Temporary Disability Grants Are Available For A Limited Period

On Wednesday, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and Department of Social Development presented to the Portfolio Committee to address challenges applicants experienced when reapplying for the Temporary Disability Grants.

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) apologised for the shortcomings experienced across the country, especially the incident which took place outside the Bellville SASSA offices. Lindiwe Zulu, the Minister of Social Development, clarified the misinformation around what took place that day.

The Western Cape experienced serious congestion of citizens outside SASSA offices, which is due to many service points not being available for SASSA services.

These service points are usually closer to local communities and prevent citizens from overcrowding the 16 SASSA offices in the Western Cape. And the fact that they are not available is why SASSA offices are overcrowded. 

A 12 point plan has been implemented by SASSA to correct the situation and ensure that all assessments and applications for qualifying applicants are completed by the 31st of March 2021.

SASSA also apologizes for the challenges experienced with their call centre and assure members of the public that they are being addressed.

The facts about the Temporary Disability Grants are as follows:

Budget Allocation and related extension

During the 2020 calendar year, SASSA, under the direction of the Minister of Social Development extended the validity of temporary disability grants which should have lapsed in the period from February 2020 to December 2020, to enable them to continue to be paid until 31 December 2020. The cost of these extensions is R1,8 billion, which was covered by the existing budget allocation for social grants. To continue extending these for another 3 months would have cost R1,2 billion, funding which is not available.

The total budget allocation provided for social grants in the 2020/21 financial year is R220 607 billion. This amount includes R172,363 billion for all social grants (grants for older persons, war veterans, disability grants, grants in aid, foster child grants, care dependency grants, child support grants and social relief of distress). An additional amount of R48,244 billion was made available as the COVID-19 social relief package – including an amount of R6,797 billion for the extended period of 3 months for the special relief grant of R350 per month. The projected expenditure to the end of the financial year is R220 196, leaving an amount of only R411 million to be utilised where necessary. This is far short of the R1,2 billion needed for a 3-month extension of the temporary disability grant. No government department or public entity can spend funds it does not have.

Temporary Disability Grant are not permanent

In terms of the Social Assistance Act, 2004, a temporary disability grant is given for a specific period only, whereafter it must lapse. If the client is still unable to work as a result of the condition, then a new application, with a new medical assessment is required. Failure to do this is non-compliance with legislative prescripts, which also carries serious consequences for the Agency.

The total number of affected Temporary Disability Grant clients is 210 778 across the country. It is only temporary disability grants which have lapsed. These are grants which are given for a specific period, based on an assessment which confirms that there is a likelihood that the condition for which the grant is awarded may improve, such that the client can work. It should be borne in mind that disability grants are provided to citizens who are unable to work as a result of their medical condition or disability – they are not provided on social grounds. A disability grant is not provided for a chronic condition which can be managed with treatment and which causes no functional limitation.

The Case of the Western Cape

With the assistance of the Provincial Department of Social Development, SASSA has once again engaged the City of Cape Town to make these community facilities available. The additional site in Atlantis has been opened as from 18 January 2021, and others will follow in the course of this week. This will greatly reduce the pressure on the fixed offices and also improve service delivery to community members, who will once again receive services in the areas where they live. The City of Cape Town, the Human Rights Commission are also investigating the situation that unfolded at the SASSA Bellville Local Office.

In addition, SASSA is in the process of recruiting additional doctors to assist with the assessments, to ensure that the entire project is completed by 31 March 2021. An additional 33 doctors have been contracted to complement the capacity within the public health sector, to conduct assessments for returning clients.

Clients who are affected by the lapsing of the grants and who have no other source of income may be assisted for a limited period while awaiting the assessment for the new application by approaching the SASSA office to apply for social relief of distress. It must be stressed that the money available for this support is extremely limited and confined to those affected by the lapsed grants only. SASSA clients are encouraged to continue the fight against the pandemic fatigue and to adhere to health protocols.

Members of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development were appreciative and pleased with measures put in place by SASSA, but raised concerns on several areas. In this regard, the Department of Social Development and SASSA committed to reporting back to the Committee in two weeks on progress with regards to the implementation of these measures.

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