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Blow for 7 million beneficiaries of R500 caregiver top-up grant

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Nearly seven million beneficiaries of the special Covid-19 caregiver top-up grants will get R500 less when they collect their child support grant from this week.

File picture: Matthew Jordaan

FROM this week, nearly seven million beneficiaries of the special Covid-19 caregiver top-up grants will get R500 less when they collect their child support grant.

This followed an announcement by the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) earlier this month that the special top-up grant would lapse at the end of October.

An 11th-hour attempt by the Black Sash Trust to interdict Sassa and government from ending the top-up grant failed on technical grounds.

The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, on Friday found the matter was not urgent.

The trust, with the aid of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, raised pressing concerns about the harm and suffering that would be felt by beneficiaries of the caregiver grant if it were to end.

Sassa and the ministries of finance social development opposed the application.

Concerns were also raised when the presiding judge, Nana Makhubele, directed only the parties and their legal representatives may attend the virtual hearing.

The media was barred from the hearing, in spite of the application being in the public interest.

After several hours of argument, the matter was struck from the urgent court roll. The court recognised the application had been brought on behalf of some of the most vulnerable people and was in the public interest.

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies, however, said this left millions of women and children who had relied on the caregiver grant since May vulnerable to food insecurity at a time of unprecedented hardship. It added it was discriminatory given that payments of the special Covid-19 social relief of distress grant had been extended until January.

Ariella Scher, attorney at Centre for Applied Legal Studies, said: “It is particularly discouraging that in the week when the caregiver grant is being brought to an end, the finance minister announced yet another bailout for South African Airways, this time for R10.5 billion. This amount would have been enough to keep paying grants for another three months.”

Lynette Maart, national director of the Black Sash Trust, said the caregiver grant had been a critical lifeline during this unprecedented time of hardship and suffering.

“By terminating the caregiver grant prematurely, the government has failed to protect the people hardest hit by the current humanitarian and economic disaster,” she said.

Scher raised her concern that the media was barred from the urgent court hearing. “No reasons were provided for this decision, which goes against the principle of transparency. Virtual proceedings should make our courts more accessible, not less so.”