Government bows to pressure on disability grants.

The government has agreed to open new applications for temporary disability grants following mounting pressure from opposition parties and civil society organisations. Recently, Sassa appealed to more than 200 000 beneficiaries of the potential temporary disability grants who failed to make the December deadline, to urgently re-apply for the grants.

The announcement came after DA spokesperson on social development, Bridget Masango threatened to write to the chair of the portfolio committee on social Development, Mondli Gungubele, to urgently request a meeting to deal with the looming disability grant crisis, where the Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu must account for how her department intended to handle the crisis.

Masango also wanted Zulu to provide a guarantee that the grant reassessment deadlines will be extended at least until March.

Temporary Disability Grants that were supposed to lapse from February last year were extended to December 31 last year, in order to cushion affected beneficiaries against the pressures brought about by the State of National Disaster and the subsequent lockdown. The cost of continuing to pay the grants is in excess of R1.5 billion.

Sassa spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi said that the government will have to spend an additional R1.2bn in order to continue the payment of the grants until the end March. He said a disability grant may be awarded as either a permanent grant, which may or may not be subject to a medical review after a certain period of time. He also explained that permanent disability grants are awarded for conditions which impact on the applicant’s ability to work for a period longer than 12 months.

“Where the disability or medical condition is likely to improve with treatment or other interventions, the grant may be awarded for a temporary period of between 6 and 12 months. After this time, the grant lapses, in accordance with the conditions set in the Social Assistance Act, 2004,” Letsatsi said.

He said the re-application required a new medical assessment to confirm whether the condition warranted a grant. Letsatsi said Sassa staff then takes the personal and contact details of the client so they can contact them to confirm when they could return to the office to complete the process.

He said the information in the referral letter is used to inform the Sassa doctor who, in turn, is required to complete an assessment and recommend whether the grant should be awarded.

Then Sassa, having taken all factors into account, including the medical assessment and after applying the means test, decides on whether the grant should be awarded or not. The new award may be for a temporary or permanent period, depending on the circumstances of each applicant.

“It is important for any applicant for a disability grant to be aware that if the grant is awarded for a temporary period, or not approved, he/she has the right to request Sassa to reconsider the decision,” said Letsatsi.

He explained that this must be done within 90 days of being informed of the outcome of the application and also said that if the reconsidered decision is still unfavourable, then the applicant has the right to appeal to the Independent Appeals Tribunal, he said this too has to be done within 90 days of receiving the reconsidered outcome.

Letsatsi said Sassa will continue to do everything in its power to provide services to those who need them, adding that all citizens and staff visiting Sassa’s offices are required to adhere to Covid-19 health protocols.

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