The Black Sash has accepted a settlement offer after taking the government to court on behalf of tens of thousands of people waiting to have their social grant appeals heard. Along with 24 disabled people from the Eastern Cape, we launched a legal application in March last year following persistent attempts to persuade the Department of Social Development to clear the huge appeals backlog and deal with excessive delays. The Legal Resources Centre in Grahamstown acted on behalf of the Black Sash and its co-applicants.
According to the Department’s own figures published in April 2010, more than 65 000 people across the country are trapped in a systemic appeals backlog in the office of the Minister and at the Appeals Tribunal. The Black Sash initiated the case because most appeals are submitted by vulnerable and marginalised people who 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. Unfortunately, litigation was the only route left open to secure our clients’ Constitutional and statutory rights to an appeal and just administration.
The settlement instructs the Department of Social Development to report back to the court within 30 days and they must provide the court with up to date information about the existing backlog, as well as the details of the programmes they have adopted to deal with it, by September 2011. The department must also give us a final report at the end of October to confirm that the backlog of appeals has been cleared in accordance with the terms of the settlement. The settlement further allows the Black Sash to approach the court at any time for further or alternative relief should the settlement be breached.
Documents relating to our case: