Social Assistance Amendment Bill [B5 - 2010]: Department's response to public submissions

Social Development

03 May 2010
Chairperson: Ms Y Botha (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Social Development briefed the Committee on their responses to the public submissions. The definition of “disability” was amended to exclude chronic illnesses and it was proposed that the term “care dependent child” be redefined to deal with requirements for the Care Dependent Grant.

The Committee thanked the Department for ensuring that submissions made by the public were included in the amendments
. Members noted that the Department agreed that the word “disability” had to be replaced with the word “impairment” in the definition of disability. They were happy that this recommendation was taken on board.  They noted that there was confusion between the definitions for chronic illnesses and disability. The Parliamentary Legal Adviser agreed with the definition for care dependent child, however, he felt that there was a need to amend Clause 7 of the Bill as a consequence. The Committee asked the Department to work closely with the legal advisers on this matter.

The Committee also noted that the Disability Action Research Team had contacted the Chairperson to ask if they could make an oral presentation to the Committee since they had missed their scheduled time during the public hearings. The Committee agreed that they could not hear the submission now as it would interfere with the legislative programme; however, the presentation could be heard at a later stage.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson informed Members that a researcher at the Disability Action Research Team (DART) had contacted her to ask if the organisation could make an oral presentation to the Committee since it had missed its scheduled time during the public hearings. The Chairperson had replied that this was not possible because she did not want to compromise the Committee’s schedule. However, the Committee could make a provision to hear their submission at a later stage. The Chairperson asked Members to comment on this but advised that the Committee not accept any more late inputs as it would interfere with the legislative programme.

Ms P Tshwete (ANC) did not understand what the problem was as the organisation had been given a chance to present their submission before the Committee. She asked for clarity on the situation.

The Chairperson replied that DARTs researcher had indicated that there was some miscommunication, but she suspected that there was a misunderstanding somewhere on the researcher’s part. The DART had known about the hearings and had sufficient time to prepare for them.

Ms H Lamoela (DA) understood the Chairperson’s stance on late submissions, noting that that hearing more submissions would throw the Committee off schedule. However, she wondered if there were any legal consequences if the Committee did not allow the submission to be presented and asked if it was possible to get the view of the State Law Advisor or the Parliamentary Legal Adviser on this matter.

 

The Chairperson clarified that the Committee had received DARTs written submission and had allocated it time to make an oral submission during the public hearings. However, DART did not show up for their presentation.

Mr Mukesh Vassen, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, noted that the Committee had to stay within certain timeframes; nevertheless it was up to the discretion of the Committee whether it wanted to extend the hearings. Problems could arise if other parties also wanted to make submissions. People needed to be treated fairly. However, it was still up to the Committee, even though it may affect the timeframes that were established for the legislative programme.

Ms W Nelson (ANC) noted that all parties that had made written submissions were given a time in which they could present their submissions. Even though they did not come to the Committee to make their presentation it was not as if their input was not being considered. The submission was put on paper and had been given to the Members. She proposed that the Committee continue with the process as scheduled.

Ms Tshwete stated that when passing legislation, it was important that all people were given a chance to make presentations. However, it was also important that the Committee kept to its timeframes. She suggested that the Committee hear their presentation at a later stage in the legislative programme, perhaps before the Committee passed the Bill.

The Chairperson noted that the presentation could always be made to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) once they had the Bill. The opportunity for DART to make the submission was not entirely lost. The Committee also had their submission in written form. The Committee was entirely correct to proceed with the legislative programme.

Mr Vassen added that the Committee did not need to worry about the constitutionality of this query. If was left to the Committee’s discretion whether it wanted to have public hearings or written submissions. The Committee had sufficient public participation on the Bill.

Briefing by Department of Social Development (DSD)
The Chairperson stated that Members should recall that during public hearings, there was a request not to include children in the definition for “disability”, especially children linked to the Care Dependency Grant. This should be made clear in Section 1 of the Bill. She was worried about this. However, the Department had assured the Committee that they had worked on the definition. This would be included in Section 1 of the Bill. The DSDs presentation would provide clarity on the matter.

Mr Puseletso Loselo, Chief Director: Legal Services, DSD, stated that the Department had published the Social Assistance Amendment Bill for public comments on 30 November 2009 and received no comments. The Committee published the Bill for public comments on 1 March 2010. Public hearings were held on 20 and 21 April 2010 where seven organisations had made oral presentations. There was a general feeling that the new definition for disability would exclude people with chronic illnesses. It was recommended that the Bill be amended to include a chronic illness grant.

Submissions that were made suggested that the word “disability” had to be replaced with the word “impairment” in the definition for disability. The new definition was not appropriate for the Care Dependency Grant. The inclusion in Section 18 of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) reconsideration of its decisions would prolong the process of the applicants or beneficiaries’ right to appeal for the grants. The reconsideration should not take longer than thirty days.

The DSD thought there was a clear distinction between disability as defined in the Bill and chronic illness. In terms of the current and the proposed definition of disability, a person with a chronic illness is not considered to have a disability. The DSD supported the recommendation that the word “disability” in the definition for disability should be replaced with “impairment”. A new definition for care dependent child was inserted to deal with the requirements for the Care Dependent Grant. As a result of a policy to extend the Child Support Grant to children up to the age of eighteen years, it became necessary to amend the definition of primary care giver.

Discussion
Ms Tshwete thanked the DSD for ensuring that the submissions made by the public were included in the amendments. One of the comments that came out of the hearings was that the word “disability” had to be replaced with the word “impairment” in the definition of disability. She was happy that this was mentioned. She agreed with the DSD that they should leave the subject of people with chronic illness as it was. After submissions were made by the public, it was clear that there was confusion between the definitions for chronic illnesses and disability. She asked where the definition for “primary care giver” would be included in the Bill.

Mr Thabo Rakoloti, Chief Director: Social Assistance, DSD, replied that the DSD was trying to check the Act in which the provision was made for primary care givers. It was just an amendment. In the Social Assistance Amendment Bill, the primary care giver was defined as somebody who was older than sixteen years. This would be amended because the Child Support Grant would now be given to children up to the age of eighteen. “Primary care givers” would now be amended to say that it is a person who is older than eighteen years.

Mr Vassen agreed with the definition for a Care Dependent Child. However, Clause 7 in the Bill had to be amended because it still read that “A person is, subject to Section 5, eligible for a care dependency grant if he or she is a parent, primary care giver or foster parent of a child who requires and receives permanent care or support services due to his or her disability”. The word “disability” could also be in conflict. He suggested that the Clause be amended to say “A person is, subject to Section 5, eligible for a care dependency grant if he or she is a parent, primary care giver or foster parent of a care dependent child who receives permanent care or support due to his or her condition”.

The Chairperson asked the DSD to work closely with the legal advisers on the matter. The Bill had to go to Government Printers and there were still some problems that needed to be resolved.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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