A third of children under the age of eight receive a child-support grant but there needs to be a focus on family-strengthening interventions, according to the Family Contexts, Child-Support Grants and Child Well-Being in SA policy report.

The report was compiled for Unicef SA and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation.

Speaking at the University of Johannesburg on Tuesday at the launch of the report, Leila Patel from the Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA) said more than 12-million children — or 63% of all South African children — received a child-support grant, while six out of 10 children lived below the poverty line.

"Child-support grants are not enough. Poverty is a significant risk factor for the growth and development of children; 18% of children who are eligible still do not receive the grant," said Patel. "[There needs to be] cash and care. Cash has certain benefits but isn’t sufficient on its own to achieve well-being outcomes for children."

Despite being SA’s most successful poverty reduction programme, the report adds: "On its own, it is unable to address all the social, material, mental, physical and educational challenges that children and their families face."

Said Patel: "One way to increase support to poor and vulnerable families ... is through the provision of family-and community-based preventative, developmental welfare interventions that combine social and economic interventions and that include information, education and prevention strategies."

According to the report, 58% of children live in tribal authority areas and 27% live in urban formal areas; 97% of caregivers are women while three quarters of fathers are absent from households. Of all child-support grant households, 34% are single-parent households with other relatives. The monthly per income capita income for child support grant households is R394.21.

The report concludes: "Combining cash transfers with family-strengthening interventions will require significant mind shifts among policy makers, practitioners and development agencies."

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