Below is the statement released by SASSA regarding the mass cut of temporary disability grants across the country.
Those whose disability grants expired in December thought that SASSA will automatically roll over to the next month of January because of the virus and other factors. But things were messed up as hundreds of thousands were stranded when January payments were made.
Media Release | For Immediate Release
21 January 2021
TEMPORARY DISABILITY GRANTS ARE FOR A LIMITED PERIOD ONLY
The Department of Social Development and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) presented to the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, on measures put in place to address challenges experienced by clients on the Temporary Disability Grants, yesterday.
SASSA also apologised for shortcomings across the country, including the unfortunate situation that happened at the SASSA Bellville Local Office, Western Cape. The Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, has clarified misinformation around the events that transpired in this regard. The major challenge has been in the Western Cape which has seen a serious congestion of citizens at local offices. This is largely as a result of the numerous service points, where SASSA provides services from community halls, not being available to SASSA. The service points are generally closer to local communities and prevents the citizens having to converge on the 16 local offices in the Western Cape. The absence of these service points has resulted in the overcrowding – particularly in offices in the Cape Metro. SASSA has instituted a 12-point plan to correct the situation and ensure that all assessments and applications for qualifying clients are completed by the end of the financial year, namely 31 March 2021.
We further apologize for the challenges experienced with our call centre and assure members of the public that these are being addressed as a matter of urgency.
The facts about the Temporary Disability Grants are as follows:
Budget Allocation and related extension
During the 2020 calendar year, SASSA, under 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, where after 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 is able to 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. In addition, 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 Portfolio Committee on Social Development were appreciative and pleased with measures put in place by SASSA, but raised concerns on a number of areas. In this regard, the Department of Social Development and SASSA committed to report back to the Committee in two weeks on progress with regards to implementation of these measures.
Issued on behalf of SASSA