Social development

The Department of Social Development aims to ensure the provision of comprehensive, integrated, sustainable and quality social-development services that address vulnerability and poverty, and to create an enabling environment for sustainable development in partnership with those committed to building a caring society.


The Children’s Act, 2005 provides for the establishment of the National Child Protection Register that lists all persons found unsuitable to work with children. In terms of this law, childcare facilities, including welfare organisations offering foster care and adoption, are able to check prospective employees, foster parents and adoptive parents against the register. In 2008/09, the Department of Social Development allocated over R22 million towards the protection of children. To get South Africa ready to implement the Children’s Act, 2005, government increased awareness of the legislation and draft regulations while accelerating service delivery to children. The Older Persons Act, 2006 contains provisions to improve the lives of older South Africans. The main objectives of the Act are to:

  • maintain and promote the status, well-being, safety and security of older persons
  • recognise the skills and wisdom of older persons
  • encourage older persons’ participation in community activities to promote them as people.

Payment of social grants

Social-assistance transfers are funded from general revenue and are appropriated on the Vote of the Department of Social Development. Social-assistance cash grants provide targeted income support to those whose livelihoods are most at risk. The available grants are the old-age, disability, child-support, foster-care, care-dependency and war-veterans’ grants, and temporary grant-in-aid relief. In February 2008, the Minister of Finance, Mr Trevor Manuel, announced that the qualifying age for men for old-age pension would be reduced from 65 to 63 in 2008, to 61 in 2009 and to 60 by 2010. More than 2.3 million older persons receive the old-age grant.

Expenditure on social security increased from R36.9 billion in 2003/04, which was 2.9% of gross domestic product (GDP), to a projected R73 billion in 2009/10, constituting 3.1% of GDP. By March 2008, about R12.4 million people were receiving social grants. By October 2008, 8.3 million children were receiving the Child-Support Grant, which is provided to children in need up to the age of 15 years from 1 January 2009. By October 2008, 494 992 children were receiving the Foster- Care Grant. Foster care is a temporary measure until the children reach the age of 18, unless an extension is requested.  By July 2008, 1.4 million people were receiving the Disability Grant.

Social assistance and security fraud

An employment-assistance directorate in the Department of Social Development links social-grant beneficiaries with economic activities and poverty-alleviation strategies, for the possible exit from the social-grants system. In line with this thinking, Cabinet approved, in principle, a proposal to explore possible economic activities and poverty-alleviation strategies for the same purpose. The department’s national facilities to combat fraud and corruption in the social-security system consist of:

  • a toll-free national security fraud hotline (0800 60 10 11) that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • an e-mail address (

As part of the Anti-Corruption and Fraud Prevention Strategy, internal-control systems have been improved and forensic and investigating teams deployed in all provinces. By September 2008, the department had removed 333 233 grants from the system, with an annual value of over R1 billion. It had ensured that 21 189 irregular private beneficiaries and public servants repay illegally obtained grants worth R114 374 million.

War on poverty

In August 2008, government launched the national War on Poverty Campaign to reduce poverty among the country’s poorest citizens. The most deprived households identified in the poorest wards were visited periodically during the campaign by a team of professionals and community workers to identify their specific needs and to accelerate access to government services and provide safety nets. The success of tackling poverty and social exclusion requires that every sector plays its part. “War rooms” that are inclusive of, among other things, government at all levels, business, and voluntary and community organisations have been set up to fight poverty. Local government departments will intervene in areas such as the provision of free basic services, public works and other indigent measures. The War on Poverty Campaign’s unique approach draws on the experience of other focused and targeted initiatives, such as the urban and rural development strategy, Project Consolidate and izimbizo to bring about maximum impact in identified communities.

South Africa is signatory to various international declarations on the promotion and protection of the rights of women and children, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Responding to the impact of HIV and AIDS

The National Strategic Plan for HIV and AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections 2007 to 2011 serves as South Africa’s primary HIV and AIDS policy document. Recognising the growing need to combat the further spread of the epidemic, the plan hinges on four key priorities, namely:

  • prevention
  • treatment, care and support
  • monitoring, research and surveillance
  • human rights and access to justice

The sustained national response is beginning to pay some dividends as data indicates that the infection rate among women younger than 20 has decreased significantly, while the average national HIV prevalence among young pregnant women has shown signs of stabilisation since 2006.

Home-and community-based care (HCBC)

HCBC is based on the premise that vulnerable children and their families are better protected and supported within the context of their communities. As a result, this programme informs one of the main development strategies currently implemented by the Department of Social Development to enable communities and people affected by HIV and AIDS to access social-development services. Norms and standards for the implementation of HCBC and support have been developed to ensure good quality of services and to provide a minimum package of services to be rendered. The norms and standards were based on the evaluation of costs and process indicators for HCBC undertaken in three provinces.

Services to orphans made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS

The Department of Social Development provides care and support to orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS and other circumstances. Childcare forums work hand-in-hand with social workers, welfare organisations and other structures in the community to ensure that the identified children get access to appropriate services.

The department has established a number of community-based drop-in centres where children are provided with meals and lunch boxes before they go to school. Caregivers at the drop-in centres also assist children from child-headed households with homework and involve them in lifeskills programmes. The Department of Social Development is developing a national database of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), which will include child-headed households. The programmes to assist OVC include access to treatment, food, skills training and psycho-social support. By May 2008, some 237 000 vulnerable children had benefited from the department’s OVC programmes, which encourage children from households headed by children to remain within and participate in the communities of their birth. This contributes to integrated community-based care which is in the best interests of the children concerned. Each community should have a childcare forum that works with social workers, welfare organisations and other community structures to ensure that identified OVC receive appropriate services.

National councils

The Department of Social Development strives to strengthen the capacity of civil society to actively engage in social and economic development, by supporting the following national councils:

  • National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities
  • Deaf Federation of South Africa
  • South African National Epilepsy League
  • South African Federation for Mental Health
  • Cancer Association of South Africa

Statutory bodies include the National Development Agency (NDA), relief boards and the Central Drug Authority.

National Development Agency

The NDA is a statutory funding agency that aims to contribute to the alleviation of poverty, address its causes, and strengthen the capacity of civil-society organisations to combat poverty. The key strategic objectives of the NDA are, among other things, to grant funds to civil-society organisations to meet the development needs of poor communities; proactively strengthen organisations’ institutional capacity for long-term sustainability; source funds for the NDA; and promote consultation, dialogue and the sharing of development experiences.

Non-profit organisations (NPOs)

The NPO Act, 1997 mandates the Department of Social Development to contribute towards creating an enabling environment within which NPOs can flourish. The Directorate: NPOs was established in terms of this legislation to manage the registration facility and increase public access to information on registered organisations. The legal mandate requires that the directorate registers organisations within two months after receipt of a complete application and that it provides support for organisations to register and meet reporting requirements. The registration and reporting of organisations has increased substantially since the inception of the Act in 1998. By mid-2007, 44 062 organisations had registered.

  • Sharon

    How can 23million people get a goverment old persons grant, when there are only 48million south africans. This means that almost 50% of the population are over 60?????

  • Editor

    Thanks for the feedback! I am checking this right now – we took our info from the Pocket Guide for South Africa, an official publication.

  • Editor

    The stats department checked the figures and it appears to be a typo. We have updated the info to read 2.3 million people receive the old-age grant.

  • Editor

    The stats department checked the figures and it appears to be a typo. We have updated the info to read 2.3 million people receive the old-age grant.

  • athitheking

    social grant sare just a waste of money and time. elderly people should be getting them and the disabled, but not the un-employed. it unnacceptable for people to sit on their behinds whilst others are working very hard for their incomes. why should they be so special???

  • mpume

    I'm a committed and dedicted third year social work student at UKZN Howard College, and I know about the financial crisis in the country, but never have I been so devasted when I heard that the Social Development has run out fundings. I applied last year for the bursary, and they didn't even bother telling us until our lecture went to a meeting in Pretoria. I'm really dissapointed with the Dept. of Social Development. So many first year sudents have been waiting for these funds.

  • Kips

    What do you mean waste of time and money? Come on there are people who are in dire need of that money,i think you shoul do a reserch about the needs of the people.


    Can the Department hire young energetic people to be able to speed the proper service delivery to the communitties at large.
    The Department to give equal access of service to people to which they are entitled to.
    Create employment which is fairly conducted not with favouritism

  • Vutomi

    i'm a first year student at the university of UL. and if what you are saying is true i'm also devastrated because that basary is the only source that i thought it can make my dreams to come true.

  • 2957730

    I read through everything you wrote, but I have realized that you forgot one of the most important factors influencing crime in our country. Unemployment of youth or young adults. There are thousands of graduates every year who go back to universities to further their studies because they cannot find jobs. As all the jobs need experience, even a mere internship, hence things are getting harder and harder for these people and the best they can be is to be academics. It looks like one has to stay at school become too qualified or look for something that can make fast cash, and thus crime.

  • Thulani Ndlovu

    Good South Africans, let us unite and form a strong foundation in the fight against crime and extreme poverty. if we are to reduce unemploymnet rate, we need to wrok together. As one commentor has said that there are so many graduate every year who make thier way back to Universities to further thier studies just because they can not get employent and as they further thier studies they become over qualified and unemployable an end up being useless academics. So my view is that, those so called acdemics must unite and combine their konwledge and skills from various desciplines and form co-operatives and projects. Let us not wait to be employed, employmnet is within us as academics. Let us utilize the skills and knowledge we aquired at institutions of higher learning.

  • Thulani

    Don't give up Mpume, go ahead with your studies even if there is no bursury you will definitely make it possible. i am also a third year social work student at University of Zululand. how are modules there at UKZN Howrad College?

  • gugu

    we tank derpt tof social development for contribution in assisting community especail where i live my community has obtained an eefective adequety and susstaible service delivery that has improve dthe lifes of our community

  • Am Ayandam

    Thank you for making efforts into helping our people.My concern is with the foster grant
    the children are not given enough counseling,and some people just like to take them in just for the money.I woluid realy like it if the social service could visit them and see if they are still looked after.And sometimes when the children are out of order.Instead of saying they will cut the money,they should send them to stoutskool.

  • Sharon

    My husband and I would very much like to become foster parents as we can not have children of our own but we have no idea how to go about it or where to go?

  • Patricksifiso


  • Fred Coetzee

    where do i apply for approval for supplying food in a Guesthouse

  • Heroncom

    Is “Old Peoples Grant” given in addition to Old Age Pension?

  • Alice

    If someone take these children for money  and abuse them ,she must watch out.GOD is watching.Make sure if you take them you have passion for them and let them feel at home,and enjoy themselves.GOD will bless you.GOD honours orphans.

  • Neondakana

    Free State Department of Social Development

  • Alice

    I read an article on news paper that people must come forward and help headed children.I went to the closest social offices,i was told that they have just transfered kids to the home.I tried from another province to get foster children,they told me they have many unfortunately they cant coz i am from another province,My quest is,should they suffer even if i available to help them?

  • Concerned Being

    why is it that there are times were the government fails to consult the mass of the people about their proposed plan of implementation, where else in their service delivery policy they say people first. This is contradictory…. Im a 21 year old honours student in the department of public administration at the University of Zululand, first the government introduced toll roads without consulting the people, now im not quiet in favour either about the fact that child support grants are heavily misused by mother of the child, but the fact that its not everybody that misuse it, drawing my attention to the poor and needy. Doing my research I just found out that the department of social welfare was ordered by the government to issue birth certificates to mothers that gave birth late last year or for whom ever that wanted a birth certificate for the child the birth certificate was written ” NO GRANT” tell me, what about the one in desperate need…since government is proposing a plan of action in the beginning of March to re-register all those that receive social welfare grants, would there be another time to correct the injustice that the government has done “concerned”………………………………………………………

  • Ari

    Can anyone help me with regards to tax incentives with regards to spend on social development.

  • John Boyce

    Can you assit me with information. I am starting a Social Support Prgramme for our employees and their families and would appreciate any guidlines on how to implement this programme effectively without it been seen as a form of “hand out” or loan facility.

  • Ingrid Bodenstein

    Son in foster care for 2 years. Foster parents took child to hospital, refuses to escort him to Weskoppies. Doesn.t want him back. They’re getting a grant. How do I handle this

  • berta

    Where can we get more info on NPO’s or places of safety in Pretoria for 15 year old son that’s a danger to himself and to scoiety? Need a placa ASAP

  • Joyb2383

    Hi Sharon
    Did anyone reply to your post re foster parents?  I am interested and do not know where to start.

  • Reneesnowwhite

    i just wanna know the social life of africans because i have some project to do can anyone tell me the social life of africans

  • Adrievdm

    Where can I call this Department. I need to register an adoption  by SA parents  in a foreign country of a foreign child in RSA also.

  • xolani

    Im a hard worker and dedicated first year student ( Sociology) at uniZulu who always engage and deal with the crisis that affect community that we live in. I know the human behavior and social interaction of the people is different so may you allow me to improve my skill by helping those people who need help. My you allow me to do an internship to social development