Income and Social GrantsIncome and Social Grants

Child Support Grants

Author/s: Katharine Hall
Date: October 2016


This indicator shows the number of children receiving the Child Support Grant (CSG), as reported by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) which disburses social grants on behalf of the Department of Social Development.


Data Source South African Social Security Agency (2008; 2009; 2010;2011;2012;2013;2014;2015;2016) SOCPEN database. Pretoria: SASSA.
  1. For the years 2005 and 2008, the child support grant was only available to children aged 0-13 years. From 2009, the grant was extended to include children aged 14 years. From 2012, the CSG has been available to children until they turn 18 years.
  2. SOCPEN figures are taken from the end of March each year (the financial year-end) 
  3. For trends from 1998 to 2009 (April figures), see the Social Grants link on the home page
The right to social assistance is designed to ensure that people living in poverty are able to meet basic subsistence needs. Government is obliged to support children directly when their parents or caregivers are too poor to do so. Income support is provided through social assistance programmes, such as the CSG, which is an unconditional cash grant paid to the caregivers of eligible children.

Introduced in 1998 with a value of R100, the CSG has become the single biggest programme for alleviating child poverty in South Africa. Take-up of the CSG has increased dramatically over the past decade, and the grant amount is increased slightly each year to keep pace with inflation. At the end of March 2016, a monthly CSG of R330 was paid to 11,972,900 children aged 0 – 17 years. This was an increase of over nearly 300,000 (2%) from the previous year. The value of the CSG increased to R350 per month from the beginning of April 2016. This was an increase of 6.1%, slightly above inflation.

There have been two important changes in eligibility criteria. The first concerns age eligibility. Initially the CSG was only available for children aged 0 – 6 years. From 2003 it was gradually extended to older children up to the age of 14. Since January 2012, following a second phased extension, children are eligible for the grant until they turn 18.
     The second important change concerns the income threshold or means test. From 1998, children were eligible for the CSG if their primary caregiver and his/her spouse had a joint monthly income of R800 or less and lived in a formal house in an urban area. For those who lived in rural areas or informal housing, the income threshold was R1,100 per month. This threshold remained static for 10 years until a formula was introduced for calculating income threshold – set at 10 times the amount of the grant. From April 2016 the income threshold is R3,500 per month for a single caregiver and R7,000 per month for the joint income of the caregiver and spouse, if the caregiver is married.

There is substantial evidence that grants, including the CSG, are being spent on food, education and basic goods and services. This evidence shows that the grant not only helps to alleviate income poverty and realise children’s right to social assistance, but is also associated with improved nutritional, health and education outcomes.1

Given the positive and cumulative effects of the grant, it is important that caregivers are able to access it for their children as early as possible. One of the main concerns is the slow take-up for young children. An analysis of exclusions from the CSG found that uptake rates for eligible infants under a year were as low as 50% in 2011, up only three percentage points from 47% in 2008. Exclusion rates were found to be highest in the Western Cape and Gauteng.2 Barriers to uptake include confusion about eligibility requirements and the means test in particular; lack of documentation (mainly identity books or birth certificates, and proof of school enrolment, although the latter is not an eligibility requirement) and problems of institutional access (including the time and cost of reaching SASSA offices, long queues and lack of baby-friendly facilities). It is worth noting, however, that there has been improved uptake amongst children younger than two and children older than 15 over the last few years.

The number of children receiving Child Support Grants is taken from the Department of Social Development’s administrative database – SOCPEN. The figures are taken from from daily reports for July of each year, to coincide with the timeframes for the General Household Survey.
There has never been a published review of the SOCPEN database, and the extent of the limitations of validity or reliability of the data has not been quantified. However, it is regularly used by the Department of Social Development and other government bodies to monitor grant take-up. 
 1Coetzee M (2014) Do poor children really benefit from the Child Support Grant? Econ3x3 Working Paper.

Coetzee M (2013) Finding the benefits: Estimating the impact of the South African child support grant. South African Journal of Economics 81(3):427-450.

Department of Social Development, South African Social Security Agency & UNICEF (2012) The South African Child Support Grant Impact Assessment: Evidence from a survey of children, adolescents and their households. Pretoria: UNICEF South Africa.

Woolard I & Leibbrandt M (2010) The Evolution and Impact of Unconditional Cash Transfers in South Africa. Working Paper 51. SALDRU, University of Cape Town.

Agüero JM, Carter M & Woolard I(2009) The Impact of Unconditional Cash Transfers on Nutrition: The South African Child Support Grant. Working Paper, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth.

Samson M, Heinrich C, Williams M, Kaniki S, Muzondo T, Quene KM & Van Niekerk I (2008) Quantitative Analysis of the Impact of the Child Support Grant. Available at

Budlender D & Woolard I (2006) The Impact of the South African Child Support and Old Age Grants on Children’s Schooling and Work. Geneva: International Labour Office;

Case A, Hosegood V & Lund F (2005) The reach and impact of Child Support Grants: evidence from KwaZulu-Natal. In: Development Southern Africa, 22(4), October 2005: 467-482;

Samson M, Lee U, Ndlebe A, Mac Quene K, Van Niekerk I, Ghandi V, Harigaya T & Abrahams C (2004) The Social and Economic Impact of South Africa’s Social Security System. Commissioned by the Department of Social Development. Cape Town: Economic Policy Research Institute.

South African Social Security Agency & UNICEF (2013) Preventing Exclusion from the Child SuPport Grant: A study of exclusion errors in accessing CSG benefits. Pretoria: UNICEF South Africa.