The 2024 Commonwealth Short Story Prize is open for submissions. Enter now

Basic income support in the context of Covid-19 and beyond

This project is funded by extra-budgetary resources provided by the Government of Canada.
  • Amount funded: £29,650
  • Year: 2021
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Locations: South Africa
  • Grant stream: Annual Grants Call

Many working age adults in South Africa who benefited from the government’s Social Relief of Distress package, introduced to alleviate the social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, will be without income support once the extension of the grant ends on 31 March 2022.

Project partners
Black Sash
View more detail
How we are helping

This project will facilitate engagement between civil society and government to advocate for basic income support for those aged 18-59 years with little or no income.

About the project

In South Africa, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the triple challenge already faced of poverty, inequality and unemployment: 40% of the population are chronically poor.

Section 27 of the 1996 South African Constitution makes provision for social security ‘including appropriate social assistance if they are unable to support themselves.’ The current programme provides income support for around 18 million elderly, children and persons with disabilities. Notably excluded from these packages are able bodied persons aged 18 to 59, frequently impacted by structural unemployment, inequality and poverty.

In April 2020, the South African government introduced a Social Relief of Distress (SRD) package to respond to the social impacts of the pandemic, including monthly grants for those with zero income and a caregivers grant for those already receiving the child support grant.

Over 8.6 million people applied for the Covid-19 SRD grant but only 4.2 million were successful, with many facing challenges accessing the digital application platform. A further 188,000 refugees, asylum seekers and migrants with special permits won the right to receive income support through a court order. Grants under the SRD package have now ended, leaving many adults of working age without income support.

This project aims to improve social assistance for those aged 18-59 years with little or no income by advocating for basic income support.

It will achieve this by:

  • Conducting a research study on the impact, policy framework and delivery systems of the new adult social grants among three beneficiary groups: recipients of the Covid-19 support grant, women receiving child support grants on behalf of children in their care (who were excluded from the Covid SRD grant between November 2020 and July 2021) and the refugee/migrant cohort.
  • Using the research to inform a basic income support (BIS) awareness campaign working in partnership with civil society organisations (CSOs) and networks to develop messaging, create information materials and distribute to targeted audiences via a range of platforms.
  • Engaging with senior officials at the Department of Social Development, National Treasury and the Social Development Portfolio Committee to advocate for more inclusive social assistance including BIS.
Project Partners
Black Sash

Black Sash protects, realises and advances socio-economic rights. It ensures that legislation, policy and systems better protect and advance the rights of the poor and that civil society and an active citizenry claim their rights and hold governments to account. Black Sash do this through advocacy campaigns; community-based monitoring and research; and rights information and education. It previously delivered the Hands Off Our Grants (HOOG) campaign (2013-2018) to stop unlawful and fraudulent deductions from grants given to social security beneficiaries. Black Sash has worked in the area of social security for many years including campaigning for basic income support.

Commonwealth Foundation logo

We support people's participation in democracy and development by providing grants, platforms, and expertise.