South Africa

News24.com | Disability grants: Sassa promises to clear Western Cape backlog by end of March

Applicants for renewal of disability grants queue outside the Bellville offices of the South African Social Security Agency last week. Photo: Mary-Anne Gontsana

Applicants for renewal of disability grants queue outside the Bellville offices of the South African Social Security Agency last week. Photo: Mary-Anne Gontsana

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has assured the Western Cape legislature that applications from the more than 52 000 people whose temporary disability grants lapsed last year will all be processed by the end of March.

According to GroundUp, Sassa's regional executive manager Bandile Maqetuka was addressing the legislature's Standing Committee on Social Development on Thursday about the backlog and processing of the temporary disability grants in the province.

Temporary disability and care dependency grants were due to lapse in February last year but, due to the Covid-19 lockdown, were extended to 31 December by Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu. Sassa has said it cannot afford to extend all grants further, urging beneficiaries to report to their nearest Sassa office with a detailed referral report from their treating doctor confirming their condition. Sassa local offices around the Western Cape have been inundated with applicants, with long queues of people wanting to renew their grants, some even sleeping outside the offices.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez have called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in the crisis.

Asked why Sassa had not been prepared for the sudden influx of applicants, Maqetuka told the committee that grants had not all lapsed at once. "Grants lapsed in February, March, April, and May, but we managed to continue to pay until December," he said.

"The problem is, as long as a grant shows as active on the system, you cannot start a new process of application."

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Extension cost R1.8bn

According to Maqetuka, the extension of the lapsed temporary disability and care dependency grants from February to December last year cost approximately R1.8 billion. "The resources at our disposal are not sufficient to continue to cover everyone. We are therefore required in terms of the law to conduct new assessments in order to ensure that only qualifying beneficiaries are considered and paid," he said.

For the remainder of the financial year which ends in March, the extension of the temporary disability grant will cost approximately R1.2 billion. But Sassa only had R411 million available for the rest of the financial year.

"This current budget is being considered for utilisation to support where necessary. This is based on an assumption of an 80% return of lapsed temporary disability grants after an assessment process. Should the rate of return for the lapsed grants be 50%, the possible funds available for utilisation would increase to R817 million," said Maqetuka.

He added that the provincial Department of Health would help with the medical assessments.

"Forty doctors have so far been contracted and will be starting training today. Sassa will be paying R187 per assessment."

"We get billed by the Department of Health who then pay the doctors, who are given certain hours to assist us. We hope that this strategy will be adopted nationwide in the future," said Maqetuka.

Maqetuka said Sassa would make sure that all applicants were seen by 31 March.

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