Assessing the effects of the child support grant programme on refugee children's poverty status in Cape Town, South Africa
Cash transfers continue to be one of the tools used by many developing countries in order to alleviate poverty. South Africa was not left behind in applying this system. In 1998, the Government of South Africa introduced cash transfer programs in order to replace the old Social Maintenance Grant (SMG) that was available to single mothers when their husbands: die, get imprisoned, disabled or are untraceable. Also, this grant was supporting poor children during the apartheid era. In terms of children, the SMG did not achieve enough coverage, for instance, by 1990, it had assisted only 0.2% of African children and 1.5% of White children as well as 4.0% of Indian children and 4.8% of Coloured children (SASSA, 2012). However, the new democratic government managed to introduce a new program, which has now shown a very large achievement and has become one of the best social protection systems in Africa (UNICEF, 2012). Also, the new democratic government managed to expand the coverage to the children from age 0-16 to children of age18 years, including refugee children. With regards to refugees, after the fall of apartheid, the democratic Government of South Africa opened its doors to migrants and refugees. These refugees include children who are the most vulnerable persons. As such, in the first part of 2012, the Government of South Africa decided to provide and promote the well-being of refugee children, particularly those who are exposed to vulnerable conditions and living in poverty (CoRMSA, 2007). Despite the provision of the Child Support Grant for refugees, the beneficiaries of the grant are still facing many challenges especially those who have a low income. The study explores the perceptions of the caregivers of refugee children in Cape Town on the utility of the grant. The study adopts a qualitative research approach which is exploratory and descriptive in nature. In this regard, this study draws on in-depth interviews, questionnaires and focus group discussions with women caregivers of the refugee children. In-depth interviews were conducted with 28 women participants who come from different countries but live in Cape Town, who were selected by using the snowballing sampling technique. The findings reveal that the grant was used for educational expenses and for food or clothing. The study also finds that the grant provides households with income security, improves school attendance and contributes towards improved access to health care and transport. However, the study also showed that there were challenges associated with the provision of the grant. Firstly, some of the caregivers reported irregularities of the system and waiting in long queues. Secondly, the caregivers reported inadequacy of the grant. Lastly, the receivers of Child Support Grant for refugees noted that documentation required by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) is also another major challenge they are facing. Unemployment and accommodation are also mentioned as the challenges the caregivers of refugees’ children face. The majority of them stated that finding a job in South Africa is not easy. Furthermore, the caregivers reported the issue of finding a good place to rent. In terms of accommodation, the majority of the caregivers stated that landlords require many papers which they do not have and they cannot afford the rent required by them. The recommendations made are that participants felt that, they wish the Government of South Africa can allow them to work, as the majority of them have qualifications. However, others felt that it will be a good idea if the Government of South Africa increases the size of the grant. The SASSA staff advised that the caregivers of refugee children must submit the entire set of documentation required in order to receive or to apply for the Child Support Grant on time. The study concludes that the Child Support Grant for refugees provides children with a safety net and enables them to access basic services. However, this program needs to be monitored and evaluated in order for the service to be better rendered. The findings of this study have the potential to influence social welfare policy-makers to address the challenges associated with the provision of the grant. The findings of this study would also allow the policy makers to establish ways of ensuring the sustainable provision of the grant. The outcomes of this study will also have the potential to allow the policy makers to create ways of ensuring the sustainable provision of the Child Support Grant for refugees.