SASSA, known as the Social Security System of South Africa provides much-needed financial assistance to people who are unable to afford basic expenses. There are several grants offered by SASSA such as COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD). This grant is one among those grants provided by SASSA that aims to mitigate the financial distress caused by contingency plans in a county’s economy.
The SRD R350 grant is being used by many people across South Africa who still experience financial hardships because of lockdowns. Many people use this grant only as an aid for survival and can’t afford other assistance.
SRD R350 Grant Budget Reduced by SASSA
In April 2022, SASSA made an effort to decrease the budget for grants. Without consulting or taking advice from any department, they made an amendment to the SRD grant’s regulations policy. As a result, the qualifying amount for the COVID-19 SRD was reduced. This would not only affect students enrolled in COVID-19 but would also affect all students enrolled in post-graduate programs and fellowships across the country.
Now, if you’re wondering why this is a big deal (and you probably are), I’m going to provide a few examples of how this could impact your life as a student as well as what to do if you find yourself affected by it.
We all need money, so it’s good that the grant decreased from R595 to R350. It means that a SASSA beneficiary can not own more than R350 a month in their account. If they have more than R350 in their bank account, they are known as “too rich” for the COVID-19 SRD grant. As a result, SASSA would automatically disqualify the grant beneficiary. This change is to prevent fraud and safeguard our economy.
A petition has been filed against SASSA by Black Sash
Black Sash is an agency for the protection of human rights, and its main mission is to promote human rights in South Africa. Since its inception, Black Sash has always advocated for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Their petition in the High Court against proposed changes to the Gender-Based Violence Act (GBVA) is being spearheaded by CALS.
SRD Application Process
The current SRD application process has been plagued by issues since its inception. First, the information on an applicant’s income, assets, and dependents doesn’t have to match their declaration. Second, the information that goes into their respective affidavits isn’t verified or cross-checked; banks are not required to verify a person’s income and no proof of employment is required for the verification of employment status. Finally, there is no solid reason given for the rejection of applications applicants only receive an R350 grant being rejected without any reason given by SASSA.
According to Black Sash’s report, the agency interviewed 19 people aged between 22 and 56 through telephone calls. While describing the need for SASSA grants, participants also told their challenges in receiving grants. These included poor or non-existent consumer awareness, a lack of provider capacity or skills, a lack of financial resources, a lack of service delivery and engagement opportunities with beneficiaries, poor awareness about the center/social grant mechanisms, and experience with supporting vulnerable people/people living with disabilities.
The SRD project is one that aims to eliminate hunger in South Africa, and it is great news for those living in the country who are struggling to make ends meet. However, the first concern was those who have been beneficiaries of the program but cannot make use of it due to its limitation. The participants highlighted this issue with regards to the Human Rights Commission finding out that a majority of beneficiaries do not make use of their grant though there is no penalty for failure to do so.
It was quite unfortunate that someone shot the clouds with a gun when they knew it was an arrow that can hit the target which is the most deserving. The amendments in regulations passed by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) have been bad news for the people who desire financial aid for education. While these amendments have been made for providing financial aid to students, their effects will be felt for one and a half years.
SASSA COVID-19 SRD Grant Monthly Prior
Just three months after the regulations were changed, around 16 million families submitted applications for SRD grants, which implies that these families had been in need of financial aid before this amendment. In addition to this, it has been estimated that more than 15.5 million needy people availed of the SASSA COVID-19 SRD grant monthly prior to the regulatory changes; however after those changes took place, less than 10 million people availed of SRD grants every month.
Response from DSD
The new amendments by the Department of Social Development (DSD) to solve two fundamental problems are highlighted in the petition filed by Black Sash. The first set of new rules has been aimed at correcting weaknesses in the current SRD grant regulations. The new rules were issued after the court found flaws in the way the grant process is processed, including missed application deadlines and unclear regulations.
- They increased the income amount for qualification for the COVID-19 SRD above R350.
- They remove the favoring of verification of bank information over the applicant’s information when applying for an SRD grant.
Legal action against SASSA R350 has been withdrawn by Black Sash
A legal petition has been withdrawn by Black Sash, the organization that represents 21 million people in South Africa’s economy. The group was seeking to overturn the previous policy of issuing grants to social enterprises as they saw it as discriminatory.
DSD has withdrawn its legal application against Black Sash. The organization has done the right thing, “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”, said Black Sash CEO Morne du Preez before he addressed his team.