Legal Action Over SASSA R350 Grant Withdrawn: The Social Security System of South Africa, commonly referred to as SASSA, offers crucial financial support to individuals who are struggling to cover basic necessities. Among the various grants provided by SASSA is the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant, which is specifically designed to alleviate the financial strain caused by emergency measures in the country’s economy.
The SRD R350 grant is widely utilized by South Africans who continue to face financial difficulties as a result of lockdowns. This grant serves as a lifeline for many, providing the means for survival, and is often the only source of financial aid they can rely on.
SASSA reduces SRD R350 grant budget
In April 2022, SASSA made the decision to reduce the budget for grants without consulting or seeking input from any department. As a result, the eligibility criteria for the COVID-19 SRD grant were modified. This change not only impacts individuals enrolled in COVID-19 programs but also students pursuing post-graduate studies and fellowships throughout the country.
If you are questioning the significance of this change, let me provide a few examples of how it could impact your life as a student, as well as steps to take if you find yourself affected by it.
We all require money to survive, and the reduction of the grant from R595 to R350 may appear to be beneficial. However, it also means that SASSA beneficiaries can only have a maximum of R350 in their account per month. If they have more than that, they would be deemed “too wealthy” to receive the COVID-19 SRD grant, resulting in automatic disqualification from the program. This change is implemented to prevent fraud and protect the economy.
Black Sash Has Filed A Petition Against SASSA
The Black Sash organization is dedicated to safeguarding human rights, with a particular focus on advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in South Africa. Since its establishment, the organization has been a vocal advocate for these causes. Currently, they are leading a legal effort through the High Court to oppose modifications to the Gender-Based Violence Act (GBVA) in partnership with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS).
SRD Application Process
The process for applying for the Special Relief of Distress (SRD) has been plagued by problems since its introduction. One major issue is that there is no requirement for the information provided in an applicant’s income, assets, and dependent declarations to be verified or cross-checked. Additionally, banks are not required to verify a person’s income, and there is no requirement for proof of employment to verify employment status. Furthermore, there is no clear reason provided when an application is rejected and applicants only receive an R350 grant, with no explanation from SASSA.
As reported by Black Sash, the organization conducted telephone interviews with 19 individuals aged between 22 and 56 to better understand the need for SASSA grants and the obstacles that applicants face in receiving them. Participants reported a range of challenges including a lack of consumer awareness, inadequate capacity or skill among providers, insufficient financial resources, poor service delivery and communication with beneficiaries, limited understanding of the center/social grant mechanisms, and difficulties in supporting vulnerable individuals or those living with disabilities.
The SRD project is an initiative that aims to combat hunger in South Africa, providing much-needed assistance to those who are struggling to make ends meet. However, a significant concern is that some individuals who are eligible for the program may be unable to access it due to limitations. Participants in the study brought attention to this issue, as the Human Rights Commission reported that many beneficiaries do not utilize their grants, despite there being no penalty for failing to do so.
It was unfortunate that someone used a gun when they should have used an arrow to hit the intended target. The recent changes in regulations implemented by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) have been detrimental to those seeking financial assistance for education. Although these amendments were intended to provide aid to students, their negative impact will be felt for the next one and a half years.
Monthly Priorities for SASSA COVID-19 SRD Grants
Within just three months of the regulatory changes, approximately 16 million households applied for SRD grants, indicating that these households were in need of financial assistance prior to the amendment. Furthermore, it is estimated that prior to the regulatory changes, more than 15.5 million individuals in need were receiving the SASSA COVID-19 SRD grant each month, however, after the changes were implemented, the number of individuals receiving the grant dropped to less than 10 million per month.
Response from DSD
The Department of Social Development (DSD) has introduced new amendments to address two key issues, as outlined in a petition submitted by Black Sash. The first set of changes aims to address deficiencies in the current regulations for SRD grants. These new regulations were issued following a court ruling that identified problems in the grant application process, including missed deadlines and ambiguous regulations.
- The income threshold for COVID-19 SRD qualification has been raised above R350.
- An SRD grant application no longer favors verification of bank information over the applicant’s information.
Black Sash Has Withdrawn Its Legal Action Against SASSA R350
Black Sash, an organization that represents the interests of 21 million people in South Africa’s economy, has withdrawn a legal petition. The group had been seeking to challenge the previous policy of providing grants to social enterprises, arguing that it was discriminatory.
The Department of Social Development (DSD) has withdrawn its legal case against Black Sash. The organization has expressed satisfaction with this outcome, with CEO Morne du Preez stating, “We have since withdrawn the legal application. It nevertheless remains disheartening that it took a legal challenge for DSD to change its course and adopt a human rights-based approach to the grant system.”