Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu has encouraged applicants of the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) R350 grant not to change their bank details frequently because every new account must be verified.
“Once your bank details are loaded or updated, please wait for a response from your bank before changing your details.
“With regards to payments, we are still having challenges with beneficiaries who upload incorrect bank details. We also urge all approved applicants who are not yet paid to check the status of bank verification, and if needs be, correct their banking details,” the Minister said.
Minister Zulu was updating the country on the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant during a media briefing held in Pretoria.
She announced that nearly 7.5 million people are receiving the benefit on a monthly basis.
“As we are approaching the levels of support and coverage that we committed to, namely 10.5 million people, we also need to be cautious not to over commit government to levels of funding that are beyond the allocated budget,” Zulu said.
She said government had noted that it is in the interest of the income-less, un-employable and vulnerable sections of the country’s population for the implementation of the COVID-19 SRD to improve.
“Equally, we note that the vast majority of South Africans prefer to be in employment. Until such time that the economy has sufficiently grown, we cannot helplessly sit by and watch the people lose their dignity.
“Because the decisions that are relevant to this benefit have profound implications either way. We opt to err on the side of caution where changes are being effected to the COVID-19 SRD framework. This is indeed responsible than being found to have mismanaged public resources,” she said.
Minister Zulu apologised to those applicants and beneficiaries of the COVID-19 SRD for the challenges they have experienced.
This is in regards to the end of the provisions of the National State of Disaster under the Disaster Management Act and the switch over to the regulations of the Social Assistance Act that facilitates the implementation of this benefit.
The Minister said the challenges point to the design and implementation difficulties that government programmes face in their formative stages.
“We regret the pain and hardships that these challenges occasioned for many of you for whom this intervention is the difference between, on the one hand, hunger and indignity, and on another, leading a dignified life.
“This is noteworthy at this juncture when the country is on course with the implementation of the economic growth interventions that are designed to immediately lead us into a territory where more jobs can be created and more people can be gainfully employed or self-employed,” Zulu said.
Whereas the Disaster Management Act enabled the department to pay the COVID-19 SRD to 10.5 million beneficiaries within a short space of time, Minister Zulu said the lifting of the National State of Disaster in March 2022 challenged the department to immediately develop new regulations under the Social Assistance Act.
She said that these changes necessitated that the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act be brought into effect in so far as the use of allocated budgets is concerned.
Consequently, the continued payment of this benefit required that additional qualifying criteria be introduced.
“On the premise that the Public Finance Management Act requires us to stay within the allocated R44 billion, we introduced additional qualifying criteria. These included the introduction of the means test threshold of R350 for all applicants.
“This was implemented by checking the bank accounts of each applicant monthly to establish if they are having income flows valued at R350 (or more) into their bank account from other sources. The implementation of this provision proved that it needed more time for it to be realised in practice,” she said.
The Minister said the most important challenge they continue to experience is the low up-take of the benefit by less than 50% of the budgeted amount.
“For us as the Social Development portfolio this is a very serious indictment because we continue to see the growing numbers of hungry and distressed people in the communities where we work,” Zulu said.
Having noted the public outcry regarding the qualifying criteria that was introduced during the third iteration of this benefit in August, the department published the amended regulations that simplified some complexities that were arising from the qualifying criteria.
Zulu said these simplified regulations have had the desired effect in that the number of applicants that SASSA received increased to more than 12 million.
“Most importantly, we increased the means test threshold from R350 to R624 that is in line with the estimated Food Poverty Line for 2022.
“These amendments received the concurrence of the Minister of Finance. We may have to consider a further adjustment to the threshold to enable more applicants to qualify for the benefit,” Minister Zulu said.