Conditionalities and the CSG
By Paula Proudlock
   
     
 

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The Child Support Grant (CSG) is one of the government’s most successful poverty alleviation measures for children and their families. It is an unconditional cash grant of R240 per month per child that helps families to feed, clothe, shelter and educate their children. The high take-up of the grant and its successful impact on income poverty is partly due to its administrative simplicity.

Despite these successes, the Ministers of Finance and Social Development have been referring to the possibility of attaching conditions to the grant to ensure that children who receive the grant remain in school. It is not yet clear exactly how the possible condition would be structured. It is also not yet clear whether the intention is for the condition to apply only to 15 to 17-year-olds (if the grant is extended to older children), or also to the younger group of children who are already eligible. While the idea of wanting to keep children in school is welcomed, there is no evidence that attaching conditions to the CSG will achieve this goal. In February 2009, the Institute, in partnership with the Alliance for Children’s Entitlement to Social Security (ACESS) and the Black Sash, hosted a discussion day on the historical background of conditionalities and evidence of whether they work in practice. The event included presentations from Judith Streak (Human Sciences Research Council), Michael Noble (Centre for the Analysis of South African Social Policy, University of Oxford) and Debbie Budlender (Community Agency for Social Enquiry). The presentations showed that there is no evidence that conditions (as opposed to grants without conditions) actually work in practice. There is however evidence that the CSG does already increase school attendance without conditions attached to it. A further problem is that the imposition of a school enrolment or attendance condition, if enforced, could likely exclude the most vulnerable children from accessing the grant – for instance children with HIV/AIDS and other illnesses, children looking after sick parents, children in rural areas where distance to schools is a problem, and children with moderate learning disabilities who struggle to remain in school due to the current lack of extra support in mainstream schools.

South Africa already has very high levels of school enrolment and little gender disparity in school attendance. There are other, more appropriate, mechanisms to improve educational attendance and outcomes, which would require addressing problems in the delivery of education services rather than conditioning social grants.

 
     

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