CSG Extension on a roll -
Let’s take it to all poor children under 18

Solange Rosa, Child Rights Programme

   
     
 

The Children’s Institute and the Alliance for Children’s Entitlement to Social Security (ACESS) have been monitoring the first phase of the extension of the Child Support Grant (CSG) to all eligible children under nine years over the past year. For this purpose a monitoring project was set up to assess whether all children eligible for the extended CSG were able to access it, and to advocate for a smooth and reasonable roll-out of the next phases of the extension through consultation and liaison with relevant government officials.

Not applying the law

The first, joint CI/ACESS monitoring report recently released commends the Department of Social Development for distributing the CSG to over 4.3 million children by the end of March this year. Overall, the first phase of the roll-out has been an outstanding success. However, the report highlights some serious problems experienced with the roll-out of the first phase of the extension of the CSG.

It was found that some of the social development offices in certain provinces have not been applying the new law on the extended CSG, thereby denying eligible children access to the grant. These problems surfaced in some districts in the North West, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and the Free State Provinces, where children who were eight years old were told to wait until the first of April this year before applying for the CSG. The law states that such children were eligible for the grant because they were under the age of nine when they applied.

It is further reported that the North West Department of Social Development deliberately decided not to register children above the age of eight years. Furthermore, the same department disseminated inaccurate information about the qualifying age for the extended CSG. Pamphlets disseminated in that province stated that, to qualify for the grant, a child had to be under the age of eight, while the law clearly states that a child has to be under the age of nine years to qualify. The department stated the computer system not being upgraded to accept applications of children above the age of seven years as one of the reasons for not taking applications for children older than seven.

Furthermore, applicants visiting certain district offices in Mpumalanga were met with signs that “Only children under eight years” were accepted for CSG applications. And, certain offices in the Eastern Cape only allowed children under the age of seven years to apply for the CSG.

Cancelled grants

A further problem identified in the report was that children who turned nine during the first phase of the extension of the grant had their grants cancelled and could only re-apply when the second phase of the extension came into effect on the first of April this year. This results in a double application process for many caregivers, while costing the department in having to process the same caregiver twice, and in some instances three times.

Recommendations

The report recommends that a monitoring programme should be put in place by the national Department of Social Development to ensure that provinces apply the law to prevent eligible children from being denied access to the grant. The department should also develop and implement a clear and accessible national communication strategy to ensure that applicants are given correct information about the extension. Other recommendations include:

  • Upgrading the SOCPEN computer system to allow for a smooth implementation process;
  • Capacitating provinces without sufficient and adequate human resources;
  • Training social service officials and social workers to ensure that applicants are provided with accurate information at service points;
  • Interpreting the regulations in a way that allows children who reach the cut-off age during one phase of the extension to remain on the system if they are eligible during the next phase of the extension.

Poor children older than 14

While the Children’s Institute and ACESS acknowledge efforts of the Department of Social Development to ensure that eligible poor children under the age of 14 years will all be able to access social assistance by 2005, it is hoped that the monitoring report will assist in making the next phase of the extension of the CSG a smoother and more accessible one for applicants. And it is sincerely hoped that poor children between the ages of 14 and 18 will soon be granted the same consideration and opportunities as children under the age of 14.

To order a printed copy of the monitoring report, contact Anthea Arendse or click here to view it electronically.

 
     

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