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State extends social security net

Apr 14 2011 16:44 Sapa

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Cape Town - Another million people will get social grants this year, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said in her pre-budget vote speech on Thursday.

The grant was one of the department's biggest poverty alleviation programmes and currently reached 15.3 million people at a cost of R97bn a year.

In the 2011/12 financial year, the department would spend over R104bn to reach the extra million people. Beneficiaries were children, the aged and people with disabilities.

Delivering her budget vote in Parliament, she said grant expenditure accounted for 93% of her department's budget for this year.

Priorities included R244m for social work scholarships, R6.1bn for the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) management, administration and payment of social grants, over R600m to support the department's policy, implementation and oversight responsibilities, and R97bn for social grants to households.

Dlamini said the age of children who could register for the grant had risen to 17 from January 1.

"This has seen the total number of children receiving the child support grant increasing to over 10.3 million by March this year."

About 1.2m people with disabilities and 2.7m pensioners would benefit.

Whilst the child support grant had an excellent take up rate from the ages of three to 14, there was a low take up rate of children from birth to three years.

"The low take-up rate is of concern to my department because such children are most vulnerable at that stage of development. It is estimated that over one million children within this age category still do not access the child support grant."

Sassa, together with the home affairs department, would go to "every nook and cranny" to register these children, Dlamini said.

She said there were now more than 700 000 children in some 19 000 Early Childhood Development centres in the country and most of these children were receiving grants.

She said the department was experiencing delays in processing foster child grant applications and the extension of court orders authorising foster care arrangements.

These delays were caused by the shortage of social workers, limited court capacity to deal with the volumes of foster care cases and legislative problems.

She said Sassa had made considerable service delivery improvements in the administration and payments of social grants.

Amongst other things it had reduced the cost of distribution of the grants by about R500m. Irregular expenditure was reduced from R69m in 2009 to R2.6m in 2010.

But, Dlamini said Sassa still faced problems with the grant administration.

"Beneficiaries are not always treated with dignity. The processing and payments of grants, especially at pay points, is still a far cry from the ideal of a humane, dignified and citizen-focused service. It is further regrettable that as a result of a lack of modernisation and inefficiencies, the Office of the Auditor General issued a disclaimer in its audit findings in respect of Sassa's financial statements, records and other matters."

Dlamini said Sassa would, amongst other things, introduce a new payment system over five years to reduce disbursement costs.

In an effort to deal with poverty, unemployment and substance and alcohol abuse, the department would provide a scholarship to train new social workers, as well as look to recruit retired social workers to help those coming into the profession.

A national consultative workshop for retired social workers would be held this year to explore the ways and means of drawing on their expertise.

sassa  |  poverty



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