Cape Town – The Department of Social Development is to spend over R104 billion on social grants to assist the most vulnerable people in the country, with the number of beneficiaries projected to grow by a million.
In the last year, the department said it had spent R97 billion in assisting 15.3 million beneficiaries, including children, those with disabilities and the elderly.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, speaking ahead of her Budget Vote in the National Assembly set for later today, said provision of social grants to the most vulnerable was one of government’s biggest poverty alleviation programmes.
From January this year, the eligibility age for the child support grant was increased to 17 years.
“The total number of children covered is 10.3 million, disability grants 1.2 million people and the pensioners 2.7 million [recepients],” she said.
In expanding the social grant coverage, the minister said they were raising the old age grant from R33 000 to R44 000 per year. “This is the most significant raising of the means test since 1994 and is a precursor to the universalisation of the old age pension.”
On a separate matter, she said that her department would move swiftly to introduce a retirement fund, with the aim of providing a decent basic income for people who reach retirement, are disabled and for survivors when a breadwinner passes away.
At present, about a third of South Africans have no provision for retirement and rely almost entirely on social assistance programmes.
Dlamini challenged the view that her department should be “creating jobs” instead of “creating dependency” through those grants.
“I am calling on people to acknowledge the absurdity of the claim because grants go to children, older persons and people with disabilities, who are not employable,” she said. – Francis Hweshe, BuaNews