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Chapter 7 - Social Welfare

Introduction

South Africa's constitution guarantees the right of all citizens to have access to social security, including, if they are unable to support themselves and their dependents, appropriate social assistance.Section 27 of Chapter 2 of the Bill of Rights states that “ (1) Everyone has the right to have access to (a) health care services, including reproductive health care”; (b) sufficient food and water; and (c) social security, including, if they are unable to support themselves and their dependents, appropriate social assistance. (2) The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of each of these rights.”

Social assistance grants are one way in which the government gives people access to social security which is a right guaranteed in the Constitution. Everyone pays taxes to the government, through working (income tax) and buying things (VAT). Some of this money is used to pay social grants to people who cannot support themselves and/or their families.

The the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).administers social assistance grants on behalf of the Department of Social Development.

Underpinning the whole welfare delivery system are the Batho Pele Principles (People First). This is a government programme to improve delivery in the public service and requires that eight service delivery principles be implemented by all public servants.

The Batho Pele Principles are as follows:

  1. Courtesy: don’t accept insensitive treatment
  2. Access: one and all should get their fair share
  3. Service standards: insist that our promises are kept
  4. Consultation: you can tell us what you want from us
  5. Value for money: your money should be employed wisely
  6. Redress: your complaints must spark positive action
  7. Openness and transparency: administration must be an open book
  8. Information: you are entitled to full particulars

The main laws that concern social welfare are as follows:

  • the Constitution
  • the Social Assistance Act (No 13 of 2004)
  • the Social Security Agency Act (No 9 of 2004)
  • The Children’s Act (No 38 of 2005)
  • The Children’s Amendment Act (No 41 of 2007)
  • The Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (No. 3 of 2000)

Other Acts that concern social welfare include:

  • Refugees Act (No. 130 of 1998)
  • Maintenance Act (No 99 of 1998)

The Constitution

See Section 27: Right of access to health care, food, water and social security. (2011 Edition)

The Social Assistance Act

The Social Assistance Act provides a national legislative framework for the provision of different types of social grants, crisis intervention in the form of social relief of distress, the delivery of social assistance grants by a national Agency (SASSA), as well as the establishment of an Independent Tribunal for Social Assistance Appeals (ITSAA) and the Inspectorate for Social Security.
The functions of the Inspectorate are to:

  • conduct investigations to ensure the integrity of the social assistance frameworks and systems;
  • carry out internal financial audits and audits of SASSA to ensure that it is sticking to laws and policies;
  • investigate fraud, corruption and mismanagement within SASSA;
  • establish a complaints mechanism;
  • fight against the abuse of social assistance.

The South African Social Security Agency Act

The South African Social Security Agency Act makes provision for the effective management, administration and payment of social assistance and services through the establishment of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). Payment is either electronic (EFT) or manual.  SASSA contracts service providers to administer its cash payments.
SASSA is responsible for the administration of social assistance grants. In addition to its main function of administering grants it must also:

  • provide assistance to all grant applicants to help them understand and exercise their rights to social security;
  • pay beneficiaries what they are entitled to receive;
  • provide information about grants to beneficiaries and potential beneficiaries;
  • investigate any irregularities relating to grants;
  • assistance with foreign grants if there is an agreement with other countries to do so.

The relationship between SASSA and the Inspectorate

SASSA is the agent that is responsible for implementing social assistance policy, in other words, for process and delivery of social assistance. The inspectorate is a watchdog of the whole social assistance system and SASSA.

The functions of the Inspectorate are to:

  • conduct investigations to ensure the integrity of the social assistance frameworks and systems
  • carry out internal financial audits and audits of SASSA to ensure it is sticking to laws and policies
  • investigate fraud, corruption and mismanagement within SASSA
  • establish a complaints mechanism
  • fight against the abuse of social assistance

The relationship between SASSA and  the Independent Tribunal for Social Assistance Appeals (ITSAA)

In terms of the Social Assistance Act, the minister has to consider written appeals that will go to the Independent Tribunal for Social Assistance Appeals (ITSAA).

Section 18 includes reconsideration of a decision by SASSA.

The function of SASSA in respect of appeals is to:

  • reconsider its own decision before the applicant or beneficiary lodges an appeal with the Minister or Tribunal.
  • make a decision to confirm, vary or set aside its own decision.

The functions of the Appeals Tribunal are to:

  • receive the lodging of an appeal  
  • hear appeals for all social grant types
  • make a decision whether to confirm, vary or set aside the decision made by SASSA and whether to award the grant temporarily or permanently
  • communicate the outcome of the appeal to the applicant and SASSA

The relationship between SASSA and cash payment contractors

The payment of grants is now largely made through Electronic Fund Transfers; however the payments of grants in cash still occurs although it is being phased out. SASSA has contractual relationships with cash payment contractors who are responsible for the physical payment of grants in cash at various agreed sites. The payment of cash grants is more expensive and is also vulnerable to fraud, theft and abuse and the EFT system is therefore preferred.

The Children’s Act and the Children’s Amendment Act

The Children’s Act (No 38 of 2005) and the Children’s Amendment (No 41 of 2007) bring South Africa’s child care and protection laws in line with the Bill of Rights and International law. The purpose of both Acts is to give effect to children’s rights to:

  • family care, parental care or appropriate alternative care,
  • social services;
  • be protected from abuse, neglect and maltreatment.

The Children’s Act was passed in 2005 but only signed into law in June 2006. Certain sections of the Act came into force from the 1st July 2007 and the remaining sections are dealt with in the Children’s Amendment Act and regulations became fully operational in 2010.

See Why are there two separate Acts?

Summary of the Children’s Act and Children’s Amendment Act.

Brief summary of sections of the Act that apply from 1 July 2007.

The Children’s Amendment Act was passed by parliament at the end of 2007 and the regulations have since being finalized. This Act and the regulations make changes to social support for children by providing for the following services to children and their families:

  • Partial care (crèches)
  • Early childhood development centres and programmes
  • Prevention and early intervention programmes (to assist families to prevent abuse and neglect from occurring)
  • Protection services for children who have been abused and neglected
  • Foster care
  • Child and youth care centres (children’s homes, places of safety, secure care facilities, schools of industry, reform schools, shelters for street children)
  • Drop in centres for vulnerable children
  • Child headed households
  • Adoption

Also read Chapter 8: Family Law and violence against women, for more information.

The following sections of the Act are relevant to social grants:

  • Foster care
  • Child headed households

Types of social grants

In terms of the Social Assistance Act social assistance is provided in the form of the following types of grants:

  • Social grants (for adults who are 18 years and older)
    • Older Person’s Grant
    • Disability Grant
    • War Veteran’s Grant
    • Grant-in-Aid
  • Children’s Grants (a child is someone who is younger than 18 years)
    • Care-Dependency Grant
    • Foster Child Grant
    • Child Support Grant
  • Special awards
    • Social relief of distress award

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