Social Grant increases welcome Black Sash

The Black Sash welcomed the increase to social grants previously announced by the Minister of Finance in his budget speech and to be implemented from 1 April 2014. The Older Persons Grant and the Disability Grant will increase by R80 to R1350 a month. The Foster Care Grant will increase by R30 to R830 per month. The Child Support Grant will increase now by R10 to R310, with another small increase in October 2014, bringing it to R320 per month. In addition, the means test thresholds will increase marginally, allowing more people to be eligible for social assistance.

The Black Sash is aware that social grants beneficiaries are experiencing serious problems with the new biometric-banking system now used to pay out grants, and that many are experiencing unexplained debitdeductions from their accounts. We urge anyone having this difficulty to report directly to SASSA and or to contact the Black Sash Helpline, given below, if they are not given the assistance they need. The recent interest rate hike, fuel price increase, and rise in inflation rates over and above the alarming increase in the cost of basic foods, has had a devastating impact on the most vulnerable members of our society. The latest increases to the social grants are not high and some are not even linked to inflation, but any additional amount of money is welcomed by poor households. For more than 22% of the households in South Africa, social grants are the main source of income.

Research shows that social grants are one of the most effective means of reducing absolute poverty. The sad reality, however, is that this assistance is only provided to children, the disabled and older people. Unemployed and chronically ill people are currently excluded from the social grants system, even when they suffer extreme poverty. For their survival they must rely on children and pensioners who receive a grant, as they have no other form of income support.

In the absence of a comprehensive employment strategy that seriously addresses the problem of structural unemployment, the Black Sash believes government should give serious consideration to a Basic Income Grant. We believe that the most practical way to improve food security for children, the elderly and disabled, is to provide regular income to the millions of adults who simply cannot find work to support their families. A cash endowment would represent a lifeline to the many hundreds of thousands of people who would depend on it for their basic nutritional needs. If we are not prepared to invest in our people now, twenty years into democracy, we may never be able to reverse our neglect, as the quality of life of the unemployed deteriorates daily. SASSA contact number 0800 601011, Black Sash Helpline 072 6633 739