Social security for children in the context of AIDS
Helen Meintjes, HIV/AIDS Programme
  To date, the South African government has advocated for the Foster Child Grant – currently R530 per month – to perform a central role in addressing the poverty-related needs of orphans in the context of the AIDS pandemic. Other poor children under the age of 14 will be eligible by 2006 for a Child Support Grant (CSG) of significantly less – currently R170 per month.

To critically engage with this approach to social security for children, the HIV/AIDS Programme conducted research in collaboration with the Centre for Actuarial Research at the University of Cape Town. Drawing on a combination of primary research, demographic projections and costing a range of different social security scenarios, the resulted working paper argues that, for a variety of reasons, this is an inappropriate approach to social security interventions for children in the face of the AIDS pandemic.

The working paper, Children ‘in need of care’ or in need of cash? Questioning social security provisions for children in the context of the South African AIDS pandemic, suggests that the most equitable, accessible and appropriate mechanism for supporting children in the context of AIDS would be through the extension of the CSG to all children. It also calls for the means test, which restricts children’s access to the CSG, to be removed. In the alternative, or as a step in progressive implementation, the CSG should be extended to children up to the age of 18, with the means test adjusted to benefit greater numbers of impoverished children than currently. The authors argue that it is only through the implementation of such social assistance that the country’s children will begin to be appropriately and equitably supported through the AIDS pandemic.

The working paper further motivates against the provision of grants for orphans as a category of children distinct from other children made vulnerable by AIDS, and in particular argues against the continued use of the foster care system to deal with the poverty-related needs of orphans. It argues that, given the pervasiveness of poverty among children in South Africa, a social security system that directs interventions on the basis of children’s orphanhood, mistargets crucial resources; is inequitable and is located in questionable assumptions about children’s circumstances. Furthermore, such an approach to social security risks further overburdening the child protection system and is not, as a whole, a cost-efficient way of adequately supporting the largest possible number of poor children who need assistance.

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


back to contents page

Children's Institute

© 2004 Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town