Sassa slammed for leaving thousands in the disabled community without grants
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Cape Town - Disability rights advocacy groups and activists have slammed the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) for leaving the disabled community in the lurch, uncertain of whether they will be receiving a disability grant or not.
First-time applicants for disability grants were excluded from the monetary aid as new applications ceased at the start of the lockdown last year. Sassa said this was because the administration of social grants was not considered an essential service, only the payment of social grants.
South African Disability Alliance Secretariat Melanie Lubbe said that since the start of the lockdown in March 2020, no new disability grants had been processed.
“It seems that they were so busy with the emergency funds that persons with disabilities were left out to dry. I also know that there is a huge problem with children turning 18 who were left in the lurch as their child grant expired and no disability grants were processed.”
Grant recipient and community worker Clive Barrows, 62, from Rondebosch East, has been receiving a grant for the past 17 years and assists others in obtaining theirs.
He said chaos ensued at Sassa pay points in Athlone and Wynberg on Tuesday where many had waited for their payments, only to be told that this was subject to a medical practitioner's availability to assess whether or not they would qualify for a grant renewal.
Temporary disability grants were originally due to lapse on February 1, 2020, but were extended by the Minister of Social Development until the end of December 2020. No further extension was approved and all affected beneficiaries will now need to be re-assessed by a medical practitioner to qualify for the continuation of the grant. This comes as health systems face unprecedented strain due to the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the province, around 52 000 temporary disability grant holders will need to re-apply for their grants this month.
“Prior to this they (grant recipients) were told grants would be extended because of a lack of medical practitioners because of Covid-19,” said Barrows.
Western Cape Network on Disability (WCND) co-ordinator Natalie Johnson said WCND urged the Social Development Minister and Sassa to consider offering grant recipients temporary food parcels or food vouchers to bridge the gap until grant payments could resume.
Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez called for the minister and Sassa to reconsider their decision to cease payments and extend these grants or temporarily waive the requirement for a medical reassessment.
“The timing of the termination of these grants has serious consequences for disabled people in our province and across South Africa, as well as for the health-care system, which is already under extreme pressure due to the burden of Covid-19.”
Sassa grants administration executive manager Dianne Dunkerley said that disability services were progressively reintroduced when the country moved to alert Level 3 in June 2020.
“The temporary disability grants which continued to be paid for the extended period all came to an end at the end of December. December was the last month for payment of these grants. The difficult decision to lapse the grants was made as a result of the cost implications. To have continued these until end March would have cost in the region of R1.2 billion, as well as legislative compliance requirements.”
Those affected will have to reapply and undergo a medical assessment.