Overview: Social policy and advocacy
South Africa’s development is marked by huge inequities in child and maternal survival, development and protection. To transform itself into the equitable, safe and prosperous nation it aspires to be, the country needs to accelerate action on many fronts – reducing the high poverty levels and social disparities, creating employment and opportunities, and improving the quality and access to essential social services, especially among the poorest families.
A social safety net to alleviate the worst poverty is implemented through a massive social grants system, a national school feeding programme, a no-fee policy for the poorest schools and free healthcare for pregnant women and young children. The Child Support Grant, which reaches more than 10 million children, is one of the government’s key interventions for improving the living standards of children living in poverty.
For UNICEF, some of the greatest investments in children happen ‘behind the scenes’ at the national level. The UNICEF Social policy and advocacy programme is part of this seemingly invisible yet very important work. It supports the South African government to develop and strengthen policies, budgets and programmes that improve the quality of life for children and women.
UNICEF helps to analyse how social and economic policies affect the well-being of children and women. Analytical studies are used to improve the design, implementation and monitoring of child and women-friendly policies.
UNICEF’s support to expenditure reviews and tracking helps to develop child-friendly budgets which ensure that government funds are properly prioritised as well as progressively distributed to support the most excluded children and families.
As custodians of the South African Constitution, parliamentarians play a key role in determining how the government invests its resources. UNICEF works with Members of Parliament to improve their awareness, knowledge and capacities so that they are able to pass legislation and exercise oversight over government departments on issues affecting children and women.
Part of the search for evidence of what works best for children lies in policy evaluation. In South Africa, UNICEF supports impact evaluations of major social programmes such as the Child Support Grant. This type of institutional support is vital to scaling up and managing large social programmes that benefit millions of children and women.