STATEMENT BY MINISTER ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT RESPONSE TO COVID19

Sanibonani; Molweni; Dumelang; Abusheni; Good morning.

Thank you for joining us in this briefing from the comfort of your homes and workplaces. The purpose of today’s briefing is to provide you with updated social development response measures against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. This update is in the context of level 4 of the lockdown.

Let me thank all the women and men on our frontline of the fight against this disease. Mangibonge futhi wonke umuntu osebenza ngezidingo zethu. Akufanele sikhohlwe ukuthi sadalwa ukuthi sikwazi ukuzimela. We truly appreciate your dedication and commitment in carrying out these essential services.

Ke rata ho leboha motho e mong le e mong ya latelang melao ya twantsho ya lefu lena. Batho bohle ba hlokomela hore lefu lena le kotsi haholo. Therefore, we must remain united in our determination to beat and overcome this virus.

We continue to reiterate the importance of each and every one of us to: wash hands regularly, stay at home, go out only when it is absolutely necessary and essential, and observe the appropriate guidance on physical distancing.

Last week, I convened one of our regular Extended Special MinMEC meetings with all Provincial MECs of Social Development to coordinate and ramp up our interventions to ensure all vulnerable groups in our communities are appropriately supported to access basic necessities to cope with the new normal. I must really appreciate MECs for their continued support throughout this time – we are seeing a much stronger coordination with Provinces. We have agreed that we will upscale our communication through various platforms to ensure that the public is well aware of all the services provided by the Departments of Social Development’s Portfolio.

I am truly honoured to work with the calibre of MECs whose support is constant and unconditional. I thank each and everyone of them and their teams.

With regards to regulations on the extension of lapsed disability grants;

We are taking proactive measures to protect the livelihoods of the most vulnerable in our society during this difficult period. To this end, we have published the regulations which give effect to the extension of temporary disability grants from the date they were suspended until the end of October this year. This extension applies to all temporary disability grants that lapsed between February and March.

Izicelo zama grant wokukhubazeka azo vumelwa kuze kuphele uOkthoba.

In cases where the temporary disability grants were suspended, they will be reinstated and paid until the end of October. The same applies to the Care Dependency and Foster Child Grants that are due to lapse during the lock down period. The payment of these reinstated grants will take place before the end of May.

We hope this extension will give persons with disabilities some peace of mind in the midst of this deadly pandemic.

With regards to the Amendment of regulation relating to the movement of children;
We have amended the regulations with regard to the movement of children between co-holders of parental responsibilities or caregiver as guided in Section 1 (1) of the Children’s Act (Act No. 38 of 2005). Under the new regulations, the movement of children between co-holders of parental responsibilities who reside in different metropolitan areas, district municipalities or provinces is allowed, provided the co-holders of the parental responsibilities or the caregiver has:

a: a court order; or
b: a parental responsibilities and rights agreement or parenting plan, registered with the Family Advocate; or
c: a permit issued by a magistrate where which corresponds with Form 3 of the regulations if the documentation in paragraphs (a) and (b) is not available.

I must hasten to add that before a magistrate issues a permit I referred to above, he or she must be provided with:

a birth certificate or certified copy of a birth certificate of the child or children to prove a legitimate relationship between the co- holders of parental responsibilities and rights: and
written reasons why the movement of the child is necessary.

We specifically made these amendments to allow any child who was not at the residence of their primary caregiver prior the announcement of the lockdown to return to the primary care giver.

However, I must point out that this will be done on a once-off basis. We appeal to all parents/caregivers who share joint custody to be reasonable, to act in good faith and to prioritize the health and safety of their children when making decisions about whether children should be moved in the first place. We have a zero tolerance for any parent or caregiver who recklessly exposes a child to any COVID-19 risk.

Amendment of directions on social development facilities and services;

Ensuring that vulnerable groups remain protected from this pandemic remains our priority. To this end, we have amended a number of regulations relating to substance abuse treatment centres and halfway houses, child and youth care centres, shelters for victims of crime and gender based violence as well as residential facilities for persons with disabilities.

With regards to substance abuse treatment centers and halfway houses, the amended directions makes provision for the release of service users from these facilities upon social workers recommendations. The same applies to the release of victims of gender based violence and that of Children in child and youth care facilities. The amendments also makes provision for the prioriritsation of all matters relating to children in conflict with the law.

With regards to Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres, the sector remains closed in the alert level 4 risk adjusted approach. We will continue to monitor the implementation of the alert level 4 risk adjusted approach to review this decision in consultation with relevant structures to ensure that whenever a decision is made for this sector to open, it is Covid19 ready in order to protect the children and the staff working at these facilities.

However, I have included in the directions to allow provinces to continue paying subsidies in order to fulfil their administrative responsibilities and payment of stipends.

Older person’s facilities remain closed during the alert level 4 due to their vulnerability to Covid19, however we encourage all facilities to ensure the implementation of Covid19 protocols and work with district health teams for continuous screening and testing. With regards to Inter-country adoptions, these services are suspended during the state of national disaster.

With regards to the recruitment of social work professionals;

As COVID-19 continues to impact on individuals and families across South Africa, social service professionals are on the frontline of our national pandemic response.

In this regard, we are recruiting an additional 1 809 social workers to reinforce the current workforce and to provide a range of social work services, including timely psychosocial interventions to support for affected individuals and families.

The allocation of the additional social workers per province is as follows:
Eastern Cape: 171
Free State: 92
Gauteng: 676
KwaZulu-Natal: 266
Limpopo: 116
Mpumalanga: 128
Northern Cape: 33
North West: 81
Western Cape: 246

The social workers will be employed for a period of three months. Priority will be given to social work graduates who have registered on the department’s database of unemployed qualified social work graduates that we developed in 2019. A further 1210 unemployed Social Work graduates will be given a 1 year internship opportunity in a joint venture between HW-SETA, the South African Council for Social Service Practitioners (SACSSP), the DSD and Wits Health Consortium. The SACSSP will ensure that all graduates signed up for the two projects are verified and licensed to practice. They will all be exposed to training before their placement.

The provision of psychosocial support services are an integral part of disaster response as it helps individuals and communities to rebuild their lives.

With regards to the National Development Agency:
The National Development Agency has recruited and placed 580 volunteers with CSOs in all 52 districts to support the distribution of food to vulnerable families. An additional 620 volunteers will be added to increase the number of volunteers by the NDA to bring the total to 1 200 volunteers. These volunteers assist the DSD portfolio, in addition to food distribution, on educating families on COVID-19 preventions, verification of applicants for the special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant to fast track the process of payment of this grant. To date these volunteers have distributed over 100 000 local language brochures on health education.

With regards to the food and nutrition programme:
The Department has been providing food and nutrition services to combat the growing challenge of malnutrition and hunger amongst poor and vulnerable communities. The department developed a system of food distribution that has been working since 2013/14 to provide food. This intervention is informed by section 27 1 (b-c) of the Constitution, which states that “Everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and water”.

We have noted the challenges with long queues for food which is distribute by NGO’s. These challenges were experienced when Private Sector and NPO’s in the main distribute food parcels in an uncoordinated manner wherein the Local Municipality, Provinces and law enforcement agencies are sometimes not informed and not part of these distributions. (A case in point is in Olivenhoutbosch in Centurion).

This uncoordinated food distribution creates duplication, partisan and corruption challenges, whilst proper coordination structures and mechanisms at national and in provinces exists we acknowledge it is not enough. I would also like to request all those who have received the food parcels to please be considerate and not take more than your share. Please understand that our resources are limited, so when you take two instead of one food parcel, you are taking away from another vulnerable family. To all those NPO’s who are fighting shoulder to shoulder with us to ensure that our people are able to access food, I wish to express my sincere appreciation.

We are going to develop directives that addresses this challenge. These directives will encourage NPO’s to coordinate with Municipalities, Provinces and Law enforcement agencies to ensure that they distribute food in a better coordinated manner.

In addition, as of 30 April, SASSA has received over 80 thousand applications for Social Relief of Distress (SRD). Of this number, 57 763 applications were eligible. To date, over 34 thousand food parcels were distributed and the balance will be distributed before the end of this month.

With the pandemic taking its toll on South Africa and pushing many vulnerable families into destitution, the R407 Million Rand budgeted for the SRD programme in the current financial year might not be adequate to reach all those in need in these trying times.

Akekho umuntu okufanele alambe.

Tlala ha ya loka.

Let me take this opportunity to thank each one of us for behaving in ways that keep us ahead of this fight. There is nothing more important today than being alive.

We are grateful to our private sector and civil society partners. One example among these is GovChat.

I appeal to all of us to go back to the basics of self-sustainability.

SPECIAL COVID19 SOCIAL RELIEF OF DISTRESS GRANT;

In line with level 4 regulations and in preparation for the roll out of the special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant and with the provision of social services – we have gazetted new directives that will allow 30% of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) workforce to return to work on a rotational basis to continue to render social services to our people.

Limited services will be provided from SASSA local offices, which will progressively open as from today 11 May 2020. In order to protect the most vulnerable members of society, Mondays and Tuesdays will be used to receive applications from older persons. Priority will be given to those citizens who turned 60 just prior to or during the lockdown period, who were unable to complete their applications before services were stopped.

Wednesdays and Thursdays will be new applications for child support and foster child grants. Again priority will be given to care givers with new babies, instances where the care giver has to change or where circumstances have resulted in care givers having no income to support their children.

I wish to appeal to care givers not to bring their children with when they go to the SASSA offices to minimize the risk of infection these young people may face.

With regards to the Implementation of COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant – it will be recalled that in my last media briefing I outlined the criteria and payment methods we would use to roll out the Special COVID19 Social Relief of Distress Grant as announced by President Ramaphosa. We have gone back to relook at our systems and have strengthened the modus operandi thereof.

As part of the preparations for the full-scale implementation of this grant, we have successfully pilot tested a new contactless application system that will go live immediately after this briefing.

We have set up a dedicated WhatsApp line, after having tested the concept through the Department of Health’s WHATSAPP platform. Those who have applied through this platform during the testing phase will be processed in line with the set criteria and successful applicants will be notified during the course of this week in order to request additional information for payments.

Let me hasten to add that as we implement this special grant, we will remain vigilant and not tolerate any form of fraud and corruption we have thus built in strong cyber security and strong monitoring mechanisms in this regard. All instances of suspected fraud or corruption will be investigated thoroughly with appropriate action taken where such conduct is found.

Allow me to outline the criteria again;

The amount to be paid to qualifying applications will be R350 per month from May – October 2020. The Special COVID19 Social Relief of Distress Grant will be implemented in terms of the existing avenue provided for by the SRD channel, which is administered in accordance with the provisions as set in the Social Assistance Act, 2004.

The qualifying criteria for the special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress of R350 per month for distressed individuals is as follows:

The grant will be available to South African Citizen, Permanent Resident or Refugee registered on the Home Affairs system; who are resident within the borders of the Republic of South Africa;

Applicants must be:

above the age of 18;
Unemployed;
Not receiving any income;
Not receiving any social grant;
Not receiving any unemployment insurance benefit and does not qualify to receive unemployment insurance benefits;
Not receiving a stipend from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme; and
Not resident in a government funded or subsidized institution.

Prospective Applicants will need to provide the following compulsory information for processing of their applications:

Identity Number/Department of Home permit;
Name and Surname as captured in the ID (and initials);
Gender and Disability;
Banking details – Bank Name and Account Number;
Contact details – Cell phone number;
Proof of Residential Address;

The manner in which qualifying citizens can apply for this grant will be as follows:

The new WHATSAPP line will be 082 0468 553
The USSD or SMS Line will be *134*7737#
The email address will be srd@sassa.gov.za

We are mindful that we may have some challenges as we roll out this grant and we appeal to members of the public to exercise patience as we embark upon this journey.

I thank you.

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