Year: 2018

Working Paper Number: 414

Unit: FaSRU

Author: Gabby Kelly


This paper explores the ways in which the design and implementation of social assistance policy for people with disability structures family practices and configurations, care arrangements and household composition in South Africa. The paper draws on ethnographic work conducted in a low-income Cape Town community along with interviews with social and healthcare workers and state administrators. Findings show that disability grant income is shared within households and the contribution of a stable income provides opportunities for disabled people to exercise agency, be seen as valuable household members and secure care and support from other household members. However, conflicts may arise over how income is shared and may lead to the extortion, abuse and neglect of disabled people, particularly in cases of severe disablement. Given the lack of adequate social provisioning for those who are able-bodied and unemployed, disability also becomes highly valued in households and the potential suspension or cancellation of a grant can interfere with adherence to treatment. This study emphasises the influence of policy structures and economic conditions on family relations and contributes to the sparse evidence-base on the role that disability welfare benefits play in household dynamics and care outcomes in South Africa.

Publication file:

WP 414-Kelly