Social development

Social Development

Official Guide to South Africa 2021/22 - Social DevelopmentThe Department of Social Development (DSD) provides social protection services and leads  government’s efforts to forge partnerships  through which vulnerable individuals, groups and communities become capable and active participants in the development of themselves and society.

The social development function facilitates access to social grants and welfare services to reduce poverty and inequality, protect children, and empower women, youth and people with disabilities.

Several pieces of legislation determine the department’s mandate, a number of which are under review, are the:

  • Nonprofit Organisations Act of 1997 establishes  an administrative and regulatory framework within which non‐profit  organisations  (NPOs)  can conduct their affairs, and provides for their registration by the department;
  • 1997 White Paper for Social Welfare sets  out the principles,  guidelines, policies and programmes for developmental social welfare in South Africa;
  • 1998 White Paper on Population Policy for South Africa is  aimed at promoting the sustainable  development of all South Africans  by integrating population issues with development planning in all spheres of government and all sectors of society;
  • Social Assistance Act of 2004 provides a legislative  framework for the provision of social  assistance. The Act and its  regulations set  out different types of grants payable,  including those for social  relief,  and their qualifying criteria;
  • Children’s Act of 2005, as amended, gives effect to certain rights of children as contained in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996,  and sets out principles and processes  relating to their care and protection;
  • Older Persons Act of 2006 is aimed at maintaining and promoting the rights, status,  well-being, safety and security of older people. It provides for older people to enjoy quality services  while staying with their families and in their communities for as long as possible, and to live in residential care facilities;
  • Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act  of  2008  and associated regulations  provide a legal  framework for the establishment, registration and monitoring of in‐patient treatment centres and halfway houses. Over the medium-term period, the department planned to focus on: providing income support  to  the  poor  and  vulnerable;  providing developmental social welfare services  and increased  access to services; supporting and monitoring the implementation of policies, legislation, norms and standards for the provision of social  welfare  services to children;  addressing  gender‐based violence and femicide (GBVF), HIV  and AIDS  and other social  ills;  and building sustainable communities.

Income support to the poor and vulnerable

The social assistance programme is an important element in government’s strategy to tackle poverty and inequality. This programme has proved vital in mitigating the severe effects of th Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) lockdown restrictions, which led to many job losses.

As the elderly population – people older than 60 – is expected to increase  by 3%  per year over the medium term, the number of beneficiaries who receive old-age grants is expected to increase  from 3.9  million in 2021/22 to four million in 2024/25.

Similarly, as the child population is expected to increase  from 20.9 million in 2021/22 to 21.3  million in 2024/25,  the number of beneficiaries who receive the child support grant is set to increase from 13.3 million in 2021/22 to 13.9 million in 2024/25.

Developmental social welfare services and increased access to services The shift of the Early Childhood Development function to the Department of Basic Education has created capacity for the department to prioritise other aspects of social welfare. Accordingly, over the medium term, the department planned to focus on developing and coordinating overarching policies, legislative frameworks,  norms and standards that  promote integrated, quality‐driven, professional and accountable service delivery.

This includes finalising the draft White Paper for Social Development, amending the  Older  Persons   Act  of  2006,   training  social   workers   to  render  adoption services  in line with the Children’s  Amendment Act of 2016,  and strengthening the department’s monitoring of how the Social Service Professions Act of 1978 is implemented by institutionalising the oversight role of the South African Council for Social  Service  Professions.

Addressing GBVF, HIV and AIDS and other social ills

The provision of psychosocial services by social service practitioners is a key contribution of the sector  in the fight against  GBVF,  and HIV  and AIDS. The department aims to address the social and structural drivers of HIV and AIDS.

Sustainable communities to reduce poverty

The DSD continues to profile vulnerable households and communities to determine their socio-economic needs and create structures and enhance capacity in communities to reduce social ills.  The department supports civil-society organisations that focus on initiatives that aim to improve livelihoods.


South African Social Security Agency (SASSA)

The SASSA Act of 2004 provides for the establishment of the SASSA, the objectives of which are to ensure effective and efficient administration, management and payment of social assistance. The agency administers and pays social assistance transfers to qualifying beneficiaries.  It has a large network of centres where citizens can apply for social grants.

The agency is currently able to process applications online only for the child support grant, old age grant and foster care grant. To increase efficiencies in the distribution of social grants, the agency will focus on modernising its disbursement system to extend to all grant applications. The new, automated system is expected to be complete by 2024/25.

By  mid-2022, the agency’s business processreengineering project,  which began in 2021, was  still  under way.The  project mainly involves  mapping the agency’s  current operating model, developing a blueprint for staff organisational structures and capacity, and developing norms and standards for future operating procedures. The aim of the project, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2022/23, is to ensure that the agency is fit for purpose and has systems in place to improve its efficiency.

To become more customer‐centric, the agency plans to consolidate its existing communications channels into a single platform. This entails the introduction of an integrated call centre to serve as a single point of contact for all incoming and outgoing communications, and provide a single view of beneficiaries and real‐time access to their information.

National Development Agency (NDA)

The NDA is a schedule 3A public entity established in terms of the NDA Act of 1998.  Its  primary mandate is  to contribute towards  the eradication of poverty and its  causes  by  granting funds  to civil  society  organisations  to implement development projects in poor communities.

To inform government’s  response to alleviating poverty and facilitating development, over the medium-term period, the agency will partner with research and academic  institutions to produce a targeted 11 research  publications and host dialogues to debate the findings, which will eventually inform policy.


Working together with provincial departments of social development, the SASSA and the NDA, the DSD has intensified its contributions towards interventions that address the impact of poverty, inequality and unemployment by:

  • continuously improving the implementation, quality,  and reach  of  all  social development services  for each South African and towards the realisation of a society-wide impact;
  • strengthening its fight against GBVF by means of implementing the National Strategic Plan on GBVF;
  • establishing beneficial and sustainable linkages between the implementation of Social   Development services and economic opportunities, particularly through creating and supporting the participation of beneficiaries in the social economy;
  • continuing with the implementation of the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant;
  • ensuring that our programme implementation embodies the protection and furtherance of the dignity of our people;
  • leading the formation of community-targeted and strong people-public-private civil-academic-multilateral partnerships and social  compacting in areas  such as tackling gangsterism, substance abuse, GBVF, and the impact of disasters, shocks  and emergencies;
  • expanding our support for food- and nutrition-provision interventions in pursuit of ending the pain of hunger as well as undoing the effects of malnutrition;
  • implementing social development programmes through the Cabinet-adopted

District Development Model;

  • strengthening government’s coordination and implementation mechanisms across the three spheres in service of the people; and
  • stabilising and strengthening institutional governance and capacity towards meaningful programme implementation throughout the social development portfolio, in the face of the rising cost of basic food items and energy sources.

Social security

The percentage of individuals that benefited from social grants steadily increased from 12,8% in  2003  to  approximately  31%   between 2017  and  2019  before increasing sharply to 35,7% in 2021, according to Statistics South Africa’s  (Stats SA) General Household Survey of 2021. This growth was tracked closely by that of households that received at least one social grant (growing 30,8% in 2003 to 45,5% in 2019, and 50,6% in 2021).

Grant beneficiaries were most common in Eastern Cape (47,8%) and Limpopo (46,5%) and least  widespread in Gauteng (23,6%) and Western Cape  (26,2%).

Households that received at least one type of social grant were most common in Mpumalanga (65,8%), Limpopo (65,1%), and Eastern Cape (63,3%), and least common in Gauteng (38,4%) and Western Cape (38,7%).

The SRD Grant of R350  per month was introduced in 2020 in an attempt to offset  the impact of COVID-19. Nationally,  5,8% of respondents  received  the grant in 2021 compared to 5,3% in 2020. The highest uptake in 2021 was noted in Mpumalanga and Limpopo (both 9,5%), while the grants were least common in Western Cape (2,8%)  and Gauteng (4,0%).

About 25,2% of all individuals,  and 38,9% of all households in metropolitan areas  received some kind of social grant (compared to 35,7% of individuals and 50,6% of households nationally). Individual grant receipt was highest in Buffalo City (35,3%) and Mangaung (32,6%) and least common in Johannesburg (24,0%) and Tshwane (25,8%).

The receipt of one or more social  grants was  most common for households in Buffalo  City (62,2%) and Nelson Mandela Bay  (48,0%) and least common in Tshwane (36,1%) and the City of Johannesburg (39,1%).

National Youth Policy (NYP)

The NYP  2020-2030, also referred to as the NYP  2030, is a cross-sectoral policy aimed at affecting positive youth development outcomes for young people at local, provincial and national levels in South Africa.

Developed by the Department of Women, Youth and Persons  with Disabilities, in collaboration with multiple stakeholders  and young people,  the policy was developed to redress the wrongs and injustices of the past and to deal decisively with the persistent as well as new and emerging challenges they are facing. The NYP  2030 defines young people as those aged between 14 and 35.

Blind SA

Blind SA is an organisation for the blind and is governed by the blind. Situated in Johannesburg, it is aligned with  other  member organisations  throughout South  Africa. The organisation provides,  among other things, study bursaries for visually  impaired students for further education, Braille  publications in all of South Africa’s  official languages, Braille  training that entails writing and reading, and orientation and mobility training.

It equips blind people with the skills they need to fully and independently participate in society.   This includes support in living without assistance, getting about, using technology, reading, working and socialising.  All this is made possible through advocacy, the Education Committee, Braille  Services, orientation and mobility services  and the employment programme. It is through this, and the support of donors, that Blind SA connects blind or visually impaired South Africans with the world they live in.

South African Braille Authority (SABA)

SABA is the standard setting body for and promotes and advocates for Braille and Braille-related  matters in South Africa. The non-profit organisation advocates, promotes, monitors and evaluates for the ubiquitous use of Braille through literacy and the various facets and applications.

South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB)

The SANCB is a registered non-profit and public benefit organisation established in 1929 with the core objectives of advocacy and promoting the rights of persons with visual impairments, prevention, inclusion and support. As a South African national representative body for the blind, it offers a supportive, rights driven function to its nearly 80 member member-organisations.

The presence of its community work is felt throughout its nine provincial structures in South Africa.  The SANCB also lays emphasis on the prevention of blindness and in 1944 the Bureau for the Prevention of Blindness was established.

Support for the hearing impaired

The South African National Deaf Association (SANDA) is dedicated to providing quality services, ensuring public accessibility and increasing awareness of issues affecting Deaf people at all levels in South Africa. The mandate of SANDA is to:

  • build capacity in the Deaf sector;
  • influence public policies;
  • set the agenda for meaningful inclusive development; and
  • provide comprehensive human development services that benefit Deaf people at all levels of society.

Older people

According Statistics South Africa’s Mid-year population estimates of 2022, about 9,2% (5,59  million) of the population is 60 years  or older. South Africa’s Older Persons Act of 2006, which came into operation in 2010, recognises the importance of older persons in the country’s democracy and development.

The Active Ageing Programme was introduced by the DSD in partnership with the South African Older Persons Forum to uphold the human rights of older persons and to respond to their developmental needs in South Africa as directed by the Older Persons  Act of 2006 and the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing.

Its goal is to improve the quality of life of older persons by amongst others, promoting independence, participation in various social, cultural and sporting initiatives that seek to prevent and reduce old-age related burden of diseases.

This is part of the DSD’s effort to build a caring society that promotes and protects the human rights of people of all ages.

Golden Games, which are part of the Active Ageing Programme, encourage senior citizens to be active and promote longer life for the aged. They participate in different sporting activities like soccer, athletics and a fun walk.

Source: Official Guide to South Africa 2021/22