Social security

/sites/default/files/pictures/Gill.Price.JPGBy Gill Price

Living in modern day, democratic South Africa it is often easy to forget about our fractured past and the real impact it still has on lives today.  Although we have come a very long way in a reasonably short space of time, we were never going to erase hundreds of years of oppression overnight.

In 1994, South Africans from all walks of life stood together and imagined a better tomorrow and prosperity for all. However, as we reach the milestone of thirty years of freedom it is painfully obvious that millions of lives are still being shaped by the sins of the past and this has led to what some have labelled the most unequal society in the world. 

Since 1994, successive administrations have worked systematically to overcome our past and provide hope. Our social assistance programme has been at the heart of transforming lives and has been a springboard for change in communities throughout our nation. It is also central to government’s poverty alleviation programme and central to restoring the dignity of our people.

Social grants are by far the largest portion of the social protection system with more than 18 million beneficiaries. Social grants bring financial security to many families and contribute towards improving the standard of living of people.

It has often been said that the moral test of a nation is how it treats the most vulnerable in society. Societies are judged by how we treat the poor, elder persons, the homeless, the orphaned and people with disabilities and children to mention just a few.

In South Africa we are fortunate to have a government that is guided by the Constitution and recognises the need to protect vulnerable groups and protects the rights of everyone in the country. Government through the Department of Social Development has over the years implemented policies that supports the most vulnerable and protects their dignity.

As a caring government we will continue to provide social assistance to poor and vulnerable South Africans. Through it, we continue to improve the living conditions of poor, vulnerable and underprivileged South Africans. These include unemployed South Africans as well as orphaned and vulnerable children living in child headed households.

There are some who mistakenly claim that our social assistance programme is a nothing but a handout.  However, this is far from the truth; social grants bring financial security to many families and is the main source of income for many South Africans, according to the General Household Survey, 2021. They bring stability to families, contribute towards improving the standard of living of our people and creating a more equitable society.

In most cases grants, which include pensions, disability payments and child support grants, support entire households. Many households would be destitute without our social assistance safety net, which has been shown to have contributed to a reduction in poverty in South Africa.

Similarly our national school nutrition programme reaches millions of learners daily and aims to enhance the learning capacity of learners through the provision of a healthy meal at schools.

Critics of our social grant system do not take into account that these are but one of the interventions we have in place. We are working to create job opportunities through the implementation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan and other initiatives such as the Presidential Employment Stimulus and Presidential Youth Employment Intervention which have collectively generated over 1.8 million job opportunities.

Throughout the system government is committed to ensuring that we provide individuals and communities with the tools to change their lives. We however know that more must still be done and we will continue to work to drive back poverty levels, while raising household income levels, along with working to ensure a better tomorrow for all.