Poverty remains deep and widespread, but absolute income poverty declined slightly between 1993 and 2012. The available evidence suggests that this is less down to economic growth than it is to a substantial increase in state expenditure on social assistance grants – in the main child support grants and old-age grants. This implies that the accessibility of social assistance grants remains vitally important in addressing poverty levels in South Africa. In this regard, public interest legal services have played an important role in ensuring a less discriminatory and more procedurally fair social security regime. Civil society action, which has included legal action or the threat of it, has played an important role in achieving the expansion of the social security net.