Bandaging a broken arm: The effectiveness of the child support grant in alleviating poverty in poor Grahamstown communities

  • Mzingaye Brilliant Xaba


This paper examines the effectiveness of the Child Support Grant (CSG) in  alleviating (relative and absolute) poverty in South Africa. It used Grahamstown, a small town in the impoverished Eastern Cape Province, as a case study, and made use of in-depth qualitative methods in studying CSG-recipient households. The research found that the CSG was effective in reducing poverty, particularly amongst children, but unable to end poverty. The CSG reduced both relative and absolute poverty, helping children in terms of school enrolment, reducing hunger, and meeting the other needs of the children. The grant was also, in some cases, the only cash income in the households studied, and there were clear indications that the CSG benefits other household members, indicating that it also contributed directly to the larger reduction of poverty. These findings are at odds with popular perceptions that the CSG is ineffective. However, it is important to note that the grants did not end poverty, as they were very small, and the recipient households were largely trapped in unemployment, a major driver of impoverishment. Families tend to be large, wages low, and society and economy generally highly unequal. Bearing in mind that this study does not allow for easy generalisations, it is suggested that the findings are probably indicative of larger patterns: the CSG’s effects are largely positive, particularly  amongst recipients in extreme poverty; it clearly reduces absolute poverty and lessens relative poverty; but the CSG is not a solution to poverty, as it is unable to end it.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1995-641X
print ISSN: 0256-2804