Sassa and the challenges of the poor
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.