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Sassa office comes under scrutiny

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The Sassa offices in Corless Road in Kimberley have come under scrutiny for overcrowding and the alleged poor treatment of grant beneficiaries.

Sassa beneficiaries are re-directed to go and queue at the back of the building. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) offices in Corless Road in Kimberley have come under scrutiny for overcrowding and the alleged poor treatment of grant beneficiaries.

A number of beneficiaries, including recipients of old age, disability and child grants, claim that they are being stripped of their dignity.

The building, often packed to capacity both inside and out, has reportedly resorted to directing beneficiaries to the back of the premises in an attempt to mask the true extent of the overcrowding.

Disturbing reports have also emerged of beneficiaries collapsing from hunger, thirst and fatigue within the building. Some have even apparently suffered epileptic attacks due to the lack of adequate seating, particularly for the sick and elderly.

Beneficiaries have reported having to queue as early as 2am to stand a chance of receiving assistance. Arriving at 5am often means facing an already lengthy queue.

The office is reportedly understaffed, with only six working stations available to assist the multitude of beneficiaries. There appears to be no system in place to prioritise the sick and elderly.

Further grievances include a mix-up in schedules, resulting in many beneficiaries being sent home and asked to return the following day. This often extends to three consecutive days of return visits. Beneficiaries have also expressed frustration at being unable to access other Sassa offices, as they are continually redirected back to the Corless Road office for assistance.

One elderly beneficiary, queuing for the second day in a row to collect her grant, shared her experience. “I arrived at 5am on both days, only to find a long queue. At that time, I felt I was already late. I don’t even know whether I will get assistance today,” she said.

She claimed that officials “cut the queue” to present a misleading picture of the situation. “Those queuing behind the building have to stand in the sun and among bushes. That is why they collapse even when they are inside the building.”

Sassa expressed deep concern over reports of overcrowding and poor treatment of grant beneficiaries at its Corless Road office.

Sassa spokesperson Mamazane Shabangu stated that the agency is actively investigating these allegations and is committed to promptly addressing the issues raised.

“The well-being and dignity of those seeking assistance are of utmost importance to us. Steps are being taken to reduce the queues and to ensure that all beneficiaries receive the assistance they require in a timely and respectful manner,” said Shabangu.

She added that Sassa is dedicated to addressing the challenges experienced by beneficiaries and ensuring that their dignity is restored.

“This starts with improving accessibility to our services, reducing long queues at Sassa local offices and dealing with applications in a timely manner, among others.”

“To curb the overcrowding and long queues in our offices, Sassa has introduced secure online services where beneficiaries are able to apply for social grants online.

This service was implemented to alleviate the inconvenience faced by grant applicants of standing in queues at Sassa offices to apply for their grants and book disability assessments.

“This remote self-service is accessible on both a computer and a mobile phone. The turnaround time is 10 days, provided the applicant supplies all the stipulated documents such as identity documents of the applicant and their spouse as well as banking details among others.”

However, Shabangu acknowledged that like any other system, the bookings for assessments and disability-based applications are still experiencing efficacy challenges.

“In order to facilitate and enhance the self-help approach, even for clients without data for connectivity, Sassa has installed a self-help kiosk (or workstation) at the Kimberley and Tlhokomelo offices. During the 2024/25 financial year, the same will be installed at Corless Road and Barkly West.”

Shabangu explained that the services that are offered at the Corless Road local office and other local offices across the country are identical, except for applications for the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (R350) grant, which are done online.

“The general services offered in local offices include processing applications for social grants; enquiries on social grants and social relief matters (more so with regards to the payments aspect); social grants and school uniform applications; and to receive, respond to and process disaster relief referral requests.

“Services further include booking for medical (disability); assessments and assistance during assessments (mostly conducted at public clinics); conducting reviews (or social grants re-evaluations), which could be initiated via planned programmes or in response to public tip-offs (on suspected fraudulent grants), with the first normally being a system generated process; and conducting home visits in order to execute the above activities where beneficiaries cannot be assisted in the office or are not responding to notifications to visit the office.”

Shabangu encouraged beneficiaries who feel they are being treated poorly to escalate the matter through the appropriate channels. “The law requires Sassa officials to treat people with dignity and provide them with the correct information,” she said.

Community members who are dissatisfied are encouraged to lodge a complaint with the district or regional Sassa office or to contact the Sassa toll-free number at 0800 60 10 11.

“We urge beneficiaries to bring specific incidents to our attention so that we can address them effectively. Sassa’s goal is to provide a safe and supportive environment for all individuals accessing Sassa services,” Shabangu added.

She concluded by expressing gratitude to the community and media for highlighting these concerns and reaffirmed Sassa’s dedication to implementing necessary changes to improve the overall experience for beneficiaries.

Another long queue in front of the building. Picture: Soraya Crowie
Beneficiaries sitting on the floor inside the Sassa offices. Picture: Soraya Crowie
Beneficiaries sitting on the floor inside the Sassa offices. Picture: Soraya Crowie

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