Disability grant recipients whose temporary grants lapsed at the end of 2020 say they are at their wits’ end to access their grants. Some have not received anything since the beginning of 2021.
They say they have been sent back and forth by the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) every month for the past few months.
Sassa disability grant
If you have a physical or mental disability, which makes you unfit for work for more than six months, you can apply for a temporary disability grant of R1,890 after a medical assessment from a doctor and approval from Sassa.
These temporary disability grants were extended twice due to the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown but lapsed at the end of 2020.
At the beginning of 2021, more than 40,000 temporary disability grants lapsed in the Western Cape alone and beneficiaries rushed to Sassa offices, causing long queues outside some offices.
Online booking portal
Sassa launched an online booking portal for medical assessments in June to ease the long queues. Western Cape Sassa spokesperson Shivani Wahab told GroundUp that Sassa offices are currently only running at 30% normal staff capacity due to Covid-19 workplace regulations.
The queues outside the Bellville office remained long on Friday 6 August. The Sassa office in Bellville had several long queues down stretching down the road.
Some beneficiaries said they’d been there since early that morning and some had even come the previous day.
Long queues at Sassa offices
Nazireen Solomons had been there the day before, but the queues were too long and the Sassa staff could not help everyone. She was sent home at 3:30 pm.
Solomons had to travel from Delft both mornings, paying R30 from her home and back each time.
Solomons managed to make her doctor’s appointment and had her medical assessment in April, but she has since been queuing at the Sassa Bellville office every month to hear about the outcome of her grant. Each month, she is given another date by Sassa staff and told to come back.
“For all those months that you walk up and down, you don’t even know what the doctor writes in your report. It might be a no. You wait months to hear the answer. For months you walk up and down,” said Solomons, who first made a new application for her disability grant in February.
Lack of Sassa staff
Wahab said the lack of staff at Sassa offices in the Western Cape was also due to the recent taxi violence over the past few weeks, which “disrupted operations further as some of the staff are unable to travel to and from work during this period”.
In addition to this, some offices had closed for sanitation where positive cases of Covid-19 were identified.
Sometimes the doctor’s assessment expires before the disability grant is approved. According to Sassa temporary disability grant requirements, the doctor’s medical assessment, which is required to receive the disability grant, expires within three months.
Levern Alexander had to go to the Elsie’s River day hospital again in July after her medical assessment expired. When she went on the date Sassa gave her, the doctor wasn’t there and she had to go back two days later.
Alexander said that she has been back and forth since March last year to get her disability grant.
Waiting since February
Another disability grant recipient, Magdelene Dailey, queued outside the Sassa office from 4 am on both Thursday and Friday.
She has been sent back and forth, she says, being given new dates from Sassa since February this year. Dailey said that she thought Sassa was always understaffed.
“I’ve been sent back and forth a couple of times. The staff is always too little,” said Dailey. She also said that a solution would be to open Sassa offices in other areas, which would speed up the whole process.
By Liezl Human © 2021 GroundUp. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.