Child support grant 'below food poverty line'
The social wage in South Africa has steadily increased over the past few years and social grants were not the only form of social security assistance to the poor‚ Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said in the National Assembly on Friday.
He was responding to criticism by DA finance spokesperson David Maynier about the failure of the ANC MPs’ appropriations committee to approve an increase in the child support grant‚ which would have required adjustments to other budget votes.
Nene was concluding the debate on the first reading of the appropriations bill‚ which allocates funds to the different departments. He noted that the social wage had increased from R643-billion in 2014-15 and to R707-billion in 2015-16‚ which represented 57% of total government spending.
In 2016-17 the figure rose to 58% and to 58.6% in 2017-18. This year the social wage represented 59% of total spending.
The minister said the social wage included basic education‚ free higher education‚ health‚ social grants‚ welfare services‚ support to families and children‚ social security funds‚ the local equitable share‚ housing development‚ local government conditional grants‚ transport‚ water services and employment programmes.
"We should not simply focus on social grants as the only means government uses to alleviate poverty for the poor households‚" Nene said.
Maynier criticised the budget’s increase in the child support grant from R380 a month to R400 from April 1 2018‚ and from R400 a month to R410 from October 1 2018‚ saying this was below the "food poverty line" in SA of R441 per month.
Maynier proposed 170 amendments to the budget at a meeting of the appropriations committee earlier this year to enable a R5.36-billion adjustment to provide for an increase in the child support grant to a level that is in line with the food poverty line.
Maynier insisted that the proposed amendments were "budget neutral" and could have been funded by reprioritising expenditure within the existing budget. His proposals were not supported by the ANC MPs.