Working Paper

Strengthening Citizenship: Social Grants and the State–Citizen Relationship in South Africa

Published on 1 December 2016

This study uses a citizenship lens to consider the extent to which social grants strengthen or weaken the state–citizen relationship, examining the case of the Child Support Grant in South Africa.

There is a body of literature that stresses the importance of enforceable legal rights to social assistance for building a responsive and effective social assistance system. This literature suggests that there is potential for government-funded social grants to strengthen the relationship between citizen and state, but there is little research into the effect of social grants on this relationship.

I argue that a rights-based framing of social assistance, although an important foundation, does not necessarily guarantee a strong state–citizen relationship. Although the theory of social grants in South Africa supports a concept of participatory, inclusive, dignified and justiciable citizenship for social grant recipients, there appears to be a gap between the policy framework and implementation. Aligning implementation with the policy documents would strengthen the relationship between state and citizen and the recognition of social assistance as a right.


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Hannah Hudson

Programme Officer

Publication details

Hudson, Hannah
IDS Working Paper, issue 482


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Programmes and centres
Centre for Social Protection

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