For immediate release: 14 November 2017 @ 14:30
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Linking cash and care services for better well-being outcomes for South Africa's children
New research released by the Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA) at UJ finds that social grants are associated with better health outcomes and school attendance for children under eight years. But, a cash transfer is not enough to promote the overall well-being of South Africa's children. To fast track their growth and development, other strategies are needed to complement cash transfers to promote their social, mental, physical and educational development.
The research highlights the important role that the state plays in supporting families in the care of children, but also of parents, caregivers of children, their families and communities. "Linking cash transfers with care services to strengthen families and communities are important new directions for social development emerging from the research" said Prof Patel, who led the study on Family contexts, child Support Grants and child well-being in South Africa.
A total of 3 132 children were assessed using the National Income Dynamics Survey conducted by SALDRU at UCT and supported by the Programme for Pro-Poor Policy Development in the national government and the European Union.
The study found that CSG beneficiaries under 5 years were of normal weight and height for age (82%) and weight for age (91%). Children aged 5-7 years (88%) had normal Body Mass Index. The CSG therefore makes an important contribution to child health. Also, most CSG children of school going age (92%) were attending school.
When the CSG was designed over twenty years ago, its intention was to support families by way of a cash grant to increase food security. The research confirms the crucial role of the CSG in achieving child health and also shows how this is achieved via increased access to food.
Different factors explain how the CSG works to achieve health outcomes for children. For instance in rural areas, larger households that were less food secure, had lower perceptions of child health. In urban areas, the income of the household and poor mental health of the caregiver impacted on child food security which in turn, affected the caregiver's perception of the health of the child.
It is clear that strategies to boost food security are critical because 40% of children and caregivers experienced food scarcity over a twelve month period, despite the CSG. Targeting larger households that are food insecure was recommended. Another important finding was that a third of CSG caregivers were in need of mental health interventions. This was directly related to income poverty and lower educational levels.
Despite the positive benefits of the CSG on child health, achieved via improved food security, 26% were moderately and severely stunted. This means that they have experienced long-term nutritional deprivation. Stunting has severe negative effects on the mental and cognitive development of children. Urgent solutions are needed to prevent long-term adverse effects. "The deteriorating economic situation and rising poverty since 2011 is expected to have had dire consequences for poor children and their families" said Prof Tessa Hochfeld of the CSDA.
In focus group discussions with CSG primary caregivers of children, income poverty and poor living conditions such as a lack of water, poor quality basic services, inadequate transport, health, and access to child care services, and concerns about safety and security hampered their ability to care. A CSG beneficiary said "having no money to buy locks for doors or to put up a fence around her house" made her caregiving task of keeping her children safe all the more difficult.
Caregivers had fairly good knowledge of the social and emotional care needs of children and they enjoyed family support. But the need for knowledge and skills about caregiving and in the use of alternative ways of disciplining children, emerged from the research. Complementary family and community based programmes are recommended to prevent social problems from occurring and to fast track the already positive gains made by the CSG. Better links between cash and care services are needed to strengthen families in their care responsibilities. This would involve taking deliberate steps to link caregivers with clinics, promote more effective engagement with schools or child care facilities for younger children, as well as welfare services, faith-based and community based services.
Prof Trudie Knijn, a collaborating partner from Utrecht University pointed out "that experience from other parts of the world show that these are critical social investments that are likely to yield long-term benefits for children, families and the society."
MEDIA ENQUIRIES/INTERVIEW REQUESTS:
Prof Leila Patel and Prof Tessa Hochfeld are available for media interviews.
Contact: Ms. Thobile Zulu
011 559 1933
071 468 5198