A universal child grant in Brazil: what must we do, and what can we expect from it?

The objective of this paper is to propose a universal child grant for Brazil. We will discuss the rationality behind the proposal, how best to design it, its initial operational set-up, its costs, and some of its distributive aspects. The proposed allowance is based on the unification of the three child allowances that currently exist in the country. A universal child allowance is nothing more than one more step on the path towards rationalising social protection. In 2003, Bolsa Família was created from the unification of four pre-existing income transfer programmes: Bolsa Escola, Bolsa Alimentação, Cartão Alimentação and Auxílio Gás, as well as the Programme for the Eradication of Child Labour, although this last one still retains its legal and administrative identity today. This unification and the subsequent administrative and management innovations linked to Bolsa Família resulted in an integrated system of benefits operating within the same registry, the same definitions of what constitutes a household and of what is considered income, the same eligibility thresholds, and coherent benefits. These benefits all operate under the umbrella of the Single Social Assistance System (Sistema Único de Assistência Social—SUAS). The importance of Bolsa Família for noncontributory social protection in Brazil has been amply documented, and its positive impacts would never have happened had the previous programmes continued to co-exist in an uncoordinated and fragmented manner.