The Department of Social Development (DSD) invited comments to draft regulations that were published which seek to amend the regulations for the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant with a deadline for today 29 July 2022 to make submissions.

The amendments seek to widen the eligibility criteria by increasing the income threshold to qualify from R350 to R624. This means that for you to qualify for the grant, you would need to receive income of less than R624. It is important that this amendment applies retrospectively where applicants who qualify can apply to receive the grant from April 2022. We acknowledge the effort made by DSD for more to qualify for the grant, but submit that the income threshold should be R1335.

Black Sash supports the proposed amendment to delete the provision where bank verification is the final determination of eligibility, in acknowledgement that bank verification process is problematic. However, this does not solve the problem of the continued use of outdated government databases and banks to determine an applicant’s income.

Black Sash has consistently communicated to government the exclusionary impact of the systems currently in place. In efforts to address lived realities of those struggling to make ends meet, the Black Sash calls for these Departments to address the limitations of the verification systems which have resulted in the exclusion of beneficiaries from their Constitutional right to social assistance. It is our submission that this ineptitude be addressed by granting applicants an opportunity to present proof to mitigate against their ‘ineligibility’ in cases where there is a dispute about information received from government or bank databases.

We further support the amendment to delete the provision placing an onus on beneficiaries to inform DSD of their status every 3 months. Black Sash submits that once a beneficiary qualifies for the grant, the beneficiary should receive the grant until March 2023.

While we note the amendments, DSD needs to do more to ensure that those between 18 and 59 years who receive little or no income are provided with assistance. We believe that the fact that approved beneficiaries are less than half of the applicants illustrates the exclusionary nature of the provisions by default As at June 2022, SASSA received 11 369 797 applications of which only 5 278 563 were approved.

The amendments only seek to address a few of the many obstacles that keep the SRD Grant out of reach from those who desperately need it: the meagre amount of the grant is below the food poverty line; the application process is an exclusive online system that is available only in English and the systems used for verification result in applicants being erroneously declined. The need to do monthly verification is problematic as well.

The payment system is not up to date; August to May 2021 reconsiderations were set for June 2022, April grants for payment in July 2022, and May grants for August 2022. There are administration challenges including pending statuses; approved with no Pay dates; approved with pay dates but no money available at retailers, and challenges with the South African Post Office. We are concerned about the appeal and reconsideration process and lack of communication with applicants.

DSD must make a concerted effort to ensure that the SRD grant reaches those who need it to act as a buffer against hunger.

Black Sash is advocating for Basic Income Support for 18 to 59 years who earn no or little income campaigning for the following demands:

  • Increase the reinstated R350 Covid-19 SRD grant to at least the Food Poverty Line, currently R624;
  • Implementation of permanent social assistance for those aged 18 to 59, valued at the upper-bound poverty line, currently R1,335 per month. Caregivers, who receive the Child Support Grant must also qualify for this grant;
  • Reinstate and makes the COVID-19 increases of R250 per month permanent for all social grants;
  • Ensure that these provisions apply to refugees, permanent residents, asylum seekers and migrant workers with special permits; and
  • Work towards a universal basic income for all.