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‘Sassa communication a concern’

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“I also felt sad as my son was ill and we had been waiting for the grant money to be able to take him to the doctor.”

SOCIAL grant beneficiaries have raised concerns about “poor communication” from the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) with regards to the non-payment of grants dating back to last year.

The anxious beneficiaries, most of whom receive their grant payment through a personal bank account, said that they were told to update their banking details, but having done so they still haven’t seen any progress in their cases.

They claim that they were told at local Sassa offices that they will be called back to finalise the confirmation of their details, but despite returning to the offices numerous times there has been no progress made.

A Roodepan mother with a disabled child said yesterday that the last time her child’s disability grant was paid was in November and she is still being sent from pillar to post in trying to resolve the matter.

She said she was “humiliated” the last time she went to an ATM to withdraw money.

She explained that she had hired a car to take her and her son to the ATM with the intention of proceeding to the doctor, as her son was ill, after she had withdrawn money.

“I tried to withdraw money and there was nothing in the bank. You can imagine the humiliation I had to go through in explaining to the driver that there might be something wrong with the card.

“I also felt sad as my son was ill and we had been waiting for the grant money to be able to take him to the doctor.”

She said that she went to a Sassa office on the same day to enquire about the matter. She added that she could make no headway and it is a battle she is still fighting today.

“I took the new bank verification form to Sassa and we are now in the third month. I still don’t have any answers as to what is happening to my child’s grant.”

Another city mother, Marlene Ackerman, also expressed her “disgust” at the ordeal Sassa has put her through by not paying her epileptic child’s grant in December.

“They said I will get paid in March as they had to verify my details in the last three months. What they cannot assure me of is whether I will get my outstanding payments in March,” said Ackerman.

She said that she depends on the grant because she cannot get a job and she needs to look after her son on a full-time basis.

She is also concerned that her electricity might be cut due to non-payment.

“I am already without food inside the house, with a child who is on epileptic medication. I am praying that this matter will be resolved before things fall apart, as I am not looking forward to my child being admitted to hospital due to malnutrition,” said the concerned mother.

Sassa acknowledged yesterday that some social grant beneficiaries who receive their money through a bank account have not been paid due to their grant having been suspended.

According to Sassa, those beneficiaries are to blame for their failure to go to a Sassa office to review their grants, as is required, every five years.

Sassa regional spokesperson Inno Khunou said that Sassa sends a letter to beneficiaries requesting them to visit the office within 90 days before the due date of review.

That, according to Khunou, is to set up an appointment to see a Sassa doctor for a medical review.

“Failure to do so in 90 days triggers Sassa to send a second registered letter informing the beneficiary of his failure to come and review and so runs the risk of having the grant suspended in another 90 days.

“In most instances of grants that were not paid out, it was found that the beneficiary had failed to come and review after six months.

“On the seventh month the grant is suspended with a third letter saying you have another 90 days to come and review so the grant can be reinstated.”

Khunou continued to explain that if the beneficiary still fails to review after nine months, another reminder is sent out with the alert that the grant will lapse. In this case, the beneficiary will have to submit a new grant application.

“This can cause a lot of inconvenience while they go through the hardship of not having any means of survival.

Khunou added that in other instances the problem is caused when the primary caregiver uses a bank account opened in the name of the child instead of the name of the person applying for the grant on behalf of the child.

“Also where an applicant gets married and only changes the surname at the bank but not at Sassa or vice versa.”

Khunou pointed out that in the fight against fraud, even unmatched initials or an incorrect bank account type can lead to non-payment.

The non-payment affects bank beneficiaries and not Sassa card holders.

“Any affected beneficiary whose payment has been affected needs to come into the Sassa office as soon as possible to ensure that the beneficiary’s lifeline is not compromised.

“Sassa staff are working full-out to assist beneficiaries and they are in turn requested to come when called and to keep their information updated at all times.”

Alternatively, beneficiaries are urged to call the Sassa Northern Cape toll-free number 0800 003 077 for advice.