Concern over Sassa’s ability to deliver reintroduced R350 grant
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News of the return of the R350 social relief of distress (SRD) grant has been widely welcomed by civil society organisations, but the focus has now moved to whether the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) will be able to deliver sufficiently.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last week that the grant would return and end in March 2022. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said R27 billion had been allocated for the reintroduction of the grant scheme introduced in March last year.
More than 5 million unemployed individuals have benefited from the grant.
However, there were many concerns as to how the Department of Social Development and Sassa had paid out the grant and the extensive application process. Lines were seen outside post office branches as concerned citizens sought to get the money paid out.
A study, “Social Protection in the Time of Covid”, compiled by civil society organisation Black Sash, found that there were concerning issues with the application process and the disbursement of the SRD grant.
The study's researchers noted that the R350 was far below the basic income poverty line, which sits at R500.
It was also found that almost 68% of Covid-19 SRD recipients were men because women, who received the child support grant but were unemployed, were excluded from claiming the SRD.
However, the government has expanded those who can benefit to include child support grants and caregiver support grant recipients.
The report found that the Post Office had struggled to process certain cash payments while some branches had run out of cash. Another challenge was that people who resided in rural areas found it hard to apply for the grant.
On whether the grant had helped assist those who needed it, the report stated that the grant had helped to a certain extent but it was seen as insufficient to meet people's basic needs.
“Overall, the grant was insufficient to alleviate the multiple hardships that individuals and households encountered on a day-to-day basis, exacerbated by the pandemic. These include hunger, unemployment, poverty, depression, gender-based violence, inadequate access to water and electricity, and environmental crises such as extreme weather, drought, and flooding,“ the report stated.
Another concern was the government's poor handling of asylum seeker applications. Asylum seekers were only able to receive their grant payments this year with less than 10 000 people paid out from over 100 000 applications.
The cause for the gap was a system created by Sassa to help bridge the verification of asylum seekers and the Department of Home Affairs, the report stated.
The Department of Social Development and Sassa have yet to outline how this new round of SRD payments will work, but Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said previous and new applicants would have to apply from scratch.
The Black Sash report says this new round of applications should be treated differently to make the process much easier. Government databases should be up to date with reliable sources of information, the report recommends.
The digital application process should be free and Sassa must have a proper system in place for cash payments.