Protection of the vulnerable during lockdown: SAPS, SASSA, UIF, DSD inputs

Adhoc Standing Committee on Covid-19 (WCPP)

30 April 2020
Chairperson: Ms M Wenger (DA)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Ad Hoc Committee on Covid-19, 30 April 2020, 14:00

COVID-19: Regulations and Guidelines
Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002

Dedicating the meeting to the most vulnerable people of society, the Ad Hoc Standing Committee on COVID-19 hosted a quadruple briefing from South African Police Service (SAPS); Western Cape Department of Social Development (DSD); Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and SA Social Security Agency (SASSA).

While SAPS provided critical and valiant services such as securing the scene of domestic violence, obtaining medical treatment and assisting the complainant to find suitable accommodation; it was not enough to mask the current flaws created by the lockdown such as:
• All domestic violence cases have been postponed except the most serious incidents
• No final or interim protection orders have been received from certain courts
• Certain periodical courts are closed until further notice
• People are not assisted at court as security officers do not allow them in to go to domestic violence office
• A reduction in reported domestic violence cases is likely a result of the national lockdown's restriction on movement, in constant close proximity to the perpetrator, and non-availability of public transport.

The Western Cape Department of Social Development briefing focused on the national lockdown guidelines for victims of violence; older persons; homeless; children in need of protection and substance abuse in-patients. They noted the challenges and what measures had been taken to remedy these. A total of 1 882 NPOs were funded in April at a cost of R91.357 million.

Members asked about inter-department synergy; if SAPS had provided additional training to manage the emerging COVID-19 environment; asked about courts attending to the "most serious" domestic violence cases; compliance checks at older people centres; lack of access to courts and to obtain protection orders for domestic violence victims; the homeless shelter situation, in particular the Strandfontein shelter which had been condemned; responsibility and support for temporary homeless shelters and if they were adequately capacitated; child headed household lists; the contradiction between the Domestic Violence Act and the PIE Act.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) explained the COVID-19 Temporary Employer Relief Scheme (TERS); normal claims for the unemployed and the new web platform application system.

SASSA outlined how the R50 billion for extra social grant money for the country would be spent. The Special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant will be available to unemployed South African citizens, permanent residents and registered refugees above the age of 18 and not receiving a social grant or income in any form such as a UIF benefit or NSFAS stipend or resident of a government subsidised institution. The WhatsApp and email application procedure was explained.

Members asked about the seemingly over-complicated UIF TERS application process; UIF non-compliant employers; how UIF would ensure accountability for money paid out to employers reaching the employees; how people without access to the UIF online platform were being assisted as all the regional offices were closed; how SASSA approved food parcel recipients and number approved/delivered; avoiding politicisation of food parcels; the confusion caused by constant back and forth of one regulation replacing another; how the administrative processing of the Special COVID-19 grant would be done and the cost per beneficiary for administering the grant payment. Members asked that SASSA staff treat beneficiaries with dignity.

Meeting report

The Chairperson dedicated the meeting to the most vulnerable people of society; including those who had no parents or guardians; those who were victims of abuse and those who were forced to life within addiction-led homes. The Chairperson welcomed the Western Cape Ministers, HODs, the Provincial Police Commissioner and their teams. SAPS in the Western Cape as well as the Western Cape Government Department of Social Development would present on domestic violence, protection of the elderly, homeless children and drug addiction assistance. The UIF and SASSA in the Western Cape would follow.

South African Police Service: Protection of the Vulnerable presentation
Lieutenant General Yolisa Matakata, SAPS Provincial Commissioner for Western Cape, said that the vulnerable was a very critical subject. She expressed her belief that the information shared today would assist not only Members but also the public to have a better understanding of SAPS.
                                                                                                                            
Legislative Framework
The Domestic Violence Act imposes certain obligations on a SAPS member who receives a complaint of domestic violence. The National Instruction 7 of 1999 provides direction on responding to complaints of domestic violence and indicates the responsibilities of station commanders, community service centre (CSC) commanders and SAPS members.

Protection Orders: Clarification of Roles
The issuing of protection orders, whether interim or final, is the sole responsibility of the courts. SAPS is not the primary entity for the serving of protection orders. The serving of the protection order is prescribed in the Regulations of the Domestic Violence Act. Regulation 15 states it must without delay be effected by:
- The clerk of the court by handing a certified copy to the person on whom the order is to be served or sending a certified copy to that person by registered mail and endorsing the original document to this effect;
- The sheriff in terms of the Magistrate`s Courts Act and Rules; or
- A peace officer in terms of the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act.

Protection Orders Received and Cases Reported: 27 March – 27 April 2020
• Final protection orders received from court: 420
• Final protection orders served on respondents:364
• Interim protection orders received from court:1 045
• Interim protection orders served on respondents:900
• Domestic violence related cases:1 891
• Majority of cases emanated from Mitchells Plain and Blue Downs clusters
• Number of domestic related complaints: 2 928
• Majority of complaints emanated from Eden and Mitchells Plain clusters

Assistance Provided by SAPS to Victims
Securing the scene of domestic violence
• Assisting complainant to find suitable shelter and/or obtaining medical treatment
• Providing the complainant with Notice (Form 1) and explaining the rights and options available
• SAPS Members specific powers and duties in terms of the Domestic Violence Act:
- seize firearms and dangerous weapons in terms of a court order
- arrest a person without a warrant if circumstances warrant such an arrest
- arrest with a warrant a person who contravenes a protection order, if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the complainant may suffer imminent harm from the alleged breach of the protection order
- serving of protection orders
- accompanying complainant to collect personal property in terms of a court order
• Keeping of records on incidents of domestic violence in Occurrence Book and Pocket Book.
 
Intervention to Access Courts for DVA Protection Orders during Lockdown
• Complainants indicated difficulty accessing particulars courts for the obtaining of protection orders
• Mosaic volunteers responsible for assisting applicants denied access to court buildings
• The Departments of Social Development and Community Safety convened a virtual meeting with SAPS and Department of Justice and made the these resolutions:
- Department of Justice will liaise with courts to ensure access for complainants and volunteers to the courts
- Protocol is that if challenges arise it will be reported immediately to relevant role players for intervention

Challenges
• All domestic violence cases have been postponed except the most serious incidents
• No final or interim protection orders have been received from certain courts
• Certain periodical courts are closed until further notice
• People are not assisted at court as security officers do not allow them in to go to domestic violence office
• A reduction in reported domestic violence cases is likely a result of the national lockdown's restriction on movement, in constant close proximity to the perpetrator, and non-availability of public transport.

Western Cape Department of Social Development presentation
Dr Robert Macdonald, HOD: Western Cape Department of Social Development, said that the Western Cape DSD provides support to victims of violence by funding NGOs specialising in gender-based violence that are still fully operational during lockdown. This includes shelters for survivors, as well as psychosocial support to victims of domestic violence. 20 shelters are operating with 394 bed spaces. 20 NGOs are providing interventions for crime / domestic violence victims (such as Mosaic, Rape Crisis). The
Thuthuzela Centres are fully operational. The cost of this is R46 million. All DSD offices are operational to provide services and interventions as well. These National DSD Guidelines for Victims of Crimes are strictly adhered to:
• No victims to be released from the facilities
• No visitation
• Suspension of family reunification and interaction programme
• New admissions will be processed, provided the facility complies with COVID-19 regulations
• Social Worker report will be deemed fit for processing of victim

Protocols have been developed and implemented by the Western Cape Shelter Movement and DSD:
◦ Stage 1 Shelter Accommodation (5 shelters)
• Admit at risk victims of crime and violence
• Only referrals with a Social Worker risk assessment and SAPS referral will be accepted
• They are accommodated for the first 14 days in a Stage 1 shelter
A total of 44 people was admitted at Stage 1 shelters during lockdown period (21 adults and 23 children).

◦ Stage 2 Shelter Accommodation (16 shelters)
• Clients are transferred to Stage 2 accommodation after the initial 14 days
• Only clients referred by Stage 1 shelters are accommodated
• SAPS assist with the transport of clients from Stage 1 to Stage 2 shelters
• Department of Health assists with medical screening and medical needs of clients
Total of 15 people were moved from Stage 1 to Stage 2 during lockdown.
The budget provides 3 daily meals, 20 social workers, 15 social auxiliary workers and 60 housemothers (working shifts) at the shelters.

Challenges
Shortage of protective gear such as masks.
• Clients that should have exited the shelters cannot do so due to lockdown regulations. Impact of this could be that no bed spaces may be available by the end of April for new intakes.

Remedial Action
Protective gear requirements have been submitted to National DSD and will be delivered by 30 April.
• Request to National DSD to consider relaxing guidelines to allow clients that have completed their programme and are ready for reunification to be allowed to exit by 30 April 2020

Support to Older Persons that are at high risk
Western Cape DSD funds old age homes that are fully operational during lockdown. A total of 120 Old Age Homes are operating with 9 323 bed spaces at a cost of R206 million. NGOs are providing therapeutic interventions for Older Persons such as Dementia SA and Age-in-Action. All DSD offices are operational to provide services and interventions as well. Service centres for older persons are closed during locked down. The National DSD Guidelines for Older Persons Residential/Frail Care facilities are strictly adhered to:
• No clients to be released from the facilities
• No visitations
• Suspension of family reunification and interaction programme
• No new admissions (except older persons in distress) and then they will be isolated for 14 days
• Service in the centres has been declared essential and workers must be allocated the prescribed permits.
 
Challenges
• Shortage of protective gear and sanitizer stock
• Isolation of older persons from their families and communities.

Remedial Action
• Western Cape DSD and donors to provide more sanitizers and masks
• DOH to assist with providing more protective gear for Homes
• Donors have come forward to donate and will receive on 30 April
• Encouraging families to make telephonic contact with older persons.

Shelters for the Homeless
Western Cape DSD funds 27 Shelters for Homeless adults at cost of R19.8 million. This budget provides: 3 daily meals, 2 social work supervisors, 22 social workers; 4 social auxiliary workers. For the lockdown, a family shelter was established in Somerset West accommodating up to 120 people.

Municipalities have also established their own temporary shelters and they receive food from NGOs appointed by the National DSD. Western Cape DSD and NGOs provide psychosocial support when required at all shelters. These temporary shelters are accommodating 1 807 in rural areas and Cape Town metro temporary sites have 2 569. NPO Shelters funded by DSD accommodate 2 305 homeless. Currently 6 681 homeless persons are resident in all these shelters and the bed spaces are at full capacity.

Challenges
Some homeless people do not want to remain in the shelter environment
• Some homeless adults suffer from psychiatric disorders, addiction, and/or are unable to adjust to a confined environment
• The number of homeless people at shelters varies on a daily basis thus making the provision of relief services available to beneficiaries challenging
• Provision of mattresses, blankets and other relief goods poses a risk due to theft of goods
• Legal uncertainty on running the shelters and if people in the shelters are allowed to leave
• Temporary shelter regulation may not be compatible with need to de-congregate people during lockdown
• The indication to close down the Strandfontein site.

Remedial Action/Measures
• DSD and NGOs in constant contact with municipal officials for all referrals for psychosocial support.
• NGOs have come forward to provide additional support on temporary sites where needed
• SALGA has written to National DSD requesting guidance on legal clarity of homeless shelters
• Post lockdown all services will fully commence again such as food provision, psychosocial support, family reunification and skills development to the homeless living on the streets.
 
Support for Children during the Lockdown
Western Cape DSD funds 53 child and youth care centres (R110 million) and 9 secure care centres. A total of 4 450 children are currently in lockdown in all of these facilities. Eight children at high risk were admitted during lockdown. These National DSD lockdown guidelines apply:
• No children to be released from the facilities
• No visitation
• Suspension of family reunification and interaction programme
• No new admissions (except children declared in need of care and protection;
• Social Worker report should be deemed fit for the removal and placement of the child.

Standard operating procedures for the prevention and management of COVID-19 within DSD centres such as staff and children screenings daily, hygiene protocols, assessments for children displaying sickness. No positive cases of children identified as yet in the children centres.

Challenges
• Removal of children and their parents to isolation sites and quarantine sites
• Additional bed space for children who has been assessed as being at risk and need to be removed from parents/families during lockdown.
 
Remedial Action
Disaster Management developed protocols. EMS will transport children and parents to hospital for testing and then place them thereafter at isolation/quarantine sites. Social Worker to follow in separate vehicle to provide psychosocial support if needed.
• Additional bed spaces were established throughout the Province at Child and Youth Care centres already funded by DSD as well as 30 bed spaces at DSD own facility.

Substance Abuse During Lockdown
Western Cape DSD funds 6 inpatient treatment centres at a cost of R19 million. This provides for 726 bed spaces per 6-9-week treatment cycle. The National DSD current lockdown guidelines apply:
• No clients to be released from the facilities
• No visitation
• Suspension of family reunification and interaction programme
• No new admissions (except involuntary admissions as ordered by court.
• Adherence to the prescribed health related COVID – 19 protocols
• Services provided by centres have been declared essential and workers must be allocated permits.
 
Challenges
• Clients that should have exited the treatment programme cannot do so due to lockdown regulations.
• Substance abuse support for homeless at City of Cape Town Temporary Shelters

Remedial Action
• Requested National DSD to consider relaxing guidelines to allow clients that have completed their programme to be allowed to exit by 30 April 2020
• Substance Abuse NGOs providing community-based support services at temporary shelters.
 
NPO Payments/Funding
• A total of 1 882 NPOs were funded in April at a cost of R91.357 million.
• A total of 57 NPOs were not funded due to non-compliance – they did not submit their audited financial statements as required by December 2019.

Discussion
The Chairperson thanked the presenters and said each party would be given 3 minutes to pose questions.

Ms W Philander (DA) asked SAPS how many cases of domestic violence had been reported in the Western Cape since the commencement of lockdown. She wanted to establish what the synergy was between the three departments – that being Police, Justice and Social Development. The current situation was starting to be referred to as the ‘new normal’ and of course there were protocols in place for SAPS assistance to victims of domestic and gender-based violence. However, she asked what strategy SAPS had adopted in terms of arrests and the support of the victims. She asked if SAPS had provided additional training to manage the emerging COVID-19 environment.

Mr R Allen (DA) asked what were the challenges brought to the attention of the other departments and the resolutions taken. He asked if every police station had ever trained their volunteers to assist within the victim support room during the lockdown, and if so, if all the volunteers had been declared an essential service. He sought clarity about the statement that all domestic violence court cases had been postponed, except for the most serious – what qualified for "most serious" cases? Had protection orders had been served within the targeted 48 hours?

Ms N Nkondlo (ANC) asked if the police stations had victims support units, and if all of them had rape kits. She asked for the implications of the lockdown on those who had been victim to gender-based violence. They were not allowed to move around and make a case at police stations. Could that have been one of the reasons for the low reporting of GBV cases? She asked DSD what the minimum cost of running the shelter had been per month. She asked who had done the compliance checks at the centres for older people and against what were the checks measured to ensure compliance.

Mr B Herron (GOOD) said that the lack of access to courts and access to protection assistance for domestic violence victims was unnerving. What was SAPS doing to assist in the situation taking place with the Department of Justice? He alerted SAPS that he had received a message that someone had gone to the Goodwood Magistrates Court to apply for a protection order only to find that the offices had been closed from 26 March and would only open on 4 May. It was unacceptable as abused women were living in hell and something needed to be done about it. He said to DSD that he needed further understanding about the homeless shelter situation, in particular the Strandfontein shelter which had been condemned and rumours had been circulating that it was to be closed. The presentation confirmed that the shelter was to close, however, no mention had been made about what would happen to the homeless people in that shelter. New regulations published the previous night obliged the State to provide temporary shelters for homeless people until the end of the state of disaster. He asked for clarity about the situation at the camp and about the media video that showed a massive number of people leaving the camp.

Mr F Christians (ACDP) said in certain areas there was a major problem when it came to victim support volunteers not being able to get to the police stations where they needed to serve. His concern was about perpetrators at home thriving on the vulnerable as the victims were unable to escape. He asked about this and what remedies could be put in place.

Mr P Marais (FF+) asked why the 10 111 line was not up and running and when it would be. Secondly, he asked they did not make use of private security companies to assist them in matters of that nature. There were justifiable reasons why an abusive husband should be removed from the house, rather than the wife and children. The psychological effects on the wife and children needed to be understood, and the husband ought to be moved to a centre or placed elsewhere where he would be taught a lesson. Section 36 of the Constitution had suspended people’s rights, yet the abusive husband’s rights were left intact.

Responses
Lt-Gen Matakata explained that the 10 111 call centre in Maitland had been closed as its members were susceptible to the virus as they had been in contact with two employees who had tested positive. It was imperative to test all the call centre members, however, they had put a system in place to reroute the calls. Call centres were being beefed up with more personnel. On the reopening of the call centre, all the members were ready to be received back and were coming back full force ready to serve the community.

On removing the abusive husband instead of the wife, Lt-Gen Matakata replied that in the South African legal system when removal was absolutely necessary, SAPS would assist the complainant who would generally be the wife to go to a place of safety or to relatives, whilst also being assisted with her belongings, if necessary. The presentation had been clear what the legislative obligations of the police are. SAPS had executed their duties and 2 928 incidents had been reported. Out of those incidents, 1 891 were cases that would be where those elements of crime could be assault or rape, and differed from case to case. SAPS was guided by what they could do in terms of the Domestic Violence Act and regulations. They inform the complainant of their rights, assist the complainant to get the protection order if there was no danger of imminent harm. For protection order cases, SAPS did not arrest the suspect on the spot. Hence it differed on a case to case basis. The virtual joint meeting with the Departments of Justice and Social Development discussed the volunteers. Coordinators were trained prior to the rendering of services to victims of crime. All the facilities were fully functional and were being assisted 24 hours day by social workers on availability per roster and also volunteers.

Lt-Gen Matakata said the volunteers were people that would find employment and so they diminished in numbers, and sometimes SAPS ended up without having a volunteer at a police station. However, they always recruited the volunteers, trained them and assisted them further. The access to the courts had been addressed with the Department of Justice and the Regional Manager who had made contact with the various court managers to allow access to the court for the victim to apply for a domestic violence protection order as well the volunteer. There was a difference between the Domestic Violence Act or domestic violence and that of gender-based violence (GBV). There was a definition within the Act that determined the domestic violence relationship.

Dr Robert Macdonald, HOD: Western Cape Department of Social Development, explained that a lot of work had been done by the NGOs through the shelters for victims of domestic violence and GBV, including supporting the elderly. Food could be delivered to all people through those organizations. The DSD local offices were also available to assist. SASSA had also continued with the payment of grants. Assistance had been made more difficult with the closure of non-residential services that were normally available to all persons in communities, however, the local DSD offices were remaining open.

Dr Macdonald replied that shelters were funded at a current rate of R2 300 per bed in those shelters. Additionally, they paid something towards the salary of a house mother and a social worker at the shelter that provided psychological support services. Those services all affected the minimum cost of running the shelter, however, it truly depended on the number of bed spaces.

Dr Macdonald replied that they were in the process of obtaining small shelters from the National Department of Public Works. Before the lockdown began, the old age homes had already started with those measures from mid-March, and training had been given for the staff that worked in those homes. The Strandfontein establishment had removed a number of vulnerable people to a smaller shelter site set up in Somerset West to accommodate more vulnerable persons and families for the duration of the lockdown. National DSD provided food for the sites through a national tender and the Provincial Department of Social Development provided psychological support services and statutory intervention services.

The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) had written to National DSD stating that it was SALGA's view that the running of those shelters was not a local government mandate in terms of the Constitution. The SALGA letter triggered a discussion at national level on whose role and responsibility it was to assist the homeless, particularly during the lockdown, and thereafter. They were waiting for further direction from national level. However, National DSD had indicated that the R20 billion COVID-19 relief being made to municipalities and particularly disaster relief funding should be assisting with the operation of the shelters. Government's role and responsibilities for the homeless was very tricky in the sense that the legality of the restriction of homeless people was unclear.

Dr Macdonald explained that they had interviewed a number of people in the Strandfontein shelter and approximately 800 of them had indicated that they would like to stay in the shelter during lockdown; and others had indicated that they wished to be reunited with their families. The law was unclear about what happened when a person left the homeless camp. They funded to the full extent what they could within their budgets and funded a number of shelters that provided assistance.

On an abuser in the home, the Children’s Act provided for the removal of an abuser from the home if the child was being abused/ The Children’s Act stated that a court could grant an order for the abuser to be removed from the premises. A test case recently highlighted how the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land (PIE) Act came into conflict the Children’s Act. That was an area where legislative work needed to be done as removal was a very sensible measure, however, it conflicted with the PIE Act, as it would become an illegal eviction.

Further questions
Ms Philander asked about the working relationship between the various departments; if there had been any support from National Government for the homeless shelters; and if the shelters were adequately capacitated currently. She asked if DSD had received information on child headed households, and if so, what did the report say as well as what support was being offered to them.

Ms R Windvogel (ANC) said the HOD had spoken on the Strandfontein issue; however, she was disappointed in the lack of opinion and view expressed by the MEC.

Ms Nkondlo asked if more information could be given on the Somerset West shelter and if it was fully functional. The woman who had tested positive in Khayelitsha who had been evicted by her landlord, had children – she asked if DSD had or would follow up on the situation there.

Mr Herron remarked that everyone had been aware of SALGA writing to the Ministers asking for clarity for who was responsible temporary shelters. However, the City took responsibility for providing shelters and other cities and towns around the country had done the same. He did not believe that the Department could just sit back and say well it is not clear who is responsible. Interventions were in place to provide shelter to those people who required it. Tomorrow the National Executive could say that the shelters fell under National DSD and then that would have to be the transition – so why not try to make it a good one.

Mr Christians asked if the people in the temporary shelters qualified for the R350 grant. He sought details about the logistics around that such as criteria and assistance. He noted the Domestic Violence Act and the PIE Act contradicted each other about the removal of the abuser from the home and pointed out that the PIE Act was contradictory to the values enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. He said there should be a special provision clause that took exceptional circumstances into consideration. Lastly, he asked for an indication on the stock and availability of chronic medication.

Ms Sharna Fernandez, Western Cape DSD Provincial Minister/MEC, replied to Ms Windvogel that she had deeply expressed that the situation was far from ideal. It was imposed upon provinces by a national direction. They were all in agreement that the situation was not the ideal, however, they were waiting on a resolution. She could confirm that the Western Cape DSD had actively been supporting the temporary shelter sites with psychological support.

Dr Macdonald replied that they were in regular contact with National DSD and the National Minister and had held a discussion that week in advance of Level 4 kicking in on 1 May. He explained that National DSD had focused heavily on trying to get the COVID-19 grants out, that had a lot of funding currently, and just as well, as there was a massive urgency across the provinces to get that going. Looking at the money required versus the provincial municipal budgets, R50 billion was now being made available for the country in COVID-19 social grant money for six months which was close to the entire Western Cape budget because the need was so enormous that they had been consumed by that and National DSD had tried to support them.

Dr Macdonald replied that the movement of children had already been addressed in the regulations as well as the roles and responsibilities for the temporary shelters for homeless adults. The shelters for victims of violence were quite structured in terms of what was required and from where the funding for NGOs to render those shelter services came. When comparing our benchmarks with the rest of the country, the Western Cape was significantly higher than most other provinces; in fact, was far higher than all the other provinces. He explained that they were trying to ensure that the shelters were adequately capacitated. Going forward he believed that the City of Cape Town had been working on those plans and would be able to give better guidance as they had been working out the budgets and logistics, and he certainly would not be in a position to second guess what it was they were doing.

Dr Macdonald commented that the process of having a national tender for food at the shelters had been very clumsy. It would have been much better if money was transferred to municipalities or provinces to actually administer the food side of things at the shelters.

Dr Macdonald replied that they had been collecting information on child headed households which had been prioritized for food support. If a report is needed, they could certainly supply one. The Somerset West shelter site was located at the former Altena School. They would need to compile information on the evictions of child headed households. The COVID-19 SRD R350 grant should be finalized, processed and soon up and running. Lastly, whilst he could not speak for the clinics and day hospitals, they had never had an challenge with the chronic medications.

Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) briefing
Mr Tebogo Maruping, UIF Commissioner, said that a dedicated email had been created for enquiries for the COVID-19 Temporary Employee / Employer Relief Scheme (TERS) Application by employers: Covid19ters@labour.gov.za which issues an auto reply with all the mandatory documents to be completed by the company and be submitted. The COVID TERS applications process takes approximately 10 working days to be finalised.

The call centre number created to receive all COVID19 lockdown enquiries operated from 08:00am to 6:00pm: 012 337 1997. A separate email for submitting documentation for application was also created: Covid19claims@labour.gov.za. During March 2020, the Department migrated to a toll-free number to deal with enquiries: 0800 030 007.

The Department has also automated the whole applications value chain where an employer can submit an application online through the web platform. The web solution can be accessed through the Department website or using the link: https://uifecc.labour.gov.za

The platform went live during April 2020 and to date 67 970 applications were received through it.

For normal claims, the Department created a dedicated email address per province to to avoid movements to Labour Centres and reduce physical contact. The Western Cape email is: Capet.BCP@labour.gov.za and George.BCP@labour.gov.za

Also created is short message service (sms) functionality for clients to confirm their unemployment status and banking details for the payment process. The sms functionality will only be implemented during lockdown period. For clients who are unable to use technology, a drop box is stationed at all Labour Centres.

Provincial Officials were given laptops and 3G cards to attend to clients and process payments while at home during the lockdown period.

South African Social Security Agency briefing
Mr Henry de Grass, SASSA Western Cape Regional Head, noted the COVID-19 grant relief measures for existing beneficiaries: R300 increase for the Child Support Grant to be paid in May 2020 per child. Thereafter from June to October 2020, a R500 grant will be paid to caregivers of children on the Child Support Grant. All existing caregivers will automatically qualify and receive this benefit along with the existing CSG monthly benefit. The amount per child will revert to R440 per month from June 2020. All other existing social grants are increased by R250 per month from May to October 2020.

The Special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant will be available to South African citizens, permanent residents or refugees registered on the Home Affairs system and resident within South Africa. Applicants must be: above the age of 18; unemployed; not receiving any income; not receiving any social grant; not receiving any UIF benefit and does not qualify therefore; not receiving a NSFAS stipend; and not resident in a government funded or subsidized institution. Applicants will need to provide the following information:
- Identity Number / Home Affairs permit number;
- Name and surname as captured in the ID (and initials);
- Gender and disability;
- Banking details - Bank Name and Account Number;
- Cell phone number;
- Proof of residential address.
Application measures applicable (for now) include sending WhatsApp message to 0600 123 456 and selecting SASSA; or email to SRD@sassa.gov.za.

Volunteers will be trained to assist applicants who cannot use technology and will be provided with gadgets to capture details on behalf of applicants. Notification of the outcome for an application for the Special COVID-19 SRD Grant will be provided in the same manner in which the application was made. Payments will be mainly through applicant bank account and through cash-send measures through banks.

The grant will be paid from the date of approval up to the end of October 2020 provided the qualifying criteria continue to be met. If applicants apply in June their payments will be from June with no back pay. All applicants grant consent to SASSA to verify their residency, sources of income and/or social security benefits. False applications will give rise to possible prosecution.

Discussion
The Chairperson thanked the delegation for the presentations. Three minutes would be given to each party to pose their questions. As usual the Chairperson stated that she would start with the DA.

Ms D Baartman (DA) noted that the UIF TERS application process took about 17 steps and not everyone had the capabilities to deal with that. Frankly it was easier to understand the application of the Pythagoras theorem than to fill out the application. She asked if there was any chance that UIF could obtain certain information from government databases which could speed up the process at least.

The UIF TERS application deadline was 30 April, which was today. She asked if the deadline would be extended as there were some sectors that would remain in lockdown. Even the sectors that would open tomorrow would still need time to apply for the benefits. In terms of accountability, how would UIF ensure the money paid out to the employer was used for the employees. She asked how UIF handled situations where money would go off the employee salary for UIF but the employer had not been paying it to UIF. She asked how informal traders and the Western Cape’s third biggest economy, being hairdressers and barbers, who did not necessarily have access to the online platform , were being assisted. She asked if applications were allowed to be done by the employees themselves.

Ms Nkondlo asked from the total number of applications made to SASSA in the Western Cape for food parcels, how many had been approved and how many had been handed over. She asked if provision had been made for students to apply for social relief, including food parcels as some students were stuck at university residences. There had been a lot of corruption and politicisation of food parcels all over. She asked what the process was once SASSA parcels had been approved. Why were local councillors invited when it came to the distribution of food parcels? One would be interested to know what the particular connection was between the politicians and the food parcels.

Mr Christians asked if it was true that payments were done on a racial basis as that had been the assumption by workers who had contacted him. That was the explanation which they were given. Many workers such as hairdressers and barbers were not able to pay their rent and had tried to negotiate with their landlords as they had not made their salary that month. He asked what the UIF was doing to assist those people who paid them and were still not able to make ends meet. People were intimidated by the UIF. He asked if a breakdown could be given on how the pay-outs were done. There was a large influx of people going back to work in May who need to apply for permits and others renew them, how would they minimise and curb the ensuing chaos?

Mr Marais noted that SASSA started off by giving food parcels then the parcels were put on hold. That was replaced by the voucher scheme, then they were going to pay it into one's bank account. It was a constant back and forth of one regulation replacing another. This confusion and chaos were attributed to the National Ministers who made television announcements left, right and centre. The latest announcement was unemployed people would get R350, however, it left out the fact that they did not know how it would work at all. His greatest concern was that both National and Provincial Governments had failed South Africans.

Ms L Botha (DA) asked that SASSA staff be reminded to treat the people with dignity and not with attitude. She asked if the administrative processing of the Special COVID-19 grant applications would be done via district or provincial offices. On the volunteers, she asked where they would work and from what database were they chosen. What was the cost per beneficiary for administering the R350 grant payment?

Ms Windvogel asked the Department of Labour about the functionality of the SMS system as most people, especially the vulnerable and poor, had not received their UIF benefits. She asked what they were supposed to do as all the regional offices were closed.

Mr D Smith (ANC) noted that companies could apply on behalf of their workers for UIF benefits. He asked what risk that posed and how the UIF could monitor that the money reached the actual beneficiary.

UIF response
Mr Tebogo Maruping, UIF Commissioner, replied that the application was published on the UIF website and resembled the payroll spreadsheet submitted to SARS for the Monthly Employer Declaration (EMP201) for their employees. It would not be difficult for companies to complete the similar spreadsheet.

On the sore point about employees who had not been declared to the UIF, that is, where the company had made a TERS application but could not be found on the system. The UIF had engaged with SARS that one of the items the company needed to submit was the EMP201 – this would prove that the employee had existed and worked for the company.

The UIF Commissioner replied that South Africa would move to Level 4 but there would be some industries that would open only n Level 3 and therefore no date had been pronounced on the deadline for TERS applications. Hence, applications were still open.

On accountability, he explained that when a company signed up online, they were required to read and sign the memorandum of agreement which stated that after receipt of the money, the employer within two working days had to distribute the money to the rightful beneficiary. Thereafter proof of transfer to the correct beneficiary needed to be supplied to the UIF. If the money had not been paid within the stipulated time period by the employer, the employer would then become liable for the principal amount plus any interest accrued. Any complaint or queries could be lodged online, via call centre, or drop boxes at Labour Centres.

On the benefit payment, a directive had been issued on 23 April – that was indicated by the figures in slide. A decision was taken to process the payments and those clients had already been receiving the payments. To date they had paid out approximately R980 million, hence there was only a small group of people still being processed.

SASSA response
Mr Henry de Grass, SASSA Western Cape Regional Head, responded about food parcels recipients that they received over 30 000 names from politicians, political parties and community members. However, it then became their responsibility to work through those lists, check them against database and then decide. Out of the 30 000, almost half had been rejected as they were in receipt of a grant already. Officials would normally phone the beneficiaries to inform them they had been successful and when they could collect the food parcel. He could not give the exact number of applications still at the office and how many unsuccessful candidates there were so far; however, SASSA Head Office had asked them to submit the remainder of the names for the processing of the R350 special grant. Students would have to meet all the requirements as the criteria for grant included that they did not get a National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) stipend.

It was made very clear that they did not want the involvement of councillors or community leaders, as it was their project. Any unwelcomed involvement or influences would be quickly rectified. They were continuing to give out and process applications for food parcels; and would continue to do so until the R350 grant payments were working successfully.

He stated that he strived to treat all beneficiaries with the necessary dignity and respect and appealed to the Committee that where any of their officials deviated from that, they were to inform him immediately. He explained that the application for the volunteer programme was done online. The administration cost of the R350 special grant had not been finalised yet.

The Chairperson stated that any Members who had additional questions could forward them to the Procedural Officer who would compile all questions and forward it to the relevant Department.

The meeting was adjourned.

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