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Civil society and social grants: a case study of civil society organisations and the child support grant during the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa.

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The COVID-19 lockdown regulations promulgated by the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (No.57 of 2002) Amendment of Regulations issued in terms of Section 27 (2) has led to a dramatic loss of income and presents an extraordinary challenge to the livelihoods of the vulnerable. The level 5 lockdown was implemented to prevent the virus from spreading through the regulations, which included the closure of businesses and schools, restrictions on travel and transportation, and orders to remain at home, causing overwhelming economic and social disruptions mostly affecting children and caregivers as beneficiaries of the Child Support Grant (CSG). The study seeks to explore the impact of the COVID-19 level 5 lockdown regulations on CSG beneficiaries and the role played by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on the CSG during the lockdown. The study adopted an interpretative approach whilst using a qualitative methodology to explore the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown regulations on CSG beneficiaries, and the role played by CSOs in the CSG programme. The study is a desktop research; therefore, non-probability purposive sampling and theoretical sampling for documents was used to select relevant primary and secondary studies with sufficient data to address the research questions. The study uses a qualitative content analysis data collection method to collect data from books, journals, government legislation, newspaper articles, reports from government departments and Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs), and relevant websites to provide in-depth descriptions of the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on CSG beneficiaries and CSOs' advocacy role in the CSG programme. Therefore, qualitative content analysis is used to analyze and organise data extracted from primary and secondary sources into themes related to the conceptual framework and the research questions of this study. The implementation of the CSG programme, as the focus of the study, was analyzed within the conceptual framework of public policy implementation which comprises numerous actors’ involvement. Additionally, the study uses the conceptual framework of civil society, which involves policy advocacy to understand the involvement of CSOs, the advocacy role and strategies of CSOs in the CSG. The findings of this study portray that CSOs influence the implementation of the CSG programme, and play both advocacy and watchdog roles. Furthermore, invented spaces of participation through virtual platforms such as media campaigns, evidence-based research, online petitions, lobbying through litigation, and submissions were utilised by CSOs to pressure the government to top up the CSG and for the public to contribute to the design of the social assistance policy response during level 5 lockdown. The CSOs proposed the CSG top-up of R500 per recipient. However, government implemented the CSG top-up or R500 per caregiver from June to October. Whilst CSOs contributed to the social assistance policy response during lockdown, they experienced challenges such as lack of advocacy capacity, lack of public awareness of online petitions, the digital divide, and lack of data and lack of communication between respective stakeholders and the public in executing advocacy activities.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.