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Experts concerned by grant registration plan

NGOs and advocacy groups are concerned about the Department of Social Development’s announcement last week that more than 15 million people would have to re-register for social grants in the next year.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has said the proposed re-registration would eliminate social grant fraud and corruption.

Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, at a media briefing in Pretoria. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

But Leonie Caroline, the Western Cape provincial director of the Black Sash, said she was concerned about the logistics of the process.

“What the department is proposing is a massive bureaucratic undertaking,” she said. “We feel some people could fall through the cracks.”

Clear and effective communications would be crucial. People in rural areas and on farms were at greater risk of not receiving information.

Evashnee Naidu, also of the Black Sash, has been involved with research into the effectiveness of communication by the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) with grant beneficiaries via registered mail.

The review process requires that a beneficiary provide documentation to prove they are still eligible for their grant, or face suspension.

Research had shown that process to be flawed. “We often see cases where a person’s grant has been suspended without them having received notification. This is especially true in rural areas.”

Roedolf Kay, national co-ordinator of the SA Older Persons’ Forum, welcomed the announcement that bedridden and elderly beneficiaries would be visited at home and at institutions such as hospitals.

But Katharine Hall, a senior researcher at UCT’s Children’s Institute, worried that only sick and elderly beneficiaries would get home visits. Most grants – more than 11 million – go to children, she said.

“What is not clear is whether grants will be cut after the (verification) process. It cannot be assumed that those whose identities are not verified are fraudulent beneficiaries,” she said.

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