Black Sash Media Statements

‘Government fails to clear grant appeals backlog by court deadline’ - BLACK SASH, 29 September 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: THURSDAY, 29 SEPTEMBER 2011

We are disappointed that the Department of Social Development has failed to clear the massive backlog of social assistance appeal cases by 30 September 2011 as stipulated in our court settlement order. The Black Sash, supported by the Legal Resources Centre, accepted the settlement offer after taking the government to court on behalf of nearly 65 000 people who were waiting to have their social grant appeals heard. Some had waited more than 18 months. Along with 24 disabled people from the Eastern Cape, we launched our legal application in March last year following persistent attempts to persuade the department to deal with the excessive delays in the appeals system.

Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager Ratula Beukman says although they have reluctantly agreed to give the government an extension of two months until the end of November, they are concerned about the department’s ability to deliver on its commitment. “The tragedy is that most appeals are submitted by vulnerable and marginalised people, many of whom are disabled or chronically ill and can’t easily access the legal help they need to enforce their right to administrative justice. Taking the government to court was not something we did lightly but unfortunately litigation was the only route left open to us to secure the Constitutional and statutory rights of tens of thousands of vulnerable people to an appeal,” explains Beukman.

Black Sash KwaZulu Natal Provincial Director, Evashnee Naidu, says she is particularly concerned about the breakdown in communication with the department in her province. “Our clients and other applicants are still experiencing unacceptable delays in the processing of their appeals despite the department’s promises to set up an efficient and effective system. The problems include delays in receiving a hearing date, delays in being informed of the outcome of hearings, delays in payments as well as poor communication in general with the applicants,” says Naidu.

Many of the appeals relate to grant applicants who are chronically ill but may not qualify for a Disability Grant. Beukman says this has exposed a massive hole in the social assistance net. “South Africa is afflicted with extremely high levels of chronic illness due to the HIV/Aids pandemic, TB and our high levels of poverty. The current system basically forces those who are chronically ill to become disabled before they are able to secure any form of income support. Helping sick people who are battling the dual hardships of poverty and illness to participate meaningfully in society is not just our Constitutional duty, it also makes social and economic sense. Allowing people to become functionally disabled and unproductive costs us all more and also puts an added strain on our already over-burdened public health system,” insists Beukman. 

The Black Sash has given the Social Development Department until 30 November 2011 to clear the current appeals backlog and until the 31 of December 2011 to provide a final report confirming that this has been done in accordance with the terms of the settlement order.

ENDS.

FOR INTERVIEW REQUESTS, PLEASE CONTACT:

Ratula Beukman

Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cell: 072-174 3507

OR

Evashnee Naidu

Black Sash KwaZulu Natal Provincial Director

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cell: 084-430 6133


OR  

Nkosikhulule Nyembezi

Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager

Cell: 082-429 4719

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.