Social Development minister Lindiwe Zulu says her department is working to expand the avenues through which grants are paid in South Africa – including mobile phones.
Responding in a recent parliamentary Q&A, Zulu said that over 328,000 beneficiaries had not collected their R350 social relief of distress grant over the first cycle (to 30 April 2021), while a further 442,000 beneficiaries had not collected the grant over the second cycle (August 2021 to March 2022).
“In order to improve access to the grants distributed by the post office, additional channels through the retailers have been opened. The retailers currently participating are Pick & Pay, Boxer, Checker, Shoprite and Usave. Negotiations with the Spar group to also allow access to the relief grant are at an advanced stage and further announcements will be made shortly.
“SASSA is also finalising the contracting with banks, to allow for the payment to be made to mobile phones. This channel will be available for the extension of the grant from April 2022 to March 2023.”
These channels have all contributed to the significant improvement in reducing the queues at post offices, and provide a range of options for approved beneficiaries to be able to access their grants conveniently, said Zulu.
For the medium- to long-term, SASSA is considering introducing payments through mobile phones as an added disbursement option to what is currently available for normal social grants, Zulu said in a separate Q&A.
The Department of Social Development also plans to make a number of changes to South Africa’s grant system in the coming year – including extending support to more vulnerable groups.
“Ongoing policy development will continue, particularly address very specific social security coverage gaps in relation to pregnant and lactating women, and institutional mechanisms and the cost thereof, to crowd in all government interventions to address the social protection needs of children, using the social grants as an entry point,” the department said its annual performance plan for 2022/2023.
The department also aims to amend the Social Assistance Act, SASSA Act and the Fund-Raising Act to address existing gaps and inconsistencies in the legislation.
Specifically, the amendment to the Social Assistance Act aims to introduce a provision to empower the Minister, with the concurrence of the Minister of Finance, to augment the child support grant benefit provided to orphaned children residing with relatives.
This is intended to reduce the demand on the foster child system, by reducing the number of children entering the foster care system purely to access the foster child grant due to the large differential in value between this grant and the child support grant, it said.