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.