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Q&A: National Study on Child Grant to Start

Zukiswa Zimela interviews THILDE STEVENS, acting chief director of Monitoring and Evaluation at the department of social development.

JOHANNESBURG , May 19 2010 (IPS) - The department of social development hopes government will increase the child support grant based on the outcome of a rigorous nationwide study on the positive effects the grant has on South African society.

The department of social development wants to evaluate the positive effects of the country's child support grant. Credit: Evelyn Matsamura Kiapi

The department of social development wants to evaluate the positive effects of the country's child support grant. Credit: Evelyn Matsamura Kiapi

With the field study set to start in September, Thilde Stevens, acting chief director of Monitoring and Evaluation at the department of social development, hopes that the results of the new child support grant evaluation will help convince government to increase the grant.

Currently government pays 32 dollars a month per child, for a maximum of six children, to the primary care-giver of a child under 15 years. This money is meant to cover the cost of the child’s basic needs.

In order to qualify for a grant single care-givers or parents have to earn under 3,700 dollars a year, while married care-givers or parents have to earn under 7,600 dollars a year.

According to Stevens, social cash transfers are seen in policy circles as a highly effective instrument for combating poverty. Excerpts of the interview follow.

Q: Previous research by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) on child support grants has shown a positive impact, so why is the department of social development undertaking such rigorous evaluation research?

A: One of the main studies that we are using is the KIDS study – the KwaZulu Income Dynamics Study – and it was only based in KwaZulu-Natal. We felt that we wanted to have a more universal study that covers more of South Africa with a bigger sample size. That is why we thought we would do a nationwide study.

Q: How will this research be conducted over the next few years?

A: The base line study comprises of a qualitative preparatory study and a quantitative study. The field work will start in September this year, and the report will be out in May 2011.

Q: What do you hope to achieve with the qualitative and the quantitative research?

A: The qualitative research will give you the story behind the quantitative – which is the hard facts and figures. So hopefully we will learn some lessons in the field, and we hope to refine our quantitative instruments based on what we have learnt in the field.

In the end when the quantitative study is finished we will see if we can integrate some of the findings to explain some of the hard facts that we find in our quantitative study. So we want to integrate the two and make sure that we have a more rigorous study out.

Q: What kinds of indicators are you looking at?

A: We are looking at two groups; 0 to 2 years, and the older 14-year-olds. For the first group we have a matrix to measure things like the nutrition of the child and for the older children we look at risky behaviour and school attendance. We also (look at) nutritional issues but not as much as the first group. There are other impacts that will come out but we want to be focussed we do not want to try and measure everything so that in the end we get good results.

Q: What challenges have you encountered in the field?

A: The main challenge for us at the moment is finding our households in terms of our sample strategy. What we are looking for are children that enrolled early for the child support grant between the ages of 0 to 2 years; children who registered later over the age of 14 years old; and children who have not enrolled for the child support grant.

The data we are using (to find the participants) is from the Social Pension System (SOCPEN) data. SOCPEN is a state electronic system that records government welfare transactions.

But people move around between provinces, between areas and they do not change their address on the registration system so that is one of our big issues – to try and find our research participants.

Q: How will the research be used?

I am in monitoring and evaluation, I think if we can have a good monitoring and evaluation then that will motivate my own department to give me more money to do impact evaluations in other departments.

One area that we would really like to go into is our early childhood development programme, which is our second-largest programme that we are spending money on.

As I said, these are long-term projects and we do not have funding to run two of these kind of studies at the same time so we would like to do a good job on this one and to get people interested to see what the value is. (We want) to convince policy makers that having an impact evaluation done on your area is just going to have positive benefits.

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