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Child Maintenance Grants
(runs 27:30)


Originally Aired:

Date: 13 April 2009
Program: Your Rights,
Right Now!
Station: BASE fm, 106.2


Child Maintenance Grants

Supporting Orphans and Vulnerable Children one Child at a Time
Listen now to the podcast!

We all know someone whose parent has died while they were still in school. Many of us have lost a parent ourselves at a young age.

In Namibia, the statistics are shocking. HIV and AIDS, motor vehicle accidents, TB, malaria, violent crime and many other factors are causing thousands of children to be orphaned at record rates.

In fact, by the end of the decade, it’s estimated that there will be 206 thousand orphans under the age of 18 in Namibia. That’s enough orphans to fill the town of Windhoek.

But what happens to a child after a parent dies?
How does the government help orphans?

On Your Rights, Right Now we’re looking at child welfare grants, one of the ways government is confronting the growing number of ophans and vulnerable children across the nation.

TRANSCRIPT
INTRO MUSIC: 'PIGEON
SCENE 1 - PRESENTER:
Welcome to Your Rights, Right Now – a show that tackles various human rights issues throughout Namibia.
I’m Willem Veiko.

I was recently told the government would give me $200 a month.
$200 for just being me?
$200 to spend how ever I wanted?
Why was the government willing to give me this money?

You see, I’m still 18. And apparently I fall into a category that would make me eligible to receive a child welfare grant. I wanted to know more.

Today on Your Rights, Right Now, we’re looking at how government is trying to help families by offering child welfare grants.

We’ll meet a representative from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare who is responsible for distributing these grants. We’ll meet a community educator who offers information workshops on how to access the money.

But first, we’re going to a centre that cares for orphans and vulnerable children in Hakahana.

The number of orphans and vulnerable children in Namibia is growing at an alarming rate. It’s estimated that there are about 140,000 children classified as orphans. This means that they have lost one or both of their biological parents before the age of 18.

As we’re about to learn, when a parent dies, life becomes much harder for a child.
In this report, Nunu takes us to Family Hope Services and learns about a program assisting orphans and vulnerable children and hears about some of the challenges the children are facing.

SCENE 2 - NEWS REPORT, FAMILY HOPE SERVICES
REPORTER - SCENE A

The children at Family Hope Services in Hakahana are celebrating. At this kindergarten, another week of learning is complete. On this Friday morning, 100 or more children recite numbers, shapes and rhymes. And that’s reason to clap, sing and dance.

Looking at the smiles across their faces, it’s hard to believe this group of 4 and 5 year olds have witnessed tragedy so early in their lives.

Foibe Silvanus, who has worked with the children at Family Hope Services for the last four years, explains that counseling is also offered for children who have gone through traumatic experiences.

VOX POP: FOIBE
“Some of the children have lost one parent or both parents. If a parent passed away, so they have to be handed to another family, so they have to get a family where they can get taken care of. These children really suffer a lot emotionally and physically because they’re going to be put in a family where they don’t know about.”

REPORTER: SCENE B
Family Hope Services goes straight to the heart of addresses poverty and caring for needy children. About 450 children are registered with Family Hope Services and benefit from the kindergarten, the after school program, the feeding program, the remedial program, or the community garden.

The government is also taking aim at assisting families who are taking care of children in need.

Now when a child’s parent dies, they are eligible to receive a child welfare grant from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare. The grants, which are paid once a month, help someone earning a low income pay for a child’s basic needs, such as food or school fees.

VOX POP: FOIBE
“A challenge is always there, you find a time that a child is staying here in Windhoek but the person who is responsible to get the grant is in Owamboland. Then it’s very difficult for that child to be taken care of because the person who is getting the money is in Owamboland. And sometime the families don’t want to give death certificates so the child can apply for the grant.”

REPORTER: SCENE C
You just heard Foibe speaking about missing a death certificate.

This is required when applying for the child welfare grant. Other documents such as birth certificates, school reports and IDs are also required during the application process. If these documents are missing, the money will not be granted.

That’s the reality for about 30 children who would otherwise be eligible to receive the grant here at Family Hope Services.

VOX POP: FOIBE
“What I need NGOs or the government to do is disseminate the information because there is not much information about the grants. If they can do workshops or outreach to the community than they can realize that okay, this is the right way for me to go and apply for the grant.”

REPORTER: SCENE D
As you can hear, the children at Family Hope Services - the orphans and vulnerable children, continue to laugh, dance and sing. These are the people the Ministry is aiming to assist, and in the majority of cases, the Ministry is successful.

Now, if the final few children could also find a way of accessing these grants, in some small way these children’s lives too would be improved.

For Your Rights, Right Now, I’m Nunu.

SCENE 3: PRESENTER:
Thanks Nunu.

Like the many children of FHS and thousands of children across Namibia, I have also lost a parent.

I’ve learned that these child welfare grants that Nunu mentioned in her report are received by more than 120 thousand children across the country.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare actually break the grants into three grants that that families taking care of vulnerable children can access. And it’s true, the government will pay $200 for a child who is eligible for the grants. If a family takes care of more than one child eligible for the grant, an additional $100 per child will be paid. That means if I’m taking care of three children and all of them qualify for the grant, you’ll receive $400 per month.

MUSIC BREAK - LUCKY DUBE

Of course, to qualify for the grants, there’s paperwork required. And documents that are needed. But once all the correct information and documents are presented to an office of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, it would take one to two months for the application to be processed and then the regular monthly cheques would start arriving.

Recently, a member of the Your Rights, Right Now team met with Lucia Eises of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare to find out how people could access these grants. She explains who the government gives out these grants to:

VOX POP: LUCIA EISES
“The Child is the beneficiary of the grant. You are just the administrator. Again, by law, a child under the age of 18 needs to be cared for by an adult person. Therefore we don’t pay the money directly to the child who is the beneficiary. But the caregiver, who is everyday with the child and who knows the needs the needs of the child and we expect them to apply the grant accordingly.

SCENE 4: PRESENTER
Okay, I see. So the money wouldn’t come straight into my pocket. The person I stay with would have to collect the grant on my behalf.

But let see if I qualify for one of the grants.

The maintenance grant, which is the most popular of the three grants the Ministry provides, is available to a biological parent with a child under 18 years old. That parent must earn less than $1000 and have a spouse, who is the breadwinner who has either died, receives an old pension or disability grant OR has been in prison for six months or longer.

To apply for this grant, you need to have certified copies of the following documents: a birth certificate of the child you are applying for, your own birth certificate and ID, a marriage certificate, if it’s applicable, a school report, a copy of a death certificate or disability grant or old age grant and a payslip stating how much the person applying for the grant earns per month.

If these documents are missing, the application cannot be processed and the money cannot be granted.

Lucia from the Ministry offers a further explanation.

VOX POP: LUCIA EISES
It’s public funds, we have to account for that money. We need to be sure that the person to who this money is being paid on behalf of the child is the legally rightful person to receive the money on behalf of the child and is for the maintenance of the child. Some of the documentation is crucial to have so therefore without those we can not process the application. Sometimes it becomes necessary because of an outstanding, necessary, crucial document.

SCENE 5: PRESENTER
But that brings us to one point that Foibe from Family Hope Services raised in the report, where some of the crucial documents were missing – in particular the death certificate.

We asked Lucia from the Ministry about death certificates. She agreed it was a problem, especially in the rural areas, but explains that the Ministry makes a special allowance in these cases.

VOX POP: LUCIA EISES
Let the headman fill a confirmation that indeed that this person who was a villager, in this village, died on such a date and was buried on such a date. We would use the information just to process the grant. But it cannot serve as confirmation in our eternal purposes, just to process the grant. But it can not serve of proof of death in any other instance, like claiming policy, whatever whatever.

MUSIC BREAK - BONGO MUFFIN

SCENE 6: PRESENTER
We have been talking about the maintenance grant but there are other grants available for people caring for orphans and vulnerable children.

One, called the Special Maintenance grant, is available to a parent who earns less than $1000 and has a disabled child under the age of 16. Another grant, called the foster care grant, is available to any person who earns less than $1000 per month and takes care of a child who has been placed in their custody, in accordance with the Child Welfare Commissioner.

Again, important documents, such as birth certificates, IDs and school reports are required to apply. Additionally, for the special maintenance grant a medical certificate and a social worker’s report are required.

What we should understand about this Foster Care Grant, is that’s it available to extended family who take care of a grandchild, a nephew or a niece. It’s also available to people who are caring for children who are not related to them. The important issue to apply for this grant though, is that a court order is first required, granting permission for the caregiver to legally look after this child and place them in this home. In order for this a court order to be granted and a social worker needs to file a report.

That’s the one I think I might qualify for. I’m living with my granny.

Are you still with me? Do you know who qualifies for what grant?

Let me see if you can answer this little test. See if you can figure which grant each of the following people are eligible for.

VOX POP: PERSON 1:
I’m the mother of three small boys. The father passed away in 2007. I have all the documents and I earn $900 a month in my job as a domestic worker. Which child welfare grant should I apply for?

VOX POP: PERSON 2:
Hi. I’m a granny who is staying with my grandson. He’s been living with me since his parents passed away. The court appointed me as his foster parent after his parents died. Which child welfare grant can I apply for?

VOX POP: PERSON 3:
Hi. I’ve got one child, her name is Michelle, she’s 9. She’s blind. What child welfare grant can I apply for?

SCENE 7: PRESENTER
Okay. So if you were able to answer that the mother of three small boys could apply for the maintenance grant – you would be right. And if you could identify that the granny was eligible for the foster parent grant, you would also be correct. And if you knew that the mother of Michelle, the blind child, was able to apply for the Special Maintenance Grant, you’d be right again.

I’m starting to think this is pretty cool. The government is trying its best to help people like my family.

Things can get a little complicated though with these grants though.

Amon Ngavetene, the AIDS Law Unit coordinator of the Legal Assistance Centre, helps organise community mobilization workshops that inform people how they can access these grants. I want you to listen to what he says about some of the concerns people bring forward during these workshops.

VOX POP: AMON NGAVETENE
We get quite a bit of communications and feedback during workshops especially communities complaining about the abuse of social grants that are meant to cater for the needs of orphans. They are being used by individuals who are receiving these grants on their behalf and not really benefiting the OVCs themselves. It's quite legitimate claims and an abuse of grants its a criminal offense that a person can be prosecuted on.

SCENE 8: PRESENTER
So what this really amounts to is that some people are cheating the system. Lucia from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare also talks about this:

VOX POP: LUCIA EISES
“Sometimes, the granny would go through an entire process of foster caring, foster placement and I don’t know even where, I just know she went looking for a job. I’ve been looking after this child for the past 3 years and she hasn’t been coming home. The father I’ve never known him before. And then she’s advised, ok the first thing for you to access services is if we can legally place you as already taking care of the child, legally place the child in your foster care. So they end up going through this entire process, and then when they come with a court order to apply for the grant, we check on the system. We end up seeing that someone is already collecting a grant and it’s Maria what-what but Maria’s the mother. Then we would follow up.”

SCENE 9: PRESENTER
But what happens to people who are not giving the money to the child?

VOX POP: LUCIA EISES
The grant is in no way an extra income personally to them, it’s intended to the child. They have a legal responsibility to make sure they use that money to the benefit of the child. In fact, the act, section 89 I think, makes it very clear. If somebody collects money illegally or misuses the grant knowingly and they can be held liable for that. Either the decision to pay back or they can even be prosecuted.

SCENE 10: PRESENTER
Okay, I understand. You can call or visit the Ministry and report someone who is not using the grant properly. The Ministry does not require a name for this and will then go and investigate.

I’ve been thinking about this. And the bad news is that I don’t think I am eligible for the money.

I’m already 18, and that’s the cut off age.

And for the grant my family is eligible for, the foster parent grant, I don’t think we got the government involved when she decided that I could stay with her. So we’re missing some of those important documents.

But I am encouraging anyone who thinks they might be eligible to apply. There is even some talk right now that the amount of the grant may increase in the future. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare has commissioned UNICEF to do a study into the grants that are currently provided. This study will hopefully reveal how families are spending the money and if it’s enough. As a result of the study, there will be recommendations.

If you have any questions or want more information on the topic of accessing Maintenance Grants, please visit your nearest office of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare. If you require assistance in accessing the grants, call the Legal Assistance Centre at 061-223-356 in Windhoek.

This report was prepared by the Legal Assistance Centre, a human rights law firm based in Windhoek, with technical support from BASE FM. It was produced by Mark Nonkes, with special thanks to Nunu. The music you’ve been listening to is from: Pigeon, whose latest CD is now out.

Remember children’s rights ARE human rights. For Your Rights, Right Now, I’m Willem V.

-EXIT MUSIC-

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