Legal Action Over SASSA R350 Grant Withdrawn
SASSA is a social institution that aims to give relief to people who are financially unstable. For this purpose, SASSA has initiated several grants. The COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) is one of those grants. It was created in March 2020. The initiation aims to support people affected financially by the impact of COVID-19. The grant usually targets unemployed people. The SRD R350 grant is essential for many South African people still facing financial consequences because of lockdowns. The grant has more than 10 million beneficiaries. Many people use this grant only as an aid for survival.
SASSA Attempt to Reduce Budget of SRD R350 Grant
In April 2022, SASSA made an effort to decrease the budget for grants. Without consulting or taking advice from any department, they made an amendment to the SRD grant’s regulations policy. As a result, the qualifying amount for the COVID-19 SRD was reduced.
The grant decreased from R595 to R350. It means that a SASSA beneficiary can not own more than R350 a month in their account. If they have more than R350 in their bank account, they are known as “too rich” for the COVID-19 SRD grant. As a result, SASSA would automatically disqualify the grant beneficiary.
Black Sash Filed A Petition Against SASSA
In June 2022, Black Sash, an agency for the protection of human rights, filed an urgent petition in the High Court of Pretoria. Black Sash filed the petition against the unwanted and exclusionary sort of amendment. Black Sash is an agency represented by (CALS) the Centre For Applied Legal Studies.
The application of Black Sash in court raised voices on several issues. The issues include using only online platforms to apply for the SRD grants, favoring bank verification over other information in the SRD applications, a very low grant of R350, and no solid reason given by SASSA for the rejection of applications.
According to Black Sash’s report, the agency interviewed 19 people aged between 22 and 56 through telephone calls. While describing the need for SASSA grants, participants also told their challenges in receiving grants.
One of the participants highlighted the issue of waiting for hours to receive payments at the post office. The other highlighted the issue of traveling from branch to branch, where the officials say they have no money to give payments. The participants also drew attention to bribery which SASSA officers take to provide payments. As per the report, half of the beneficiaries of the SRD grant only use this for their one-time meal.
After the amendments in regulations passed, the destructive consequences started. As per the report, before the amendments in regulations (in March 2022), 15.5 million needy people were applying in a month for the SASSA COVID-19 SRD grant. But after the amendments were made (in April 2022), less than 10 million people submitted applications for SRD grants. As estimated, around 16 million applications were decreased for the COVID-19 SRD grant three months after the regulations were passed.
Response By DSD
On August 16, 2022, the Department of Social Development (DSD) responded to the petition in court filed by Black Sash and announced changes to the SRD grant regulations. The new amendments by the department to solve two fundamental problems are highlighted in the petition of Black Sash.
- They increased the income amount for qualification for the COVID-19 SRD above R350.
- They remove the favoring of verification of bank information over the applicant’s information when applying for an SRD grant.
Here you can check Sassa Status through Sassa online portal.
Black Sash Withdraw The Legal Action Over SASSA R350 Grant
Due to the petition filed by Black Sash, DSD moved to review the regulation once again. The department makes some amendments that can give advantages to the people of South Africa.
Due to the amendments by DSD in the policy of SRD grant, the agency of Black Sash has withdrawn the legal petition against SASSA and DSD.
Black Sash released a statement over the withdrawal of this case. Here are the words. ‘In response to the amended Regulations, which are welcomed, we have since withdrawn the legal application. It nevertheless remains disheartening that it took a legal challenge for DSD to change its course and adopt a human rights-based approach to the grant system’.