THE DUTY TO SUPPORT THE INDIGENT ELDERLY IN SOUTH AFRICA: A PUBLIC OR PRIVATE DUTY?
Keywords:indigent elderly, social assistance, financially able children, basic human right, tax burden, shared responsibility
Only about 5% of South Africa’s elderly save enough to retire adequately. The legal system makes provision for a dual support system for the indigent elderly: the common law places the burden of support on their financially able children and the State has a constitutional obligation, as it recognises social assistance as a basic human right within a financially constrained paradigm. The boundaries of each system and the interaction between them are, however, not always clear. The question of who is best placed to take responsibility for the indigent elderly has led to a prolific debate in other jurisdictions. The arguments raised in favour of assigning the care of the elderly to financially able adult children are mostly based on their relationship and the tax burden that will be placed on Government should the burden be exclusively shifted to the State. Arguments against filial duty are based on the loosening of family bonds and reasons of public policy. This article discussed both the South African private and public support systems, and concludes that the shared responsibility should remain. It is recommended that the State should, however, further empower children to support their parents through a variety of programmes and strategies.
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