The Democratic Alliance (DA) once again calls on the Department of Social Development (DSD) to urgently increase its efforts to recruit more medical doctors to assess disability grant applicants.
This follows an oversight inspection at Mitchells Plain South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) Office in Cape Town today with my colleagues DA City of Cape Town Mayco Member for Community Services and Health, Alderman Zahid Badroodien, and DA Member of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, Alexandra Abrahams MP. It is clear that the lack of doctors to assess disability grant applicants is one of the major reasons behind the recent inhumane queues and waiting hours outside SASSA offices across the country.
In December last year, SASSA suspended thousands of temporary disability and care dependency grants across the country. Due to the Agency and the DSD’s poor planning, hundreds of applicants descended on various SASSA locations across the country to reapply for these grants and to make other grant-related queries.
This morning at the Mitchells Plain SASSA Office, we found that things are still very much the same despite Minister Lindiwe Zulu’s visits to various SASSA offices in Cape Town yesterday.
The Minister’s visit was clearly just a PR stunt as no tangible changes have been implemented this past week to assist the hundreds of vulnerable disability grant applicants and other grant recipients in desperate need of assistance.
The DA encountered a long queue of applicants and beneficiaries waiting in the rain outside the Mitchells Plain Office. Many had been waiting in the cold for hours.
The Office’s management raised the following challenges: The suspension of temporary disability grants has placed a massive strain on the office; they receive between 150 to 200 clients per day; closure of certain service centres during the lockdown has contributed to delays and long queues; government regulations stipulate that only 50% of staff are at the office; the lack of doctors available to assess applicants exacerbating the issue; lack of doctors at clinics means that applicants must wait even longer to reapply for an assessment dates; and assessment bookings with doctors are full until the 11th of March.
The backlogs in assessing disability grant cases have been a historic issue within SASSA which has been brought on by the major shortages of doctors contracted by the Agency.
Since last year, before the disability grants crisis turned into this nightmare, the DA appealed to the DSD and SASSA on numerous occasions to bring more doctors into the system to clear the backlogs in assessments. We also called for an extension of the expiring grants until March 2021, to avoid a crisis. These calls fell on deaf ears and now thousands of South Africa’s most vulnerable are in despair.
The DA again urges Mondli Gungubele, the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, to ensure that Minister Zulu be brought before Parliament to account for her department’s mishandling of the temporary disability grant crisis.
Issued by Bridget Masango, DA Shadow Minister of Social DevelopmentStatement on the Politicsweb site