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This research investigates the impact of the Child Support and Foster Child grants in South Africa on children’s care. It examines the effect of these grants on the quality of children’s care and on decisions about who will provide care to children. It also explores implementation issues regarding both grants and proposes options for making support more effective.

The Child Support Grant (CSG) is a modest monthly cash transfer for children living in poor households. It was introduced in 1998 to alleviate poverty and improve nutritional and other outcomes amongst South Africa’s children, and has served as an example for similar programmes across the continent and beyond.

The Foster Child Grant (FCG) is a relatively generous monthly cash transfer for children in formal foster care to provide financial support for carers providing foster care. Receipt of the grant goes hand-in-hand with regular monitoring and supervision by social workers, and placement reviews by the courts every two years, as part of the wider foster care system. Developments in the last two decades have led to an exponential increase in both applications to and recipients of the FCG, leading to many delays and payment arrears and putting the social work and judicial systems under great pressure.

This research is part of a wider study on the linkages between social protection and children’s care in Sub-Saharan Africa, and further research has been completed in Ghana and Rwanda. The research in South Africa was led by the Children in Distress Network (CINDI) in collaboration with Family for Every Child and the Centre for Social Protection (CSP) at the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) in the United Kingdom (UK).

Key findings of the report include:

  • The CSG and FCG play a positive role in improving child well-being and care.
  • Family resources, including grant transfers, are generally pooled across children and other vulnerable household members.
  • Grants suffer from widespread misconceptions among grant recipients, programme staff, social workers and the wider community about their purpose and what they are to be spent on.
  • The provision of cash transfers to support kinship and foster care can be positive and negative.
  • The application procedures for the CSG and FCG grants with the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) lack transparency and offer limited client-oriented service provision.
  • The application procedure for foster care placements (in order to be able to receive the FCG) is subject to long delays.
  • The FCG suffers from capacity constraints that undermine the impact on child well-being and care.
    NGO social workers play a crucial role in providing statutory and non-statutory social work.
  • The division of roles and responsibilities between social service professionals lacks clarity in the provision of the FCG and associated support.
  • The FCG’s blurred boundaries between acting as a child protection scheme versus a social protection scheme undermines the programme’s ability to reach either of these objectives.
  • Strong referral mechanisms are crucial for linking social protection and child protection systems.

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