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Sassa to renew temporary disability grants by March 31

17 Feb 2021

By Simukele Ngema

A 25-year-old woman from Tembisa township, near Kempton Park, Gauteng is one of the over 200 000 recipients who was affected when the temporary disability grants lapsed in December 2020.

The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) had extended the temporary disability grants beyond the period for which they were approved — from February to December 2020 — under the Disaster Management Act. However, Sassa told parliament in January that it did not have the money to reinstate and extend the grants.

As reported in TimesLive, “The grant is provided to citizens who are unable to work as a result of a functional limitation caused by a disability or medical condition. It is not provided for people who are able to find work or for those who have chronic conditions which are manageable with treatment.

“The grant can be given either as a permanent grant or as a temporary arrangement for between six and 12 months, after which the grant lapses. If a recipient is still unable to work, they have to do a new application with a new medical assessment,” TimesLive reported.

Mpho Maila only found out that her temporary disability grant had been discontinued when she used her Sassa card to withdraw money from an ATM on January 5.

“I was shocked and stressed out because I use the disability grant to pay rent, to buy food and for transport when I go to the doctor for check-up. It doesn’t cover all but it is better than nothing,” Maila told ThisAbility.

Maila had been receiving the grant since 2017 after suffering a stroke which affected her left hand and leg. As a result, she cannot stand for more than five minutes and has high blood pressure

This was the first time  her grant was not paid. She told ThisAbility that her doctor keeps recommending a temporary grant instead of a permanent disability grant because the doctor believes that she can recover and be able to work if she keeps attending physiotherapy at Tembisa Hospital.

Maila said she did not know where to find the money to pay rent because she is an orphan. Her highest qualification is grade 10, and before the stroke she was trying to complete matric through adult basic education and training.

In a media statement, Sassa said, “In terms of the Social Assistance Act, 2004, a temporary disability grant is given for a specific period only, where after it must lapse. If the client is still unable to work as a result of the condition, then a new application, with a new medical assessment is required.”

This is exactly what Maila was told on January 10 when she went to Sassa offices to enquire about reinstating the grant. She managed to get the required letter from the doctor and on February 1 her grant was renewed, meaning she will receive payment from March 4.

An autistic, visually impaired teenager with an intellectual disability was another recipient whose grant was abruptly stopped.  Sisima Mandondo (55) from East London spoke to ThisAbility about the grant experience of her 18-year-old son, Libongo.

Mandondo said her son’s temporary disability grant was terminated because now that he is 18 she cannot use his birth certificate to renew his temporary grant. “I’m still waiting for his identity document so that I can apply for him. As I’m talking to you (ThisAbility) now there is no food for him.”

The family had registered with social workers for food parcels on January 5 but more than a month later they have not received any food.

In its media release, Sassa said extending the temporary disability grants to December had cost it R1.8 billion, and a further three-month extension would cost the agency another R1.2 billion, which was not available.

“No government department or public entity can spend funds it does not have,” Sassa said.

As a result of the lapsing of the grants extension, Sassa branches around the country have been inundated by long lines of beneficiaries trying to renew their temporary disability grants. This has raised concerns among the public about the vulnerability of the applicants to covid-19 as social distancing has not been possible in the long lines.

Sassa officials told Parliament in January that the agency had appointed more doctors to conduct the medical assessments, and that they expected to have completed the renewal of the temporary disability grants by March 31.

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