You and Your Rights: Older Person’s Grant
- In addition to meeting the means test, an individual must be a permanent resident or South African citizen or a refugee and at least 60 years old in order to be eligible for the monthly grant of R1 600, and 1 620 to those over 75.
- The Grant is not intended for persons in the care of fully state-funded institutions
- If an individual is permanently unable to apply for the grant or pick up payments in person, he or she may appoint someone else to do so
- Grant payments may either be collected monthly or directly deposited into an account
- Older Person’s Grants cannot be inherited and are cancelled upon the death of the beneficiary
The South African constitution says that ‘everyone has the right to have access to social security including, if they are unable to support themselves and their dependants, appropriate social assistance’ (Sec 27(1c)). One of the ways the government meets this responsibility is through the provision of an Older Person’s Grant.
What is an Older Person’s Grant – and who is it meant to support?
The Older Person’s Grant– also known as the ‘state old-age pension’ – is monthly income support for citizens or permanent residents or refugees who are in financial need and are 60 years old and older.
How much is the Older Person’s Grant?
The amount changes every year. From 1 April 2013, the maximum amount of Older Person’s Grant is R1 260 per month plus an additional R20 if you are over 75. But this is calculated on a sliding scale, so that the more someone earns, the less they will get from the grant.
Who is eligible for the Older Person’s Grant?
To be eligible for an Older Person’s Grant, a person must 60 or older and
- be a South African citizen or permanent resident or a refugee living in South Africa; and
- have assets and income that meet the means test for being ‘in need’ (see below).
A person is not eligible if they are cared for by an institution wholly funded by the state – e.g. a home for older persons, a psychiatric hospital, a prison, or a treatment centre.
Foreign nationals are not eligible for the grant - with the exception of permanent residents and refugees who received Disability Grants (as this is converted automatically to an Older Person’s Grant by SASSA’s electronic system).
In terms of being ‘in need’, both the assets and income of the applicant and their spouse are assessed through a means test to see if they qualify. For 2012, the asset threshold (maximum value of what they own) was R792 000 for a single person and R1,584,000 for married people. And the income threshold was a maximum of R4 160 a month for a single person (R49 920 per year); and R8 320 a month for married people (R99 840 per year).
How do they apply for an Older Person’s Grant?
People can apply for a grant at their nearest SASSA (South African Social Security Agency) office. They do not pay anything to apply.
At the SASSA office they will be assisted to complete the forms, will be interviewed and will have their fingerprints taken.
They must take a range of documents with them as applications will not be processed without thes e. They will need identity documents for themselves and their spouse, proof of their marital status, and of their (joint) income and the value of their assets. (A full list of the documents is available on page 107 of the Black Sash’s Social Assistance: A reference guide for paralegals (click to download the guide in .pdf format.)
Can they apply for a grant without an ID book or birth certificate?
If the applicant does not have identity documentation – or is missing some of the other necessary documents - they may still apply.
At the SASSA office they will be asked to complete and sign a form (a ‘sworn affidavit’) confirming who they are. They will also be asked to bring an affidavit from a reputable person (like a councillor, traditional leader, social worker or priest) who can verify that they know the applicant.
Who can apply for the Older Person’s Grant?
If the applicant cannot go to the SASSA offices themselves, a friend or family member can take letters from them (and their doctor) saying why they cannot do so. A SASSA official will then arrange to visit them at home. In addition, if they need someone to act for them permanently – especially to collect their grant - they may appoint a ‘procurator’ who must sign a form agreeing to do this honourably.
How is the Older Person’s Grant paid to them?
When they make the application, they must say how they would like the money to be paid. They can either collect it on a specific day each month, or have it paid into a bank account. (This can be changed at any time by filling in a form at the SASSA office.)
How long does it take to start getting the Older Person’s Grant?
In some SASSA offices, applicants are told immediately whether or not they qualify for a grant. Legally SASSA has three months from the date of application to start paying a grant once it has been approved. The payments will be backdated to the date they applied for the grant.
If they are worried, an applicant can phone the free SASSA helpline: 0800 601 011 to find out what has happened to their application and when they can expect payment. This is also the number to call if you want to report social grant fraud.
Other financial support
People receiving an Older Person’s Grant may also receive the Grant-in-Aid if the applicant cannot look after themselves and needs regular care at home. They may not also receive a Disability Grant or a War Veterans’ Grant, however.
Once a grant has been approved, people who have not yet received any money but are in desperate need of support can apply for temporary assistance in the form of Social Relief of Distress (SRD). SRD is normally issued as a food parcel but can also be a voucher or cash payment. (Where money has been paid, this will be deducted from the grant money they eventually receive.)
Do they need to renew the Older Person’s Grant?
While Older Person’s Grants do not have to be renewed, SASSA checks if beneficiaries are still eligible for their grants by sending them annual registered letters asking for up-to-date information about their finances. If a beneficiary’s circumstances improve before SASSA sends them this letter, they must let SASSA know. Receiving a grant when a person is not eligible for one is fraud.
When do Older Person’s Grant payments stop?
The Older Person’s Grant will lapse if the beneficiary is admitted to a state-funded institution for over six months. It will be cancelled when the beneficiary dies as grants cannot be inherited by anyone else.