Sassa and the chal­lenges of the poor

The Witness - - OPINION -

I WISH to draw the at­ten­tion of the pub­lic to the most re­cent chal­lenges that Sassa has had to face while the poor have to bear the brunt as usual.

On Oc­to­ber 27, a meet­ing was held with stake­hold­ers to in­form them of the chal­lenges and changes to pro­ce­dure.

The district sur­geons’ con­tracts were not ex­tended, and there­fore there will be no re­views, no new ap­pli­ca­tions, and no re­assess­ments un­til next year, Fe­bru­ary. In the mean­time, they will is­sue food vouch­ers to those who are await­ing the district sur­geon’s re­port and the monies for the vouch­ers will be re­cov­ered once the grant is ap­proved.

Also, food vouch­ers will now get is­sued by so­cial work­ers at 390 Pi­eter­maritz Street, and at North­dale Hos­pi­tal only if the per­son has a file at the hos­pi­tal. Mean­while, peo­ple have spent their last few rands in queues at Sassa and the hos­pi­tal, only to be turned away, with the hos­pi­tal’s so­cial work­ers not aware of these de­ci­sions un­til Novem­ber 2.

While we note the late­ness of the ef­fort made, one can’t help but no­tice that yet again, due to poor planning from Sassa, the poor have to suf­fer, wait­ing in long queues at two dif­fer­ent venues, in­cur­ring trans­port costs on loan, to get a food voucher, many with no money for their lights and wa­ter ac­counts, and a bleak Christ­mas sea­son with lit­tle or no food in their homes. Cllr NALENI NAIDOO Ne­wholme Vusi Ma­haye, Sassa se­nior man­ager: com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing, re­sponds: South African So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency (Sassa) would like to pro­vide some clar­ity re­gard­ing the is­sues in the let­ter. A stake­holder meet­ing was held on Oc­to­ber 27 with the aim of in­form­ing and ex­chang­ing in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing changes that are tak­ing place within Sassa. The main ob­jec­tive was to cre­ate a plat­form where com­mu­nity lead­ers, in­clud­ing coun­cil­lors, would be able to raise is­sues af­fect­ing their com­mu­ni­ties and also open lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Sassa man­age­ment.

One of the is­sues that was dis­cussed was the is­sue of med­i­cal as­sess­ments. Sassa rep­re­sen­ta­tives in that meet­ing in­di­cated that we are fi­nal­is­ing pro­cure­ment pro­cesses. One of the chal­lenges is that most Sassa doc­tors are em­ployed by the Depart­ment of Health, which makes it dif­fi­cult to re­new their con­tracts be­cause we will be in breach of the Pub­lic Ser­vice Act and the Pub­lic Ser­vice Reg­u­la­tions of 2016, which pro­hibits gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials from do­ing busi­ness with the state. Our head of­fice is en­gag­ing with the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Ser­vice to get de­vi­a­tion ap­proval to utilise doc­tors con­tracted by the Depart­ment of Health. In the mean­time, we have a data­base of all those who are af­fected, with the aim of con­tact­ing them as soon we have been able to se­cure doc­tors, which will hap­pen in com­ing weeks.

Lastly, let’s give clar­ity the is­sue of So­cial Re­lief of Dis­tress (SRD), pop­u­larly known as the food voucher. This is im­me­di­ate re­lief that is given to a per­son who is fac­ing un­due hard­ship like dis­as­ter, a bread­win­ner death or wait­ing for a so­cial grant. So­cial work­ers may also visit house­holds to as­sess and rec­om­mend that a per­son re­ceive SRD. It is im­por­tant to note that with the ex­cep­tion of those af­fected by dis­as­ter or as­sisted through the in­ter­ven­tion of so­cial work­ers, a per­son who is ex­pect­ing a grant must sign that he or she will pay back the SRD as soon as the grant is ap­proved. This can be done in in­stal­ments. We will com­mu­ni­cate with Sassa ben­e­fi­cia­ries as soon as doc­tors are ready to do as­sess­ments. We are en­gag­ing with var­i­ous stake­hold­ers and re­gret any in­con­ve­nience this might be caus­ing.

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