Black Sash Media Statement - Friday, 19 March 2010
After nearly two years of research and decades of assisting poor and vulnerable people to access their right to social assistance, the Black Sash has published what’s been described by Professor Viviene Taylor as “the first comprehensive guide to South Africa’s social grant system.” Professor Taylor, who chaired the ‘Committee of Inquiry into a Comprehensive System of Social Security for South Africa’ in 2001 and wrote the forward to the guide, says ‘Social Assistance: A reference guide for paralegals’ is “an invaluable contribution in ensuring that people are able to claim their social and economic rights. It translates policy and legislative requirements for accessing social grants into clear and simple steps that can be understood by those who work in communities.”
Starting from chapter one, ‘Social Assistance: A reference guide for paralegals’ outlines what the right to social assistance means for those who live in South Africa. It provides information on the different types of social grants available to people, the criteria according to which individuals qualify for these grants, and the process through which applications can be made. Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager Ratula Beukman, who wrote a number of the chapters, says the guide draws heavily on the extensive experience of Black Sash paralegal staff who assist thousands of people across the country each year. “We have used our own case studies in this guide to illustrate what kinds of issues and problems may arise when trying to access social assistance and how they can be handled. We have tried to capture in one publication as much up-to-date information. We believe that our book will be useful to anyone who wants to give advice on social grants – whether it be to clients, employees, family or friends,” says Beukman.
The easy-to-use guide will also help advice givers understand more about the way grants lapse, are suspended or cancelled as well as how the appeals process works. It includes a focus on the rights of foreign nationals, lists of the documents needed to apply; the rules that govern each grant, useful contact numbers as well as how the means test works and what the thresholds are for each grant.
The South African social assistance system is relatively well developed, but, as Professor Taylor points out in her forward, “in laying out who can receive grants, this guide also highlights who does not qualify for grants. South Africa is not a poor country and the level of wealth accumulation of a few is obscene when there are so many who have nothing. The key question that we need to address in South Africa is how to ensure the equitable distribution and redistribution of the benefits of democratic development to the poorest.”
Beukman says this is exactly why the Black Sash has highlighted the serious gaps in the social assistance system. “We have included a discussion of the current debates on the inadequacies of the social assistance system, so that anyone who reads the book can get involved in our advocacy work if they are interested or provide us with examples of cases which may help in improving the social assistance system. We hope the guide will inspire us all to continue to fight to make socio-economic rights a reality for all who live in our country.”
Information sheets and flyers on ‘your rights’ with respect to each of the different social grants are also available for download and distribution off the Black Sash website.
For interview requests, please contact:
Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager
Cell: 072-613 3577
Black Sash Gauteng Provincial Director
Cell: 082 456 2643
Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager
For more information, please contact:
Black Sash Media Officer
MAKING HUMAN RIGHTS REAL!