The Western Cape government has voiced serious concerns over the ability of the South African Social Securities Agency (SASSA) to ensure the safety of its millions of grant beneficiaries as the cold winter months approach.
SASSA have struggled to ensure that those who successfully applied for the COVID-19 Special Relief of Distress (SRD) grant are paid out timeously, with the suspension of the relief fund in April leading to widespread protest across the country.
SASSA urged to ensure vulnerable are supported ahead of winter
The Western Cape’s Minister for Social Development, Sharna Fernandez, met with SASSA officials on Monday 24 May and raised concerns over their “tardiness in providing plans ahead of the harsh winter months that threaten the livelihoods and social security of vulnerable citizens living in the province”. Fernandez said that SASSA must urgently move to resolve payment issues as fears over a third wave of COVID-19 infections mount.
“I have requested that SASSA apply their minds when outlining their plans for the coming winter. It is imperative that effective plans are put in place to support our vulnerable citizens. The impact of winter coupled with the rise of a potential third wave of COVID-19 infections are concerning. As such, all spheres of government have to play their role,” said Fernandez.
She said that while SASSA remains the lead agency charged with social support to the poor in terms of Chapter 3 of the Social Assistance Act, the provincial Department of Social Development (DSD) has been working tirelessly to ensure that winter readiness programmes are operational in each region across the province.
“However, we require the support of other government agencies to help ensure that there are appropriate responses to mitigate the impact of disaster situations on vulnerable communities,” she said.
Department to assist with vulnerable beneficiaries
Fernandez said that The Department’s major preparations to help the vulnerable in the Western Cape who desperately rely on social grants additionally entail the provision of additional bed spaces for homeless adults, social work services aimed at family reunification, and social relief of distress.
“The DSD has staff on standby to respond to natural disasters such as flooding or fires by providing support services such as trauma counselling where needed and other forms of psycho-social support. The team further facilitates access to humanitarian and food relief by means of assessment before referring the case to SASSA,” the Department said on Tuesday.
“Our efforts as government are most effective when we work in partnership with other government agencies, NGOs and communities. We believe that the onset of winter should not mean that the destitute must suffer from the cold, harsh weather.”
“For this reason, we will continue to meet with SASSA to provide an update on the progress made to address their current challenges and ensure greater collaboration between SASSA and DSD,” concluded Fernandez.