9/10 JUNE 2003


Fax: (021) 403 2725 FAX: (021) 488 9042
TEL: (021) 403 3663 TEL: (021) 488 9034

TO: Social Development Portfolio Committee

Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (RAPCAN)


RAPCAN is an acronym for Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. Since the organisation was started in 1989 by the University of Cape Town’s Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, it has focussed its attention primarily on child abuse prevention. This focus was (and still is) made tangible by means of training and awareness workshops, and the production and dissemination of resources. In the last few years, with a changed political situation in South Africa, this focus has expanded and incorporated legislative advocacy. Even more recently, RAPCAN has moved into providing support for children entering the criminal justice system.

RAPCAN was registered as a Section 21 Company (i.e. a not-for-gain company in terms of the South African Companies Act) in 1997, and registered as a non-profit organisation (NPO number 010-744). The Board of Directors consists of 9 members, and there are 14 staff members. The office is in Observatory, in Cape Town in the Western Cape, although RAPCAN works nationally and indeed throughout the SADC region.

Our definition of "child" is a person under the age of 18 years. Our definition of child abuse is premised on and informed by the basic children’s rights enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified by South Africa in 1995) and the Organisation of African Unity Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the African Child (ratified by South Africa in 2000). Thus it encompasses all aspects of violations of children’s rights.

strategic responses to the enormous problems faced by South African children aim to tackle these from both a preventative and a rehabilitative perspective, and focus on training and awareness-raising interventions. The workshops that we run are aimed at both adults and children, and deal with awareness, personal safety, causes, identification, legal issues, medical issues and criminal justice issues with regard to child abuse and neglect. We also offer self-esteem and child rights workshops to children, and sexuality education workshops to adolescents. For teachers, particularly, we offer workshops on positive discipline.

To expand upon and complement the work that we undertake by training and raising awareness, we run a Resource Centre through which we make available, disseminate and produce resources; we actively engage in advocacy aimed at ensuring an appropriate legislative and policy framework for the protection and promotion of children’s rights; and we are involved in rehabilitation, particularly with regard to the Criminal Justice System.

Poverty and Abuse of Children

The Taylor Committee of Inquiry into a Comprehensive Social Security System for South Africa (henceforth referred to as the Taylor Committee), have raised some important issues around poverty and the socio-economic impact it is having on our country. Poverty has a number of consequences for children. Therefore if the needs of the most vulnerable of society are to be met adequately, South Africa needs to implement a comprehensive social security system.

The South African Constitution Act 108 of 1996 recognises the special needs of children and includes their rights in Section 28. These rights are further protected from progressive realisation, the limitation placed on other rights. This protection indicates the state’s duty to ensure that these rights are realised, upheld and protected. At present one can debate the extent to which these rights have been realised.

The Current Child Support Grant

If one uses the poverty measure of R490 per capita per month there are 14.3 million children between the ages 0 - 17 who live in poverty . Of these 14.3 million less than a third are eligible to receive state support in the form of the Child Support Grant (CSG), this translates to approximately 9.5 million children without access. The recent extension of the CSG to 14 years is meant to reduce this lack of access to the CSG. However a child of 12 years old is likely to never receive a CSG as the figure below indicates.


Grant Extension Age

Child Y age

Receive grant: Yes

Receive grant: No


9 and under





11 and under





14 and under


X – until 14 then not eligible any longer


Figure 1
Bureaucratic obstacles and this phasing in policy equates to a large number of families not receiving any form of assistance for the well-being of their children. And yet the state has recognised (in the White Paper for Social Welfare) that the well being of children depends on the ability of families to function effectively . South Africa’s legacy of apartheid has created a society of inequities; government’s fragmented response has exacerbated the inequalities. Inadequate implementation has prevented the realisation of the Rights enshrined in the Constitution. This has been recognised by the Taylor Committee, which acknowledges that government has well conceived plans for poverty alleviation, but argues that lack of co-ordination at the level of implementation and bureaucratic shortcomings have lead to the failure of these plans.

Poverty: the effects
This failure to achieve poverty alleviation has knock on effects that are not always immediately identifiable as poverty related. Poverty stricken families with children are under immense pressure. Children require nutrition, shelter, education and healthcare, which these families are unable to provide. An un-met need increase the stresses within a family and increase the vulnerability of children to abuse. A family faced with dire poverty may find no other alternative than to send their children out to work so that there is some income for the family. This, in turn, interferes with the children’s education and exposes them to potential labour abuses and sexual exploitation. Furthermore if a family is living in poverty, it is likely that there will be malnutrition, since poor income leads to an inability to buy nutritious foodstuffs. If there is no money for food, there is no money for education.

Neglect may also become prevalent, as the parents may be out for long hours of the day trying to garner some form of income. A parent may return from a long day of working or looking for work, and are faced with hunger their own and their children’s and have no way to satisfy it, this increases the stresses and tensions. This creates a volatile situation, in which children are often the recipients of a parents frustrations and anger. But why do these stresses cause abuse towards children? "A desire to have control leads to violence.". If parents have no control over their situation, they may feel frustrated and angry and need to take control over something, and children bear the brunt of this ‘control’. As Miller points out ‘Among the adults true motives, we find the need to find an outlet for repressed affect, the need to possess and have at one’s disposal a vital object to manipulate, as well as revenge for the pain one has suffered.’.

Children who are faced with such abject poverty at home are more inclined to leave the home and try to find an income or support themselves on the street. Alternatively a family may feel that their only option is to use a child as a means of income, be it through labour or commercial sex. Poverty remains as the result of our history and has created a climate which increases children’s vulnerability to abuse and neglect. There appear to be clear links between it and the rise in the rates of violence as larger numbers of South Africans become increasingly economically disempowered and poor . Child abuse is further compounded through institutional abuse, due to the bureaucracy surrounding the limited access to current grants. Furthermore the bureaucratic obstacles and limited access to grants lay the government open to charges of structural abuse (structural abuse is where the state is a perpetrator of abuse against children, such as: legislation that does not protect the vulnerability of children).

International Obligations to Children
The South African Government needs to give effect to its promises and international obligations towards children, as accepted through their ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Right’s of the Child (ratified in 1995), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (signed in 1997) Furthermore, these treaties and international norms and standards are legally binding on South Africa . The strong need to address poverty for children has been recognised by the Taylor Committee which says that it is "of the view that strategies to address child poverty must be part of the overall strategy to alleviate and reduce poverty." .

If the government is serious about creating ‘a better life for all’, then poverty alleviation is the first step towards such a life. A comprehensive Social Security System would alleviate much more than poverty. Especially for children.

Discussion of the Taylor Committee Recommendations
The Committee has recognised the obligation of the Constitution to protect children. It has also drawn attention to the impact that poverty has on children later in adult life. We commend and fully support the Taylor Committee for recognising the needs of children and for recognising that these needs have an impact on society as a whole as a child grows and joins society as an adult.

The Committee has addressed a number of the current issues regarding social assistance grants for children and their families. In the next section of this document we discuss their findings on, namely the Care Dependency Grant (CDG) and the CSG.

Care Dependency Grant
As indicated above children have a number of needs that should be met. These needs are increased when a child is chronically ill, or disabled. At present the CDG is very subjective, due to lack of clear definitions: the assessment test is open to personal interpretation, by the health officer, it is available only to children with severe disabilities who are permanently at home. This excludes a number of children with mild disabilities who may attend day-care facilities. It also does not benefit most children living with HIV/AIDS only those who are in the final stages of the disease and so bedridden benefit from the CDG. The Taylor Committee has recommended that a way of alleviating this situation is to increase the CSG to all children 0-18 years, and to give free health services to all children . We fully support this recommendation as it will relieve the financial burdens of health care on a family. By relieving this pressure the risk of abuse and neglect of disabled children is decreased.

Child Support Grant
It is worrying that the Taylor Committee does not comprehensively discuss the CSG, thought it is mentioned frequently in their report. However they have recognised throughout their Report that a comprehensive CSG is needed. They have said that if the CSG is to have any impact on the needs of children, it needs to be extended to all children between the ages 0-18 - see Chapter 7 ‘Protecting Children’. But it does not indicate how this will be done. There is a recommendation that the process for accessing the CSG should be simplified, to allow orphaned children and child-headed households easier access to this lifeline. To make access to grants easier the Taylor Committee argues that "the most efficient, developmentally the most effective and fairest way forward is to abolish all means tests and to recover the costs through increases in taxes.". RAPCAN wishes to draw attention to the fact that it is not just orphaned and child-headed households that battle to access the CSG, this is indicated by the high numbers of needy children without access to the current CSG some are technically eligible and others are not. We believe that the removal of the means test would allow easier access for all children to the CSG.

There is confusion about who is responsible for the simplification and implementation plans of the CSG. To clarify the picture, it appears that the Taylor Committee referred the issue to the South African Law Commission (SALC) because it was working on the new Children’s Bill . The SALC made the following recommendations in their report:
Social security for children be regulated by the new Children’s Bill
The responsible Departments at national and provincial level when preparing their budgets must consider and determine their funding requirements for the implementation of the Children’s Bill (this would then include social security for children)
The Director-General of Social Development must establish and administer a social security scheme within the Departments resources to pay the grants, subsidies and service fees in respect of children
That costs involved in means testing diverts funds from the actual recipients .
The removal of the means test

We particularly support these suggestions in so far as they are aimed at streamlining the processes of application and access to CSG. We support the removal of the means test for the CSG and its immediate implementation to all children up the age of 18.

South Africa is a wealthy nation and this has been recognised by our inclusion in the international arena in such forums as the G8. There is therefore no reason for the continued stunting and abuse of children due poverty. South Africa needs to address poverty practically, effectively and not merely theoretically. The programmes for poverty alleviation that government has to date implemented have not effectively achieved their ultimate objectives. Government has poured funds into projects that have been slow and cumbersome in reaching even the minimum of poverty alleviation. Government needs to recognise and respond practically to the recommendations of the Taylor Committee. It should not merely put them on the back burner, as yet another report from yet another commission. The recommendations of the Committee are echoed, not just by organs of civil society and the people on the ground. They have been endorsed by the SALC in the Children’s Bill, and by the South African Human Rights Commission 4th Economic and Social Rights report, p229.

Children are part of a unit or community, where there are adults who are also in need. The extension of the Child Support Grant needs to be seen as the first step towards a comprehensive poverty alleviation mechanism such as a Basic Income Grant. To address poverty at all levels, and for all people, will further reduce the vulnerability of children to abuse. Therefore the recommendations made by the Taylor Committee in their report document, needs to be seen as a document which informs governments policymaking. And in turn a means to develop policy that will inform legislation. This will ensure that bills presently being drafted or interrogated are not prevented from being enacted due to a lack of policy to inform them.

We are in the middle of ‘Child Protection Month’ and yet there continues to be merely lip service paid to addressing the actual needs of children. The Portfolio Committee is asked not only to read over the report and its recommendations, but also to consider the implications for all South Africans if these recommendations are not acted upon soon.

Yours truly,

Carol Bower Rosemary Bulman
Executive Director Student Intern