Many young adults are applying for the Covid-19 relief grant, but it’s not enough to eat properly.

Children up to the age of 18 years are the largest group of recipients of social grants in South Africa. Seventy percent of the 18.3-million grants paid out each month are child support grants. But what happens to these children when they grow too old for the child support grant? Do they get jobs and earn a steady income?

If the Covid-19 relief grant is an indicator of whether these young adults are less dependent on grants, then the news isn’t good. Forty-four percent of the applications for this grant in the first 10 months after it was introduced were people in their 20s, according to data from South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).

Covid-19 relief grants

In May 2020, the Department of Social Development introduced a R350 grant to support unemployed working-age people during the economic hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Over a 10-month period between May 2020 and March 2021, there were over 9-million applications for the R350 grant. Of the total applications, one in four (2.3-million) were from young people between the ages of 20 to 24, according to SASSA.

This happens to be one of the age groups most affected by high rates of unemployment.

An average of 5.5 million people received the R350 grant each month during the first 10 months.

SASSA does not give a breakdown of how many people per age group were paid the grant, but the department does note how many people it approved per age group to receive the grant.

In February 2021, the department had approved the Covid-19 grant applications of 1.2-million 20 to 24 year olds.

The Covid-19 grant was extended twice and eventually stopped on 30 April 2021. But it was reinstated in August 2021. President Cyril Ramaphosa said that 13-million people had applied for the grant in the first week SASSA re-opened applications.

Children’s grants

There are three types of child grants. The main one is the child support grant, which is intended to support children up to the age of 18 years. It’s given to their caregivers if they earn less than R4,000 a month (R8,000 if they are a married couple).

The child support grant is R460 a month and 12.78-million children are receiving this grant, according to Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity’s Household Affordability Index Report for September 2021.

On average the department of social development pays out 18.3-million social grants a month. This includes other child support grants, such as the care dependency grant for people caring for children with disabilities, and the foster child grant as well as disability, old-age and military veterans grants.

Cost of living

The millions of people who applied for the R350 Covid relief grant gives an indication of the level of desperation in the country, but sadly the R350 grant is not enough to cover even basic food needs. 

In September, StatsSA reset what it terms the food poverty line, or the extreme poverty line, to R624 per person per month. It is the minimum amount of money a person needs a month to buy the food to meet their minimum daily food intake requirements. The R350 grant covers only 56% of the groceries needed. 

The R460 child support grant is also well below the food poverty line.

StatsSA calculates three poverty lines. The food poverty line is the lowest. The other two, the lower and upper bound poverty lines, include some basic non-food items like clothing.

The lower bound poverty line of R890 is the amount needed per month, if an individual sacrifices nutritional needs for non-food items, according to the Children’s Institute researcher Katherine Hall writing on income and poverty grants in 2019. 

The upper bound poverty line of R1 335 means an individual has enough money for basic food items and non-food items.

Disproportionately more young people receive grants below the food poverty line.

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