This chapter provides an overview of social assistance and examines its role in development. Although previously limited in scope, social assistance is being widely used today to alleviate global poverty. The chapter begins by tracing the evolution of social assistance from its formative association with charitable almsgiving to its current role in reducing poverty and deprivation. It then provides an overview of the key features of social assistance, noting that the use of the means test and other conditionalities are common features of these schemes. In addition to paying cash benefits, food subsidies and supplements are widely used. Unique forms of social assistance such as conditional income transfers, community works projects and local nutritional programmes targeted at women and children are discussed. Although social assistance is hampered by implementation, funding and other difficulties, the chapter shows that it is helping to meet the poverty reduction targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.
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