The social and economic effects of the disability grant for people with disabilities and their households : a qualitative study in KwaZulu-Natal Province.
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People with disabilities (PWD) face physical and attitudinal barriers to participation in education, the labour market and development processes in general. The social model of disability views this exclusion as disabling and as caused by the way in which society is organised. Combined with the extra costs related to disability, this makes PWD more Vulnerable to poverty, which is exacerbated by the fact that economic and social policies are often seen as being unrelated to each other. In South Africa with its high unemployment and poverty, there is a need for appropriate social assistance for PWD. Currently this is done through a means-tested cash transfer known as the Disability Grant (DG). Yet very little is known about the social and economic effects of the DG. The effects of the state Old Age Pension (OAP) have been well documented regarding, for example, expenditure patterns, utilisation of financial institutions, income-smoothing and household effects. This study aimed to explore whether these effects are similar for DG recipients, including the interaction with disability-related costs and intra-household decision-making processes. It furthermore aimed to explore the relationship between the DG and the labour market. Using qualitative and participatory methods, this study involved people with physical, visual and hearing disabilities who are DG recipients, in eight urban and rural areas of KwaZulu Natal Province. Findings highlighted the complex interactions between the DG recipients, their households, and the physical and attitudinal barriers they face. The grant is primarily used for basic needs (especially food), school expenses, and sometimes water and electricity. It is often consumed in households that have no other or very little income. This means often households remain poor and are vulnerable to financial shocks and debt to cover basic needs. The DG has sometimes contributed to shock mitigation (e.g. through stokvel or funeral policy contributions), but termination of DG for review was in itself a financial shock, necessitating going into debt. The combination of poverty and high unemployment increases reliance on DG by PWD and their household. This interacts with physical and attitudinal barriers and lack of education that hinder PWD from getting employed. Even though some PWD have expressed the desire to work, attempts have been frustrated by barriers faced and because of high general unemployment. This showed that employment of PWD, and possible disincentives to entering employment, must be understood within the current South African context, and that social and economic policies and their effects are inter-related. The research process itself highlighted possible barriers to inclusion of PWD and gives recommendations for more inclusive research processes. The study concludes that while the DG may be one means to inclusion, disability cannot be relegated solely to a social assistance domain. Rather, an intersectoral and 'twin-track' approach IS needed. Intersectoral refers to the collaboration between multiple government departments, private sector and disability organisations. 'Twin-track' refers to the need for programmes and services that are both 'disability targeted' (specific initiatives to empower PWD) and 'disability mainstreamed' (addressing inequalities between disabled and non-disabled people in all general development initiatives). This means that social and economic policies can become more interlinked, and that disability can be integrated into development programmes aimed at addressing poverty and exclusion.