged to a heart-wrenching 37% for African children and a staggering 51% for African children residing in the remote rural pockets of former homelands.

When placing particular attention on rural children, owing to their unique challenges, the researchers offer a candid assessment of the situation. Admittedly, this may prove to be an enormous challenge, considering the intricacies of rural-urban migration, proof-of-residence verifications, and the administrative resources required to provide special provisions for children residing in rural areas.

At the end of the report discussions, the Minister of the Department of Social Development shared a powerful and relevant quote by Nelson Mandela that left a lasting impression: “We do not want freedom without bread, nor do we want bread without freedom.” 

Implementing the report’s recommendation of increasing the CSG for children in poverty up to the poverty line will not only ease the burden of child poverty, but also lead to better nutrition and well-being for children in rural areas. It is crucial to support the findings of the Child Poverty report and take action to reinforce the Child Support Grant. This will guarantee that every child, regardless of their location, has access to a brighter and healthier future.