As part of government’s plan to address gender imbalance, caregivers – the majority of whom are women – will now also receive the R350 Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant.
Effective from August 6, the grant application criteria mean it will be open to permanent residents or refugees registered on the Home Affairs database; holders of special permits under the Special Angolan Dispensation, the Lesotho Exemption Permit Dispensation and the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit Dispensation; and asylum seekers whose Section 22 permits or visas are valid or were valid on March 15, 2020.
Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said those who had previously received the grant, until April 30, must re-apply.
“This will enable us to assess their eligibility as we did every month during the previous period, and all applications will be treated as new applications every month. However, each applicant need only apply once; thereafter the application will be considered monthly,” she explained.
The Minister cautioned that all applicants would need to accept the declaration and consent, which has been strengthened to comply with the Protection of Personal Information Act, adding that to access the grant or have the application reconsidered, an applicant must grant consent to the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) to verify his or her identity, residency, income or social security benefits with any other institution.
“We have implemented some system improvements to enable us to better serve the applicants and speed up the verification and payment turnaround times. Our new process will now request the applicants to provide their banking details upfront, so that we can process payment as soon as they meet the criteria,” Zulu said.
This will address delays in processing payments.
Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, all applications will be done electronically, to limit face-to-face interactions, manage social distancing and use frontline application systems.
Sassa and the South African Post Office are developing additional channels through which approved applicants can access their funds, to reduce the queues at the post offices.
“This will include access to the funds through participating merchants and ATMs. Further information will be provided in the course of the coming days in this regard. Clients who previously cancelled the grant, and who would like to re-activate the grant, due to a change in their circumstances, are welcome to re-apply,” Zulu said.
Any applicant whose grant is not approved can request that the decision be reconsidered through an appeals process.
“The decline will only be reconsidered upon a request from the client – an application has to be lodged on the website within 30 days of the outcome being available. It is, therefore, really important that applicants check their status, which is updated on the website as soon as a decision is made. An appeal must be lodged for every month that the grant is declined,” Zulu explained.
Any applicant whose application was approved but not paid because the applicant could not be traced or the applicant did not contact Sassa to update his or her personal details, will forfeit the money to the State after August 31, 2021 and such an applicant will not be able to lodge any claim against the State, she warned.
All applications will be verified to avoid fraud, which requires a commitment from government to provide accurate and current information.
“From a fraud and corruption aspect, Sassa is recovering monies from those who benefitted wrongly, and has referred some matters to law enforcement agencies for further action and possible arrests. We have also strengthened our controls in this regard and will deal differently with, for example, government officials who may apply for the grant through working with the DPSA [Department of Public Service and Administration],” Zulu ended.