Drop in R350 grant beneficiaries concerning, says Lindiwe Zulu – SowetanLIVE

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Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu has asked the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) to investigate the significant decrease in the number of people receiving the R350 social relief of distress (SRD) grant.
Answering questions in parliament on Wednesday, Zulu said: “With the new regulations and alterations, the numbers went down and I have asked Sassa to do an analysis on the decrease month to month and year to year [of the] number of applications and what the variables are.”
Zulu was responding to Good MP Brett Herron, who asked her about statements she made in October that changes envisaged to the regulations governing the payment of the R350 SRD grant would allow more people to qualify.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of eligible applicants since the implementation of the amended regulations. Before the amended regulations came to effect, the number of approved applications were: in April we had 8.1-million and approved 4.7-million, in May there were 7.6-million applications and we approved 5.7-million, in June 11.3-million applied and we approved 6.8-million.”
When the grant was first rolled out, there were an estimated 10-million beneficiaries. 
Zulu said she was unhappy with the large number of applicants compared with the number of recipients.
“The number of people that were able to go back to work is still very low, and so once that [Sassa] report [is available it] will enable us to make a proper analysis.”
Budget constraints were also a factor, she said.
“It’s also about the budget that we get from the National Treasury.”
Zulu said the number of applications was still as high as it was in 2020 and the application system was still effective.
“The issue is the means test and the regulations we needed. That is why we had to change the threshold, which was making it difficult for us.”
She said she did not want a large number of people depending on the grant to be excluded.
“We need to check the data against the department of home affairs and other departments because we do not want people who are receiving other grants to collect the R350. We cannot afford to have all of these people lost in the system.”
Herron said the declining number of applications was worrying but welcomed finance minister Enoch Godongwana’s recent announcement to extend the SRD to March 2024.
He said the government had a legal duty to assist those who do not have access to a basic income.
“Once we have given support to that large proportion of society, we cannot simply withdraw it — because social security is a right, it’s not a gift … We believe that it’s common sense and a legal imperative that we implement a basic income grant which will meet the lower bound poverty line of approximately R890 per person per month.”
He asked Zulu whether the department intended to implement a permanent social security plan which will use the SRD as a foundation.
Zulu said: “As a department of social development and Sassa, we have already indicated that we were happy with the extension of the social grant because that was a concern for us.
“We do think that the SRD, which we started with as R350, is the stepping stone towards the basic income grant. The question we need to ask is: how we are going to make it happen and where we are going to get the money from?
“We have gone past the point of asking whether we need it or not.”
TimesLIVE
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