27 Oct 1997

27 October 1997

WELFARE LAWS AMENDMENT BILL

This Bill originates from the recommendations outlined in the Report
of the Lund Committee on Child Welfare (August 1996) and Cabinet`s subsequent
acceptance of some of those proposals on 5 March 1997.

In addition, it incorporates input from various organisations and individuals
from civil society at public hearings hosted by the Portfolio Committee
on Welfare and Population Development during April 1997.

The Bill seeks to amend two pieces of legislation in several respects,
namely the 1992 Social Assistance Act and the 1983 Child Care
Act.

Social Assistance Act

The main object of the Bill is to delete the provisions for maintenance
grants and to replace it with a new child support grant which will act
as a poverty alleviation mechanism and will aim to redress the imbalances
caused by the administration of the state maintenance grant.

The new grant will be payable to a primary care-giver of a child under
the age of seven years, subject to a simple means test without undermining
parental responsibility.

The previous state maintenance grants were payable only to parents of
children in need of state-aided social assistance, and they were only available
up to a maximum of two children per parent. As a result, very few care-givers
who actually cared for children in need of social assistance actually received
the grant. Furthermore, very few black South Africans benefited from the
grant, because of bureaucratic obstacles, as well as the fact that the
old grant had never been administered in the TBVC states and the former
homelands.

The new child support grant therefore aims to equalise the distribution
of this social benefit so that those many poor children who had never received
the state maintenance grant before will now be able to enjoy the benefit.

Instead of just the approximately 300,000 children who presently receive
the state maintenance grant, the new child support grant will aim to reach
at least three million of South Africa`s poorest children.

The Bill aims to accomplish this by phasing out the state maintenance
grant over a period of three years, and to phase in the new child support
grant at the same time.

The Bill also deletes the provisions providing for capitation grants.
These are grants which were given to institutions including places of safety,
for the care of persons admitted there. It also seeks to regulate the requirements
for payments of foster child grants as well as care-dependency grants.
The Bill therefore seeks to rectify the omission in the Social Assistance
Act in respect of the two latter grants, because the Act does not presently
specify the requirements to qualify for these grants.

Child Care Act

The Bill provides for a child under the age of seven (7) years to be
kept and cared for by a person who is not the child`s parent or custodian
for a period longer than 14 days under the following conditions:


  • the person has applied to adopt the child, or has obtained the written
    consent of the commissioner of child welfare in the district where the
    child resided in immediately before the latter was received or
  • the person is over the age of 18 and is related to the child by blood
    or marriage within certain parameters specified in the Bill

Key Political Messages


  • Our children are our future. This Bill indicates the commitment of
    the ANC government for ensuring that we address the needs of the most vulnerable
    of the nation
  • Millions of children are already receiving assistance in the form of
    free primary health care and nourishing school meals. This grant will supplement
    this assistance
  • Under the NP, assistance was concentrated in certain areas of the country,
    particularly the more developed areas. With the enactment of this Bill,
    grants will be allocated on a fair and equitable basis
  • This grant will reach three million of South Africa`s poorest children,
    rather than the 300,000 who presently receive the state maintenance grant
  • Families who receive the old grants will have three years to adjust
    to the new system of grants
  • The Bill prevents abuse of the system by dispensing the grants to care-givers,
    not just parents, so that parents who do not look after children will not
    be able to claim the grants
  • Members of the extended family who look after a child will have less
    bureaucratic problems, because they will not have to obtain consent from
    the commissioner of child welfare
  • Unlike the old maintenance grant, this grant will not be limited to
    a certain number of children in one family. Because the grant is made to
    the child, through the care-giver, a child will not suffer because of the
    size of his or her family
  • This Bill will make a significant start in addressing the needs of
    millions of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged of our nation.


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