Findings reveal that social aid does not promote teenage pregnancies

Teenagers do not deliberately become pregnant, families do not "farm" children and sick people do not refuse to take medicine just to get social grants, the Department of Social Development said yesterday.

Teenagers do not deliberately become pregnant, families do not "farm" children and sick people do not refuse to take medicine just to get social grants, the Department of Social Development said yesterday.

"The provision of social assistance by the state does not promote teenage pregnancies and other perverse [behaviours]," it said.

The findings were made in research commissioned after fears were voiced that people were putting themselves into difficult situations solely to obtain grants.

"The rapid increases in the rate at which social grants were applied for between the 2003-04 and 2004-05 [financial years] raised concerns about the social grant systems' sustainability and the potential [for it to act as a] perverse incentive," said the department's spokesman, Lakela Kaunda.

Researchers assessed claims for child-support grants (CSGs), foster-care grants (FCGs) and disability grants (DGs).

They found that though there had been a huge increase in the number of CSG beneficiaries, the increase in the rate at which teenage mothers applied for grants remained low.

Teenagers accounted for only 5percent of the CSG recipients registered in October 2005, 13percent less than the proportion of teenage mothers in the population.

More than half of CSG recipients applied for the grant when their children were older than three, probably because they struggled to get the necessary documents or did not know enough about getting a grant.

Researchers dismissed allegations that mothers registered the same child in several provinces to get more than one grant.

The researchers found that most FCGs were paid to people looking after children who had lost at least one parent, and that most foster parents were related to their foster children.

In 41percent of cases, the foster parent was the grandmother, in 30percent the aunt, in 12percent another relative, and 9percent were unrelated.

"Because most foster children are orphans, their placements are expected to be long-term," said Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya.

Skweyiya attributed an increase in the take-up rate of DGs to people's inability to enter the labour market and the scarcity of employment opportunities. - Sapa

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