Poverty is devastating for children. It denies them their human right to a standard of living adequate for their physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. It also robs them of their right to protection from exploitation, violence and abuse. Unless the cycle is broken, children living in poverty often become adults who pass poverty onto the next generation.
As many as two-thirds of South African children live in poverty. They find themselves living in areas where schools, primary healthcare services, roads and water supply systems have historically been neglected. The poorest municipalities are unable to provide basic social services.
The government is fighting poverty through its vast and well-resourced social grants programme. The social protection programme is one of the most advanced and wide reaching for a middle-income country, helping to reduce income inequality among the poor, elderly and disabled. One of its best-targeted grants, the Child Support Grant has increased more than tenfold since 2000, and today more than 10 million children receive it. Evidence shows that the grant cushioned the blow of the global economic recession on South Africa by preventing a rise in child poverty levels and keeping families and children from sliding into deeper poverty.
With 2.1 million children still unable to access the Child Support Grant, UNICEF is working with the Department of Social Development and the South African Social Security Agency to reach these excluded children. An investigation into the feasibility of removing the means-test and accompanying administrative bottlenecks took place in 2011. The study provided fiscal and institutional options for making the child grant available to all children, especially those in the remotest parts of the country.
UNICEF also assisted the Department of Social Development and the South African Social Security Agency to develop child-friendly communication material and expand their enrolment drive to increase the uptake of social grants by eligible children and their families.