Icon Our WorkSocial Protection and Disability in South Africa

Social protection and Disability in South Africa

This working paper launches a new series of publications that identify good practice in enabling the inclusion of persons with disabilities in social protection systems and programmes.

It finds that South Africa’s lifecycle system of social security transfers for disabled people, one of the such systems in low- and middle-income countries, has overall had a major positive impact on the lives of persons with disabilities. It also identifies challenges that need to be addressed with accessing benefits, a complex and exclusionary registration process, and a design that may discourage people from working.

This paper is one of seven country case studies produced as part of the DFID-financed study Leaving no-one behind: How social protection can help people with disabilities move out of extreme poverty.


  • This is an interesting read.
    The report raises a number of valid concerns about the process of medical assessment to qualify for a disability grant. I agree that better synergies between the private and public health sector could help make this process smoother. However, this isn’t going to help the majority of South Africans. South Africa’s health system is not largely private as the report states. Private sector healthcare only covers about 20% of the population. The inefficiencies of the health system and the high (indirect) costs of accessing care are far larger problems. For evidence of how high the costs of accessing health care can be for people with disabilities in South Africa, see a report produced for the Department of Social Development in 2015: Elements of the financial and economic costs of disability to households in South Africa. This study provides estimates of the cost of transport to hospital, and the cost of compensating an assistant (usually a family member) for the duration of a health visit (which often last all day, including waiting time). These costs can be prohibitive for some.

    • Thanks. This is very helpful. Personally, I think that South Africa should move towards providing free health along the lines of the UK’s National Health Service, which is free at the point of access.


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