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Johannesburg - It’s a second increase this year - an unexpected small bonus for pensioners - another R10 a month.
From October 1, more than 4 million social grant recipients get an extra R10 a month from the government in an unexpected half-year grant increase.
Human rights organisation the Black Sash welcomed the increases but said there was still a long way to go in improving social assistance.
“Though these increases, in terms of purchasing power of the beneficiaries, are small, we acknowledge that these are important decisions in times when there is unprecedented pressure on the fiscus,” said Elroy Paulus, the Black Sash's national advocacy manager.
“However, we do caution that whilst these increases are noted, the overall health of the social assistance environment remains deeply concerning.”
The increase means an extra spending by the government of about R41 million a month, a total of about R247m extra over the rest of the financial year.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini gazetted the official notice last week, listing the R10-a-month increases for four of the seven social grant categories. The increases are effective from October 1. These include old-age pensions for those aged 60 to 74, and disability grants go from R1 260 to R1 270; old age pensions for those aged 75 and older, and war veteran pensions go from R1 280 to R1 290; and care dependency grants go from R1 260 to R1 270.
Two other grants also increase from October 1, in terms of the increases gazetted in March. They are the child support grant and the grant-in-aid, both of which go from R290 to R300 a month. The increases on these two grants would have been included in the budget at the start of the financial year.
The only grant which does not get an increase in October is the foster child grant, which stays at R800 a month.
Social grants are usually increased only once a year.
Dlamini's department did not respond to requests for clarity on the unusual mid-year increase, including queries on whether the increase was covered in the department's budget and whether it was an electioneering ploy.
South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) spokesman Tommy Huma said the total number of recipients for all types of grants dropped from 16 060 083 in February to 15 700 169 in August.
Sassa’s statistics indicate that in August there were 4 122 035 recipients of the four grants who get the unexpected increase.
There are another 11 015 159 recipients of the child support grant and the grant-in-aid.
Paulus said there was still a long way to go.
“There remain large backlogs of foster care; there needs to be more co-ordinated applications and pursuits for the protection for children, and this is significantly challenged by the shortage of social workers,” he said.
“We’re firmly of the view that when the grant stops, hope stops - and that international evidence, particularly from Latin American countries, has shown that a commitment and increase in social protection has had a positive effect on poverty, inequality and employment, though these took years of sustained support to accomplish.”
On Sunday, President Jacob Zuma told the launch of National Older Persons Week that “most of the achievements in reducing extreme levels of income poverty” could be ascribed to the grants.
Zuma said the means test for the old-age grant would be phased out by 2016. “Many older persons, especially women, have been adversely affected by the means test, which assumes that they benefit from the income of their spouses or partners or have other income, when in most cases they do not,” he said.