Pensioners and food security: Part 1
The story below was on iol.co.za on the weekend (Link).
Older people with fixed incomes are particularly vulnerable to food and other price increases. Additionally, as the article points out - the burden of child care often falls on grandparents - but the State is likely to be cutting grandparents’ access to foster-child grants. I haven’t looked into this decision, but it does not seem to recognise the reality of many households in SA.
(Also interesting was this: ‘“If you own a car, the petrol price will eventually drop and you will save. But taxi fares are typically sticky and won’t go down,” said Hardien.’ - So, if you are poor, you are likely to be spending more of your monthly income on food and transport (both because of income amounts, and because of higher real costs of transport and food if you live in peripheral areas). You are also less likely to have access to private transport and therefore are less likely to benefit from drops in fuel prices.
“Cape Town - Pensioners are battling to make ends meet as food and transport prices soar. To make matters worse, the growing drug and alcohol scourge means more children are being taken care of by their grandparents, putting a further strain on their meagre R1 200 state pensions.
To compound the problem, a recent Johannesburg High Court ruling could mean about 300 000 grandparents will lose more than half of their R770 foster-care grants.
A judgment determined that grandparents no longer qualify for foster-child grants. This means they will only be able to access the child-support grant for children in their care. At a monthly rate of R280, this grant is considerably less than the monthly foster-child grant of R770.
International Day of Older Persons was this week, but many pensioners have little, if anything, to celebrate.
Economist Adenaan Hardien said up to 80 percent of pensions was spent on food, leaving little for other needs.
Pat Lindgren, director of the non-profit Action on Elder Abuse, said the rising drug epidemic was resulting in more cases of elderly abuse, as adult children forced their parents to hand over money to feed their drug habit, and often they left their own children in the care of their pensioner parents.
She said many elderly people lived in terrible conditions.
Social Development spokeswoman Melany Kuhn said pensioners across the province were being bullied out of their pension grants by children or grandchildren.
Lindgren said: “Most of the community knows when the pension is paid out. The elderly are soft targets.”
The problem was magnified when grandparents were forced to look after entire households, with not only grandchildren but extended families living off their social pensions.
Lindgren added that she had seen many cases where grandparents were conned out of their houses and thrown on to the streets, often by their own relatives.
The major concern was that cases of abuse went unreported for a variety of reasons.
“Often it’s because they are embarrassed because it is their own children hurting them. They blame themselves for their children’s behaviour,” said Lindgren.
“What we know is only the surface; we don’t know the full extent of what is going on.”
But abuse extended beyond just the monetary needs of the community and family members.
Lindgren said people did not know how to look after pensioners. “I’ve seen cases where pensioners have been locked in their homes and starved for weeks,” she said.
“Older people need to be taken care of and this is not happening.”
Hardien said social pensions were not keeping up with the cost of living.
“Necessities such as food and transport represent a much higher proportion of [social pensioners’] expenses than it would for people in a higher income bracket,” said Hardien.
Rising petrol costs meant taxi and bus fares were more costly.
“If you own a car, the petrol price will eventually drop and you will save. But taxi fares are typically sticky and won’t go down,” said Hardien.
Kuhn said Social Development had 200 day centres across the province which took care of pensioners.
“We encourage older persons to attend these centres every day. Here they have access to a basket of social services, a hearty meal, a network of peers, and above all a safe space.
“At these service centres, the older persons are encouraged to speak out about abuse in the home, whether its physical, verbal, emotional or economic abuse.”
University of Cape Town