Institutionalise social relief of distress grant, experts recommend

13 December 2021 - 13:17
By Nomazima Nkosi
Social grant beneficiaries from the surrounding villages of Mqanduli in the Eastern Cape flock to Mqanduli town to access their grants .
Image: Lulamile Feni Social grant beneficiaries from the surrounding villages of Mqanduli in the Eastern Cape flock to Mqanduli town to access their grants .

The expert team on basic income support panel has recommended that government institutionalise the social relief of distress grant (RDG).

The recommendation was announced by the panel chair Alex van der Heever, who tabled the department of social development report that looked into the introduction of a R1,500 monthly grant aimed at South Africans over the age of 18-59 years old without work.

Speaking on Monday, Van der Heever said if implemented carefully, the panel believed it would not have adverse affects on the economy and viability of the country.

“Basic Income Support, in short what we call BIS, for adults from the ages of 18-59 was necessary and that no alternative measures could reasonably address the widespread and urgent income support needs of relevant adults.

“We also found that relevant structural changes in the levels of poverty and inequality require programmes implemented but given the economic realities, we propose a phased approached to the implementation to BIS be considered, that recognise the pace of moving to scale is contingent on being able to finance these expansions in a sustainable manner.

“We found the social relief of distress grant implemented during Covid-19 package involves manageable trade-offs.

“We recommend the existing Covid-19 grant be institutionalised and form the platform of an expanded BIS which can then be improved over time,” Van der Heeder said.

Social development, partnered with International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals Joint Fund and appointed an independent panel of experts to conduct extensive research, which included both economic and social policy experts.

Continuing, he said the income poverty was important because money incomes provided access to society in a very fundamental way.

“Without access to money incomes, the resulting social exclusion is severe, disabling and harmful to agency. This harm extends to dependents who are not expected to form part of labour market.

“Through our work we confirm that income poverty in SA is so pervasive that more than half households live in poverty.

“Over 90% of houses living in decile three are below the poverty line equivalent to a monthly value of R860,” he said.

Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu, who welcomed the panel, said the report reinforced the need to invoke both courage and science that was needed in sustaining an intelligent dialogue on BIS.

“Sooner than later dialogues must come to an end and piloting and implementation must start to define the reason we started this conversation just over twenty years ago.

“The expanded social assistance framework can positively impact an individual’s life as much as it can support households towards the levels of resilience with which they can protect themselves against the invasive and undesirable social ills,” Zulu said.