Child protection

Circles of Care

Isibindi and Safe Parks

Ending violence against children




Circles of Care

UNICEF South Africa/Schermbrucker
© UNICEF South Africa/Schermbrucker

Linking Cash, Care and Protection for children in South Africa

South Africa has made significant progress in reducing child poverty. It has a rights-based constitution, excellent laws and policies, and one of the best-developed social assistance systems for children on the continent. An estimated 12.6 million children, through their caregivers, are currently receiving child support grants (child support grant, foster care grant, care and dependency grant – ‘cash’); and basic social services, such as health and education, are at scale.

Despite these advances, wide socio-economic and gender inequalities, high unemployment and pervasive violence continue to impact negatively on children and households across the country. Nearly two thirds of children live below the poverty line and one fifth of children in the country are stunted. One third of children experience violence during their childhood, be it physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Many children experience repeated and multiple forms of violence, most often by people they are close to and in places where they should be safe – at home, in their communities and in schools. Even for those children who receive social assistance grants, the quality of care and protection services that they can access varies considerably. Residents of rural areas and urban informal settlements are less likely to access the care and protection they require; girls face more difficulties than boys; and very young children, orphans and children with disabilities are often at higher risk.

Families, parents and caregivers play a central role in ensuring the well-being of children and adolescents. They are the first duty bearers with the responsibility to offer identity, care and protection as well as economic security and stability. But the impact of poverty, migration, unemployment, violence and HIV - coupled with high rates of orphanhood - has disrupted traditional family structures and weakened social cohesion. Only one third of children in South Africa live with both of their biological parents. Grandparents, relatives, children and adolescents are frequently obliged to take on parenting roles when they lack the resources, support and skills to offer adequate and loving care. Many children find themselves moving from one caregiver to another, leading to fluid and inconsistent care and attention. Only a limited number of such households currently access valuable parenting support through community youth and child and youth care workers and other social service professionals.

The combination of these factors means that large numbers of disadvantaged children continue to be left behind. Even if their basic material needs are partially met through social assistance grants, the lack of consistent, nurturing care and timely referrals is hindering them from accessing critical education, health and protection services, and jeopardizing them from achieving their full potential.

How does UNICEF help?

With over 70 years of experience working for children’s rights and well-being, UNICEF brings together evidence from across the globe to advise governments and partners on how best to implement proven strategies to end violence against children. By combining technical expertise on health, education, and social protection, UNICEF South Africa helps to collect evidence; promote quality dialogue; identify solutions; and ensure national strategies to prevent and respond to violence build on what is already working. By considering all aspects of the child’s life, UNICEF helps to design holistic programmes that aim to integrate action across government departments, development partners and civil society. While deliberately focusing on the most vulnerable and deprived communities in the country, UNICEF provides the South African Government with valuable technical advice to strengthen legislative frameworks and systems and ensure a responsive and protective approach for all children at risk of violence. 



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