In South Africa, the Child Support Grants (CSG) reaches over 10 million children. These grants have been effectively meeting children’s constitutional rights and evidence shows that children in households that receive a CSG enjoy better health and nutrition, are more likely to attend school and enjoy improved material well-being.
But child support grants are not enough on their own to address the complex and multidimensional needs of children. Many social development experts advocate for complementary interventions called Cash Plus interventions to strengthen the positive effects of grants and mitigate the psychosocial, structural and systemic risks that compromise a child’s well-being.
One example of a Cash Plus intervention in South Africa is Sihleng’imizi, which means “We care for families” in isiZulu. Sihleng’imizi was based on prior research supported by the Department of Monitoring and Evaluation and the European Union in a partnership between the CSDA, the University of Chicago and the Utrecht University. A family strengthening intervention for CSG beneficiaries was subsequently designed, implemented and evaluated.
Professor Patel together with researchers from the CSDA did a study to establish the effectiveness of Sihleng’imizi in supporting families in their care roles for better child well-being. A key element of Sihleng’imizi was to develop alternative ways of disciplining children, improving communication, problem-solving skills and positive role modelling by caregivers and family members.
Our findings suggest that 80% of families involved in the programme reduced the use of harsh forms of discipline and parents were more involved in their child’s schooling and learning. This suggests that complementary family strengthening interventions can offer positive outcomes for children.