How SASSA Wants To Manage Overcrowding At Their Offices

Below is a media report by iol on how SASSA is trying to manage overcrowding at their various offices in the upsurge of disability grants applications.

Durban – THE DEPARTMENT of Social Development and the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) shared their efforts in combating overcrowding at Sassa offices and the lapsing of the temporary disability grants.

This was during their briefing with the portfolio committee on social development.

Dianne Dunkerley, Sassa executive manager for grants administration, led the presentation on issues with overcrowding, physical distancing and the temporary disability grant.

Regarding criminals queuing and selling spaces, a common practice in KwaZulu-Natal, Dunkerley said: “One of the big challenges that we’ve come across and are really appealing to everybody to assist us with is we have people who will come in and block places in the queue. They get up very early, block the places and then sell to the clients when they come in. Really it is not something that we support.”

She said to address the issues, they had introduced a booking system; they take details and call people back, rather than have them wait in the queue. They have also increased the number of their operating days and hours. They do not just have one day a week for disability-related grants, but have increased those days at a number of local offices. They are also working weekends for assessments and applications.

Moreover, referral forms are available online under the grants tab and alternative venues are being used to reduce congestion.

Dunkerley said a queue management strategy had been implemented because of incidents of queue jumping and to reduce overcrowding and address the lack of physical distancing.

“We do believe over the last two weeks there has been an improvement in the management of queues. We have created separate queues for people with special needs, enquiries or something that will take a little time, so there are no snaking queues,” said Dunkerley.

She also said they had dispatched staff from management teams to the various sites to assess and support where possible and make sure the strategy was implemented.

Where client information was taken, telephonic booking was implemented.

There were volunteers wearing Sassa bibs and name tags so they could be visible.

While in the queue people are given referral letters so that they do not have to queue for forms.

Dunkerley said thus far, 38 484 re-assessments had been completed countrywide for temporary disability grants while 75 434 had been booked as of January 26.

However, the Western Cape was still sitting with the majority at 24.5%.

Dunkerley said the contracted doctors conducting assessments were authorised to do more assessments in an eight-hour session. Normally, they did 40 but could go up to 80 if necessary. The doctors were paid R164.80 per assessment.

Dunkerley said they faced many risks, which included not completing all lapsed temporary disability grants by March 31; the limited availability of community halls to conduct assessments; limited availability of doctors because of fatigue; the temporary closure of offices due to risk exposure to the virus; limited number of people that can be accommodated at service points and criminals queuing and selling spaces. However, Sassa had mitigations for these.

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said she had not yet received the report on the water cannon incident on temporary disability grant recipients.

She was referring to when police sprayed water on beneficiaries queuing to renew disability grants at Sassa’s Bellville offices last month in the Cape.

Zulu reiterated that she did not send the police to use a water cannon, neither did Sassa nor the department.

Portfolio committee on social development chairperson Mondli Gungubele said yesterday was set aside for the process of improving conditions under which South Africans were being served.

He said at the next meeting, a progress report on the matter with a restructured framework of reporting would be useful.

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