Social Relief of Distress - Black Sash Information Sheet
- SRD is given in the form of vouchers, food parcels or money.
- Money given to adults will not be more than an Older Person’s Grant, and money given for a child will not be more than a Child Support Grant.
- SRD is provided for only three months but it is sometimes extended to six.
- You can apply for a SRD at your nearest SASSA office – you don’t pay anything to apply.
- SA citizens and permanent residents may apply for SR
Section 27 of the Constitution:
“Everyone has the right to have access to social security, including, if they are unable to support themselves and their dependants, appropriate social assistance. The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of each of these rights” - Section 27 of the South African Constitution
While every attempt has been made to ensure the information published here is accurate, the Black Sash does not take responsibility for any loss or damage that may arise out of the reliance on or use of this information. The contents do not constitute legal advice. This fact sheet was last updated in February 2013.
What is a Social Relief of Distress Award – and who is it meant to support?
The Social Relief of Distress Award (SRD) is intended to provide immediate temporary assistance for a short period to people who do not have sufficient means to provide for themselves and/or their dependants. It is not a grant. It can be given in the form of vouchers, food parcels or money – and is provided for only three to six months (while a grant is awarded for a longer period of time).
How much is the Social Relief of Distress Award?
Where money is given, there is no set amount for a SRD award and the value ultimately depends on the applicant’s circumstances and the discretion of the SASSA official. The guideline is that an adult should not be given an amount higher than the amount of an Older Person’s Grant, and for a child the maximum is the amount of a Child Support Grant. Where a parent or caregiver is waiting to receive an approved Care Dependency Grant or a Foster Child Grant, however, the SRD amount can be equal to these grant amounts.
A SRD award can be given to individuals or to a whole household. For instance a household of three adults and four children could either receive one award (based on the number of adults and children in that household) or three awards (for instance if there are three members of the house waiting for a grant).
Who is eligible for the Social Relief of Distress Award?
To be eligible for a Social Relief of Distress Award, a person must be ...
- an adult who is a South African citizen or permanent resident; or
- an adult with refugee status and who is disabled or a foster parent; or
- any child living in South Africa who is cared for by any of the adults above.
Applicants should require ‘immediate temporary assistance’ as a result of their not having ‘sufficient means’ to be able to provide for their basic needs. While there is no formal means test for this award, the SASSA official does a basic assessment of their income during the application process to test that they do indeed have ‘insufficient means’.
Ultimately the decision is also based on their circumstances, however – and these could be any of the following:
- Awaiting income /lost income – e.g. they are waiting to receive an approved grant or have not been paid child maintenance due to them; the breadwinner has been admitted to a state-funded institution (e.g. prison, psychiatric hospital etc) or has died leaving no support for the family.
- Physically unable – i.e. they have been found medically unfit to work for a period of less than six months.
- Disaster – i.e. they have been affected by a disaster like their house being burnt down or flooded.
- Undue hardship – where they, and/or their household, will experience ‘undue hardship’ (as defined in the SRD Procedure Manual) if a SRD award is not given.
A person will not be given a SRD if they ...
- are already receiving a grant for themselves (although someone else in their household may still receive the SRD award); and/or
- do not apply for the award in time (e.g. within three months after a breadwinner dies).
How do they apply for a Social Relief of Distress Award?
People can apply for a SRD 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 as many of the documents required as they possibly can. These are identity documents for themselves their spouse and children (as needed), 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 134 of the Black Sash’s Social Assistance: A reference guide for paralegals.)
But if the applicant is missing some of the 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.
A social worker’s report is not always needed when applying for the first time, but may be requested when the motivation is ‘undue hardship’ as they should be able to ensure other state support for the applicants in addition to SRD. A social worker’s report is always needed to extend the award beyond the three-month limit as SASSA must re-evaluate the application on this basis.
How is the Social Relief of Distress Award paid to them?
The Social Relief of Distress award can be given in the form of food parcels, money vouchers (made out to a specific food supplier) or money.
REMEMBER! Any SRD money given to a person waiting for a social grant will be deducted from the grant payment received by the beneficiary. HOWEVER, SRD money paid to a person as a result of a disaster cannot be recovered from any social grant payment, including an arrear payment.
How long does it take to start getting the Social Relief of Distress Award?
A decision about a SRD application should be made on the date of application and, where it is agreed to, the award should be made available immediately.
The applicant should be given a receipt. (This must be dated and stamped with the official stamp and must contain the name of the applicant, date of application and the name of the attesting officer.)
If they are worried about a delayed payment, 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.
Other financial support
People in distress can also access various services, like those offered by churches or welfare agencies, where these are available.
Can they renew a Social Relief of Distress Award?
SRD is usually only given for up to three months – but can be extended for a further three months in exceptional circumstances.
(The applicant will need their documents for the social worker’s assessment which supports any recommendation for an extension of SRD.)