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Government spending on children in MTEF 2004/05: Spotlighting social development programmes

By: Judith Streak and Lerato Kgamphe, Children's Budget Unit


IDASA - Budget Information Service (

8 April 2004

Posted with permission of Idasa
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Executive Summary

Government is obliged, in terms of the South African Constitution, to take measures to eliminate child poverty and give effect to the comprehensive set of socio-economic rights afforded children in the Bill of Rights. The Constitution assigns provincial governments a key role in fulfilling this obligation, by giving them most of the responsibility for delivering social programmes - such as those providing health care, education, housing and welfare services. Provincial governments' administer and finance a broad range of social service programmes that are particularly important for giving effect to children's socio-economic rights. These can be classified into two distinct sub-sets, both of which make a critical contribution: programmes targeted at poor families and programmes targeted specifically at children.

Provincial governments have released their Budget Statements for 2004/05. These provide information on each province's revenue position and spending for the upcoming three-year Medium Term Expenditure Cycle (2004/05, 2005/06 and 2006/07) as well as actual spending over the previous two financial years. Shedding light on how much money provincial governments are allocating to and spending on programmes delivering services that give effect to child socio-economic rights constitutes an important part of monitoring government's fulfilment of its child socio-economic rights obligations.

This is the first in a three-part series of Budget Briefs on provincial governments' spending over the MTEF 2004/05 on social service programmes that are targeted specifically at children. The three Budget Briefs use the provincial Budget Statements to present the pattern of growth in provincial child specific programme budgets over the up-coming three years. They also identify and explain where due to gaps in the budget data available, which are in turn related to the systems of service delivering and recording government spending (particularly in health), it is currently impossible to monitor government spending on social services for children through child specific programmes. This, the first Budget Brief in the three-part series, focuses on those child specific government programmes financed and administered by the provincial social development departments. The second budget brief in the series will focus on budget allocations for the MTEF 2004/04 to child specific programmes financed and administered by the provincial education departments and the third on child specific programmes financed and administered by the provincial health departments.

The Budget Brief begins by setting the scene for the three-part series. This it does in section 1. Section 1.1 provides a sketch of children's constitutional socio-economic rights and associated government delivery obligations. Section 1.2 gives an overview of the range of child specific government programmes financed and administered by provincial government. This latter section uncovers sixteen social service programmes targeted at children (in addition to the National Integrated Plan for Children Infected and Affected by HIV/AIDS) financed and administered by the provincial departments of social development (six), education (five) and health (five). The programmes are financed mostly by provincial allocations from the equitable share allocated to provinces by national government, but also by conditional grants distributed to provinces by national government.

Next, the Budget Brief turns to providing an overview of planned provincial spending on the three programmes financed and implemented by provincial social development departments for which budget data are available. These are the Child Support Grant (CSG), Care Dependency Grant (CDG) and Foster Care Grant (FCG) programmes. Section 2 presents information on the total amounts allocated to each programme for the MTEF 2004/05 against the backdrop of estimated actual spending on the programmes in 2003/04 and audited spending in 2002/03. It also provides real growth rates (annual for 2003/04-2006/07 and annual average for 2004/05-2006/07). Section three shows consolidated provincial expenditure on each of the three programmes as a percentage of total government (main budget) spending for the MTEF 2004/05.

The conclusion summarises the main points that emerge from the analysis. It highlights the following:

  • The duty of government to prioritise actions to realise child socio-economic rights and eliminate child poverty in government programme design and the allocation of scarce resources.

  • The need for more clarity to emerge around what the unqualified child socio-economic rights afforded children in the Constitution entitle them to claim from government in the form of services provided to children and their care-givers.

  • The need for a change in the system of recording budget information so that government spending on child specific social welfare services can be tracked.

  • That in general, provinces are planning strong real growth in child social assistance programme budgets over the MTEF 2004/05

  • That there are some provinces for which social assistance budgets can be expected to contract over some of the years in the upcoming MTEF.

  • That the share of child social assistance spending in total government spending is small but increasing, driven by CSG programme spending.

  • That there is a need for future monitoring of government's budgeting for children to try to pay attention to the sufficiency of planned provincial spending on social assistance. This depends upon gathering better eligibility data for each of the social assistance programmes, but also on building knowledge of spending capacity in the programmes.

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