Millions of working-class families have slipped through government’s social security net because means tests, used to determine who gets free or subsidised state services, haven’t been adjusted to offset inflation. Government annually adjusts the qualifying threshold for social grants paid to the most vulnerable, but it hasn’t done the same for state health, housing and tertiary education. It has forced steadily growing numbers of low-wage earners to dig deep into their own pockets or forgo services that remain available to poorer households. For health and education, it’s unclear whether the erosion of benefits is due to inertia or is a conscious response to budget constraints. The housing department is frank about its limited resources and has taken a decision to prioritise those who can’t fend for themselves. Families have been squeezed hardest when it comes to paying for health care. Households with an annual income of less than R100,000 are eligible for free or heavily discount...

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