A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
WELFARE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
17 May 2000
WELFARE SERVICE DELIVERY REPORTS BY BLACK SASH AND NADEL
Presentation by NADEL (see Appendix 1)
Handout by Black Sash - The 8 principles of Batho Pele, and, a copy of the letter given to them by the Minister of Welfare (see Appendix 2)
Black Sash and NADEL agreed that service delivery from the Welfare Sector leaves much to be desired. They noted a general dissatisfaction with the way in which beneficiaries are treated (long queues and a lack of appropriate facilities). They also felt that the grant amount (specifically the Child Support Grant and Pension Grant) has to increase, especially in light of inflation.
Besides internal fraud and corruption, another concern is the long time it takes to process grant applications, especially since back-pay accrues from grant approval date not the grant application date. Some of their recommendations were: Grants need to be increased; the age limit for the Child Support Grant must be raised to eighteen; the means test must be abolished; the number of pay-out points should be increased; at pay-points there should be toilet facilities as well as chairs because of the long wait.; pay-point officials treatment of the aged needed to improve.
Presentation on problems experienced with Grants at grassroots level
Ms Hillary Morris, National Director, said that there has to be an attitude change at interface level or there will be no improvement in service delivery. Black Sash aims to help beneficiaries understand their rights as most are unaware of these. There are various examples of this ignorance:
- People are not aware of their right to appeal a grant application refusal or grant discontinuation. If they are aware of this, then they do not know how to go about it. Black Sash intend to produce a single page handout on appeals to inform beneficiaries. The idea is to make people aware of their social delivery rights and to encourage them to challenge officials if this is necessary.
- When new grants are launched there is not enough publicity to inform people. For example people did not know about the new Child Support Grant. For a long time people did not know about the Welfare Ten Point plan until finally there was some public advertising.
The previous Minister of Welfare had said that the new welfare system would be slick and easy. It has been the opposite of this and this has been very disappointing. To demonstrate this point Ms Morris said that in one particular instance it took half an hour to fill in certain forms.
There have been many problems in processing the grant applications. The Western Cape and Gauteng were noted as the two exceptions to this. On various occasions Black Sash had taken the Department to court because of processing delays. This has happened in KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape. Ms Morris said that because of one particular case in KwaZulu-Natal they had entered in pre-litigation discussions with the Minister on the issue of back-pay. The issue of back-pay was now receiving the Minister's attention. New regulations were being drafted.
Problems are also experienced with pension pay-outs. People come hours in advance and stand in long queues in terrible conditions. ''They are treated like cattle. People should not be treated that way.'' When they finally get served, other problems arise. Sometimes they are told that they are no longer on the computer database and they do not get paid. Many people do not know about appeals, if they know about Black Sash then they go to them for help. On a positive note Black Sash said that the Department of Welfare has been more actively involved in monitoring. Some improvement have been made.
The disability grants have also presented problems and there has been no adherence to procedures. The department has declared beneficiaries to be fit and able without assessment by a medical doctor and stopped paying the grant. Such people are entitled to appeal but they do not know how to get this process going. Black Sash has tried to get a medical appeal panel going in certain centres. Further, beneficiaries have not been told in advance of changes and they have a right to this.
Ms Morris noted the fact that disability grants recipients are applying for loans from moneylenders (often to pay for basics such as food) and they are being allowed to use their grants as collateral.
Ms Morris criticised the Minister of Finance for this and last year's budget, saying that he was only paying lip service, ''talking the talk but not walking the walk''. She said that the poor are worse off now than they were a few years ago.
Corruption is another problem. People are told that their cheques have already been cashed by someone else (who had a power of attorney) when the truth is that there are internal fraudsters within the department. Appropriate measures must be taken against department officials who do this. Usually these people are back at their desks within weeks.
Black Sash had met with the Minister in February and had they had agreed that Black Sash would play a role in monitoring service delivery in the Welfare sector. This includes the monitoring of paypoints. Black Sash reports to the Minister's office. They consider this a good breakthrough and Black Sash indicated their readiness to give report backs to the portfolio committee on this matter.
NADEL's Human Rights Research and Advocacy Project
Mr Simon Kimani, a NADEL Welfare researcher, said that people who live in rural areas have to travel very far to collect their pensions. The waiting periods for processing of grants is very long in the Eastern Cape. In the Western Cape it is a few months whereas in the Eastern Cape people wait for several years. This is unacceptable especially because these people's right to administrative justice is affected.
There are long queues at the buildings where people collect grants. These people are old and they have to stand in rain and harsh sun. There are not enough computers for processing these payments.
The department must standardise the documents needed by recipients for applications. Although an ID is always necessary there is no standard practice for the documents required.
Pensioners complained that welfare officials treat them badly and shout at them like children. This is an infringement of people's right to dignity.
The forms come out in English and in Afrikaans. No provision is made for other languages. While this may sound impractical, the fact remains that people need to understand what is expected of them.
The amount of the pension grant has to increase. The changes which have been made are not sufficient. The grant has increased from R 520 to R540. This increase is not commensurate with the increase in inflation.
The disability grant paypoint facilities are worse than for the pensioners. Sometimes there are not even toilets (bearing in mind that people have to wait for hours). In the Eastern Cape moneylenders are a problem to grant recipients as they take the ID books of grant recipients and claim the payment themselves.
- Need to increase the grant amount.
- Schools and community centres can be upgraded to serve as pay-out points.
- The number of pay-out points should be increased.
- At pay-points there should be toilet facilities as well as chairs because of the long wait.
- Personnel - where paypoints are privatised, a welfare officer should be present to assist with problems. The reason for this is that if a problem arises at a private pay-out point the beneficiary is simply told that there is nothing that they can do and they are told to go and see a welfare official.
- There should be security measures to monitor the pay-out points as criminals come to the welfare office to steal.
- If private companies are contracted to make the payments, then they should also be made subject to some code of conduct in line with administrative justice.
- The eligible age for pension grants should be stabilised at 60 years for both men and women.
- Means testing should be abolished. It creates the situation where people do not want to save because they think that they will be penalised. (If they have more than a certain amount they will not qualify for a grant.) The money saved in this respect can be used for the administrative process.
- The previous system where back pay accrues from the date of application should be reinstated (as opposed to the current system where back pay accrues from the date of approval of the application).
- Social welfare functions need to devolve to local government level.
- The complaints procedure is lengthy, bureaucratic and technical. The National Department should establish an independent process managed by separate officials to handle all complaints. In the long term they should establish welfare tribunals. These are more people-friendly than the courts.
- Migrant workers who are permanent residence holders should be reinstated into the welfare system.
Johanna Kehler, a NADEL Gender researcher, noted that during their research many rural women were interviewed. The recipients of the State Maintenance Grant (SMG) considered this grant their lifeline. Cutting it down has an enormous impact on family structures and family status.
Insufficient nutrition - There is no money for food and women must sometimes choose which child will eat on a particular day. There is no longer enough money to provide the basics.
Insufficient access to education - There is no longer enough money to provide school education. In one particular instance a thirteen-year-old teenager committed suicide because the child could not deal with the embarrassment of not going to school anymore (everyone knows that the reason for them dropping out is because they are too poor and many children cannot deal with this humiliation).
Lack of dignity and self sufficiency - Previously women had a feeling of independence and self-sufficiency, now they have to beg from family members or neighbours. They are ashamed of their poverty and it affects their dignity.
- Further research into social spending as a general issue and an increase in the child support grant to at least R250 per child.
- The age limit for the Child Support Grant must be raised to eighteen.
- The means test must be abolished.
- Government should create an independent grant targeting women and their needs.
The Chairperson put the Child Support Grant into context. He explained that the Constitution had to remove the State Maintenance Grant because it had applied only to Whites, Indians and Coloureds, and not to African Blacks. The new government replaced it with the Child Support Grant. As they had to bring on board the majority of the population, the amount and age limit had to be reduced. The committee had tried to take the amount to the maximum level possible. He noted that recently there has been an increase in the amount.
Ms Morris said that they must look at increasing the amount and the age of the recipients as inflation had decreased the buying power of the grant amount. The Chairperson said that they are reviewing the size of the grant and that a meeting on this issue has already been set.
A committee member referred to the point made that people were dismissed if their name did not appear on the computer. He asked if there was no help desk available at the paypoints. Mr Kimani replied that during their research they did not come across any help desks.
A committee member commented on the point made about migrant workers. She said that the reason that such people were not given grants was because they were not South African citizens. In the past the government had paid them the pensions but after having received these pensions, they went home again. She said that after so many years they should have decided where they want to belong: either in South Africa or their country of origin.
Mr Kimane replied that if these migrant workers have their families here then they should be considered as falling under South African jurisdiction in terms of social welfare rights.
Ms Chalmers (ANC) said that in her rural area constituency, people reported problems of non-payment by filling out a form. They would then simply have to wait for a few months.
Ms Morris commented that while Ms Chalmers believed the piece of paper went into a system, she believed that the piece of paper went into oblivion. The complainants did not simply have to wait for a few months, often nothing happened.
Ms Tsheole (ANC) believed that the committee should arrange a meeting where NADEL, Black Sash and the Department were present so that the Department could address the concerns raised by them directly. She also commented that during constituency week she had spoken with constituents and some of them said that there has been an increase in the number of teenage parents. This they believed was due to the Child Support Grant. People said that the grant had unforeseen circumstances because it encouraged teenagers to have children as they knew that the grant was available to them. Also single mothers do not mind if the father are not supportive because of the grant. She was unsure of the accuracy of these reports that she had heard. She asked for a comment.
Ms Morris said that Black Sash did not deal with teenage pregnancies but she was horrified at the thought that some people thought that a woman would go through the discomfort of pregnancy and childbirth to receive a R100 per month.
Professor Mbadi (UDM) commented that he appreciates what Black Sash was doing for urban people. In the rural areas where their service was most needed, no work was being done. He said that NADEL's research was also appreciated but they only touched on two easily accessible rural areas. They avoided the most inaccessible areas with the most problems. He asked them to please include these. He also commented that some people in rural areas considered the Child Support Grant as a form of income.
Ms Morris said that they had considered their George and Knysna Black Sash offices to be rural but took Prof Mbadi's point.
Mr Kimane said that the rural areas they visited were not really rural but peri-urban. He said that funding for research in inaccessible areas was required.
Ms Ramotsamai (ANC) commented that South Africa had a high level of unemployment. There was now ''more demand on this cake''. People were losing jobs and families were relying on the grant. The history of the Welfare Department showed little inroad in terms of the appalling treatment of old people by officials. She asked why appropriate action was not taken against corrupt officials. She also said that private companies must have more help desks. She felt that this was an issue that the committee had to take up because ''service must be smooth''. She heard reports that some people were charging pensioners R5 for queuing on their behalf.
Ms Morris said that they have not come across the problem of pensioners getting charged for queuing but they have come across the problem where they were charged for filling in forms. She said that there are pension councils who try to help out with the filling of forms. These councils do good work and were made up of pensioners themselves. There was however a problem that they liked to boss the old people around. The baseline to work from was that there had to be an attitude adjustment by officials.
Ms Rajbally (MF) commented that she found the presentation ''touching and sad''. She wanted to know what the response from the Department would be and said that the committee should step in.
A committee member said that the issue of cross-border movement was a problem because the pension must move with the pensioner. She asked the organisations if they investigated cases of abuse of the Child Care Grant. She said that parents abused the money in that it was often not used for the children at all so that children did not benefit. She said that these abuses need to be investigated.
Ms Morris said that cross-border movement was very worrying. It should be a simple bureaucratic thing for the pension to be able to follow the pensioner but problems were experienced in this regard. On the question of abuse she said that abuses always happen in any system. The question was whether it was right to penalise the majority for the malpractice of a few. All reports of abuse should be investigated.
Ms Gandhi (ANC) commented that there has been abuse of the old State Maintenance Grants and many families had become dependant on these grants because they knew there was this provision. During the last five years the government's intention was to inform the beneficiaries that grants would be phased out. They wanted people to become self-sufficient. The argument was that there were many people in similar circumstances who were able to survive. The government does not have the funds to extend the grant to millions. Ms Gandhi's final comment was that they did not want to seem uncaring but a dependency had been created and it could not be sustained by government at this stage.
Ms Cupido (DP) commented that they should involve the Department and that the Director General should also be present. This was the sixth year of the new government and winter was now in season. She noted concern for pensioners standing in this weather for hours to collect their grant. She said that the committee must address this as well as the issue of toilets and seating facilities. Regarding the phasing out of the State Maintenance Grants she said that they cannot expect children to study at school if there was no food on the table. She also said that the grant should be paid to children up until the age of 18 years. She said that the money budgeted for must get spent every financial year.
Ms Morris said that the comment on children needing food to learn was a valid point and agreed that the grant should be extended to apply to children up until the age of eighteen. Regarding the comment on the weather she said that the committee should ask the Department to alert offices to be sensitive to this. They could do something such as running soup kitchens during winter at the paypoints.
Finally Ms Morris noted that another problem that pensioners were experiencing problems cashing back-pay cheques. Banks will not cash them and will not open accounts because they say it is not profitable for them. There is apparently a furniture store in Grahamstown which will cash the cheque if the pensioner spends R500 there.
In conclusion the Chairperson noted that the Minister had emphasised that their should be interaction with civil society to achieve better service delivery. He requested the organisations to write to the committee formally on concerns which they had so that the committee could take up the issues with the Department and the Minister. The meeting was adjourned.
National Association of Democratic Lawyers Human Rights Research and Advocacy Project
SUBMISSION TO THE PARLIAMENTARY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON WELFARE AND POPULATION DEVELOPMENT ON PROBLEMS IDENTIFIED IN THE DELIVERY OF SOCIAL GRANTS: SOME WORKING IDEAS
Date: Wed, 17 May 2000
Comrade Chairperson and Honourable Members of this Portfolio Committee;
We will preface this submission with a quote from our interview with the daughter and care giver of a 79 years old frail and bedridden woman from Mdantsane village in the Eastern Cape. Her mother had been receiving the old age pension grant for fifteen years when suddenly, and without any explanation, the grant was cancelled. She said, "For the last seven months, I have been going to Deals House to ask the welfare officials to bring my mother's grant back. I do not have any job and no one else supports us. Many times I have begged for food from my neighbours and some times little money for taxi fare to go to Deals House. Every time I go there, they tell me that they are looking into the problem."
This is the stark reality that confronts many recipients of social grants, particularly in the rural areas. From lengthy waiting periods before applications are processed, to the arbitrary suspension and cancellation of grants, beneficiaries of the country's social safety net are caught up in a vicious cycle that permanently keeps them marginsalised to the fringes of this society.
NADEL Human Rights Research and Advocacy Project is a non-governmental organisation committed to the promotion of human rights in South Africa through its research, training, advocacy lobbying and monitoring activities. The main areas of our research are gender discrimination, access to justice, socio-economic rights and service delivery. Since January 1999, the project has focussed much attention on social security delivery, which culminated in the publication of two research reports on welfare in January this year. One report investigates the problems, which face pensioners when accessing old age grants, while the other examines the impact of cancellation of the State Maintenance Grant. Currently, the project is conducting research on State Disability Grants and Maternity Benefits provided under the Unemployment Insurance scheme. We hope that in this field too, we will be able to highlight problems and obstacles, which prevent full access to the country's social security network. In this submission comrade chairperson, we will deal with two main themes in each of the 1999 research reports: First, key problems in social grants delivery which we documented during our primary research, and second, the policy recommendations which flow out of these findings. We will also briefly mention the method and areas where we conducted our research.
Research Title: Old Age Pensions and the Challenges Posed on the State: South Africa's Dilemma
By Simon Kimani
Primary research was conducted between February and June 1999. It covered the Eastern and Western Cape provinces. In the Eastern Cape, our specific research areas were East London, Bisho, Mdantsane, Duncan Village, Kwelegha, and Mooiplaas. In the Western Cape, interviews and workshops were held in Cape Town, PaarI, Mitchell's Plain, Wellington, Athlone, Langa, Nyanga, Gugulethu and Khayelitsha.
Interviews were also held with district welfare officers from Athione and Paarl (Western Cape) Deals House (East London), the Permanent Secretary for Welfare in Eastern Cape Province (Bisho) and the former Director General in the National Department of Welfare (Pretoria).
A total of one hundred and seventy five (175) people were interviewed in the two provinces. Two workshops were held in the Western Cape and three in the Eastern Cape. Collectively one hundred and fifty six (156) participants attended the five workshops. In the Eastern Cape we worked closely with the Black Sash.
Key problems identified.
1. Application offices
The majority of application points are located in urban centres which impacts heavily on applicants from rural areas. Many welfare offices (both at the application and the paying points) have few and inadequate facilities.
2. Waiting periods
Waiting periods for the processing of the grant are excessive. Cases were documented where applicants waited for three years or more before they know whether their applications have been processed, approved or rejected. Back pay is limited to three months only whereas processing of the grant in some areas takes unwarranted lengths of time to complete.
Buildings at many paying centres are not spacious enough to accommodate all the beneficiaries in case of adverse weather. Chairs and benches are either lacking or too few. In certain instances, toilets are unavailable. Facilities for people with disabilities are either unavailable in the majority of cases, or found in a few of the centres.
Computers are insufficient which leads to delays in important desk operations, such as capturing and processing of data in the Social Pension (SOCPEN) data processing system. Pay out processes are also affected and the absence of enough banking facilities has led to insecurity, fraud and extortion of the grant when pensioners use local shops to cash the cheques.
4. Administrative bottlenecks
These are prevalent in the system. There appears to be no standardised practise (in spite of legislation) of the documents required to make.an application. Welfare officials, notably those in the lower ranks, operate under much work pressure.
5. Attitudes by some welfare officials
Complaints were raised by pensioners that some welfare officials are arrogant, rude and abusive. One pensioner recounted how she got embarrassed when an official told her to step aside because she looked 'very young'. She said the official told her to, step aside and called the next person. They were impatient with me when I wanted clarification why they said I was too young. I felt very bad."
This constitutes a clear violation of the pensioner's right to dignity.
At some pay points- especially these managed by private paying companies, problems which arise are not solved, but recipients seem to be referred to the local welfare offices as a matter of course. This and other problems were raised at the site C pay point in Khayelitsha, where the Pensioners Committee complained that officials of the private paying company, PEN SECURE, refuse to take the grant to sick pensioners brought by their relatives in vehicles outside the hall. They insist instead that committee members or their relatives should carry them inside.
Pensioners in the poorer provinces (e.g. the Eastern Cape) take the brunt poor administration. They have to contend with high levels of fraud and insecurity. Many of them give up the struggle for pursuing unprocessed, missing or cancelled grants. This is because they cannot afford the regular fares and other costs of making repeated visits to the welfare offices in the urban centres.
6. Legislative bottlenecks
Many legislative barriers exist in the welfare system which hinder the pensioners from enjoying their right to social assistance. Application forms and other documents are in two languages-English and Afrikaans, which makes them incomprehensible to the majority of the applicants. Complaints mechanisms are lengthy and bureaucratic.
7. Amount of Grant
The maximum amount of the grant is R540 per pensioner (R520 at the time of research). Pensions are the most important grant in the country's welfare system. Their existence contributes to household stability and security. Many poor households are held together by this grant. Though resource availability dictates the size of the budget allocation that is directed towards welfare, the current amount is largely inadequate. In the case of rural areas this inadequacy is compounded by the high levels of poverty, unavailability of basic necessities such as water and electricity, poor infrastructure and the absence of services. Saying the amount was unrealistic in the present circumstances, a pensioner in Paarl put it as follows:-
The money is normally finished by the end of the week. I buy groceries, pay electricity, and buy medicines, then I'm left with nothing."
8. Pay points
As noted above, many pay points have inadequate seating facilities. Old, sick and frail pensioners are made to stand for hours in the sun, rain or cold. Most of us have become familiar with the long twisting queues, which mark pension pay days.
9. Money lenders
Next to fraud, money lenders, known by the notorious name of "Skoppers" are the biggest anathema to pensioners. They are a common phenomenon outside many pay points especially in the Eastern Cape. They charge exorbitant interest rates and their debt enforcers are crude, brutal characters who wait for the frail recipients either outside or inside the hall and pounce on them to take their cut.
1. Application points
The number of application points, which historically have been located in the offices of the welfare department, should be increased. The department should establish more satellite offices or utilise resource centres, community halls or schools for this purpose.
These forms should be simplified and provided in all the official languages in the country. The forms' present legal and procedural technicalities should be removed so that applicants can understand what is required of them. Furthermore, they should be made available at local resource centres, churches and the post office.
Welfare Regulations together with a code of standard procedures should be circulated to all welfare offices in the country. These should specify clearly the required information and documents, which are necessary when making the application.
There is an urgent need to set up more pay points in all the main areas especially in the townships, farms and the rural areas. They should be planned with due regard to the number of beneficiaries in each case. Local facilities e.g. resource centres, community halls and schools can be utilised.
The department should increase mobile pay points in the townships and the farms. In the short term, buses can be organised on pay days to take pensioners to the existing pay points.
3. Facilities at the pay points
Buildings with ample space to accommodate the large numbers of beneficiaries should be used. Where possible, long roofs, verandas, or corridors should be constructed so that pensioners are sheltered from the cold, rain or the sun. These buildings should be accessible to people with disabilities. Clean toilets need to be provided within accessible distance to the pay-point. If not practicable to have permanent toilets, cubicles should be provided.
More computers should be availed at pay points. Adequate desks, chairs and benches are necessary. Each pay point should have enough sitting facilities to hold the greater number of queuing recipients at any time. In the rural areas, computer equipment which makes us use of solar power and mobile telecommunications technology can be used to process the payments.
In centres where payments are done by the private paying companies, welfare officials are not available at all. The welfare department should increase the number of its personnel at all the pay centres. Pay points managed by private paying companies should have at least a senior official from the welfare department to supervise the nature of services and to attend to any problems which may occur.
All officials involved in payments should be given appropriate training in client service, communication skills, stress management and the ability to work under pressure. The Batho Pele Principles on public service delivery ought to be an integral part of training for all welfare officials. Where pensioners encounter problems, the paying officials should be able to deal with the problems at that point rather than send them away to the welfare offices for attention.
All personnel should wear identification tags or badges, so that pensioners can be able to identify and approach them with ease.
Effort should also be made to station medical personnel at the pay points to deal with cases of illness.
More personnel should be provided to patrol outside the pay halls where the majority of the recipients usually are. Where pensioners have to walk through dangerous areas from the pay points, this has to be taken into account. The department should liaise with pensioners and street committees in each area to work out ways of utilising members of the community to assist police personnel.
If feasible, and in cases where pensioners have to pass through unsafe areas, the department should provide them with transportation back to their homes.
5. Private paying companies
The existing contracts of service should spell out in clear terms the manner in which the companies should deliver their services. As far as possible, and until such time as the Administrative Justice Act is implemented, the code of conduct binding all members of the public service should apply to such companies and their personnel as well. Privatisation of grants payment is not the answer or solution to the existing administrative, managerial and financial bottlenecks experienced by the department.
Money used to pay these companies can be used to establish more pay points, equip them, hire additional personnel and also train welfare officials to give better services. In any event, this research has shown that the private companies have not improved the delivery of grants to the pensioners in a manner, which would be more efficient than the department can be able to do.
6. Eligible age
The existing difference in the age at which women and men become eligible for the grant (60 and 65 years respectively) is discriminatory against men. Though it has been argued that owing to the nature of society's social and economic oppression against women this is positive discrimination, there is no evidence that the indigent men who seek to access the grant are in better economic status than the majority of women.
As one welfare official observed, between the retirement age of fifty years and the age at which men become eligible for the grant, how are they supposed to support themselves?
Proposals have been floated that the eligible age should be stabilised at around sixty three (63) years for both men and women. This suggestion may be viewed as a further oppressive measure against women since they would be forced to wait longer before accessing the grant.
It is recommended that the eligible age should be legislated at sixty (60) years as proposed in the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) document.
7. Means testing
The means test should be abolished and the grant made universal. The test squeezes applicants of social grants into the classic 'poverty trap.' The test is inefficient and difficult to administer. It has been stated that the department has difficulty in checking age alone, let alone the detailed information required about income and assets.
This requirement also discourages savings and 'illegitimises' the accumulation of personal wealth. At the same time, it encourages applicants to lie about their true income and material status. The available resources are too stretched to effectively and efficiently administer the test.
Lack of sufficient information about the test has meant that many beneficiaries are even afraid of disclosing if their spouses are recipients of the grant. During the research, a woman respondent at first refused to disclose if her husband was a pensioner believing that if she did so, her grant application would be unsuccessful or that that of her husband would be stopped.
Money spent in administering the test can be redirected to other administrative processes in the welfare department. Once the test is abolished, pensioners can be taxed for the extra money, which they receive.
Since April 1998, back pay accrues from the date of approval of the application for a maximum of three months. Previously, it accrued from the date on which the application was made. The department has adopted a policy that no applicant should wait for more than three months from the date of application before knowing whether the grant has been approved or rejected.
The ground situation is nevertheless very different from the above position. When this requirement came into effect, social welfare observers expressed their fears that the government was shying away from addressing its administrative inefficiency. At the same time, they stated that it was a calculated move to cut down on social expenditure in tandem with the GEAR strategy.
These observations have turned out to be true. There has been little improvement in processing periods for the grant. Applicants who wait for three years or more in some of the provinces, receive the same amount of back pay as those who wait for the standard three months. In essence, a pensioner who waits for almost half a decade before the pension is approved, gets no redress save for the three months back pay.
It is not only unfair to pensioners who play no role in the department's poor administration, but also an abrogation of the right to administrative justice as provided by section 33 of the constitution. It also amounts to unfair discrimination to the pensioners in poorly resourced provinces.
It is recommended that the previous system where back pay accrued since the date of application should be re-instated.
9. Amount of grant.
The grant should be increased. An automatic inflation index should be attached to the grant so that it is adjusted every year by a value, which covers inflation. Though it is acknowledged that the current amount saves millions of people from complete despondency, the present economic circumstances make it to be unrealistic.
Other measures, which can enhance the value of the grant should be explored. These would include offering pensioners subsidies in basic necessities, giving them rent rebates and increasing the use of banking facilities where banks reduce the charges on accounts held by, or transactions done by pensioners.
10. Social welfare functions
The national department of welfare should continue to make policy with regard to welfare, but welfare functions should be decentralised down to local government level. This would give effect to the proposals contained in the RDP, the submission of the welfare department to the Constitutional Assembly on Social Economic Rights 1995, the White Paper for Social Welfare 1996, and the Financing Policy for Developmental Welfare Services 1999.
Local government is the arm of state that directly interfaces with recipients of public services. It is the best placed organ to administer pensions and other welfare services auxiliary to the social grants.
This would also bring the functions closer to the recipients of the grants. At local government level, it would be much easier to work out systems on rent rebates, rates and taxes for pensioners. At this level also, the department can facilitate pensioner's committees and welfare forums, which would be much more effective in addressing the immediate needs of pensioners.
11. Complaints procedures
The present complaints system is technical, bureaucratic, lengthy, inefficient and incomprehensible to pensioners. Though many pensioners merely make their complaints verbally, the regulations require that such complaints should be in writing to the Director General or another senior official in the welfare department.
Departmental officials have conceded that there is much duplication in the complaints-procedure and several officials may be dealing with the same complaint at the same time. It would be easier if the department established an independent process managed by separate officials to handle all complaints.
As far as possible, such persons should be familiar with the language of the complainants so that they (complainants) are able to explain themselves comprehensibly.
In the long term, the department ought to explore possibilities of establishing welfare tribunals, akin to those existing in the United Kingdom. They should be staffed by personnel, who are fully trained in welfare matters, including pensioners, social workers and welfare committees. The tribunals would be expedient and effective and much more accessible to the pensioners. They should be empowered to review the decisions of welfare department officials, which relate to any action that adversely affects the right of pensioners to social assistance.
12. Migrant workers
The white paper for social welfare identified this group as among those that need to be integrated into the country's social security system. It is recommended that permanent residence holders be re-instated into the welfare system.
Research Title: A small process of dying: The Impact of the Cancellation of the State Maintenance Grant
By Pia Zain
This research, conducted last year explored the socio-economic impact upon women and children due to the cut and cancellation in the State Maintenance Grant (SMG) and the introduction of the Child Support Grant (CSG).
Women and poverty
In South Africa today race, class, and gender are still the defining factors for access to resources, opportunities and growth and therefore for political, social, and economic inequalities. In other words, gender and class-based access to socio-economic rights determines the level of poverty and inequality in society. This also seems to explain why women and children are the poorest amongst the poor, why women experience poverty and inequality different to men, and why socio-economic changes and cuts in social spending impact women and children more severely.
Our research was conducted in Duncan Village and Fort Grey as well as in the rural areas of Kwelera and Mooiplas in the Eastern Cape and in the Overberg area (Genadendal, Greyton, Caledon and BereavilIe) of the Western Cape. During the process of primary research, 110 women who were recipients of the State Maintenance Grant and experienced cuts and cancellations of the grant were interviewed. Officials of provincial and national Department of Welfare and stakeholders of the Child Support Grant were also interviewed.
Summary of findings
This research showed that the State Maintenance Grant (SMG) constituted the lifeline for women and children living in poor and disadvantaged communities. It provided food, education, shelter, healthcare and payment of basic services. The cuts and cancellations of the State Maintenance Grant and the introduction of the Child Support Grant has had a severe impact on families' wellbeing, children's education, health and nutrition, family structures and kinship ties, as well as on the family's psychological status and dignity.
Key problems identified
Our data show that there is no longer enough money to buy food for all. Women are no longer able to provide the basic nutrition to all their children and face the painful choice of which child to feed.
A woman from Caledon states:
...The grant was enough to provide for the children...Now the grant only covers vegetables, fish and bread. Only the small children can take lunch. What can I say to the older ones...
2. Insufficient access to education
There is no longer enough money to provide for school education. Women saw education as a means for their children to escape poverty and this hope is now through the cuts and cancellation in social grants taken away. Women and children suffer shame, humiliation and distress about being deprived of access to basic education.
A woman from the Eastern Cape reflects:
It was not much, but I could always do something with it. My children's school fees were always paid in January. Now, I struggle to get by, especially with shoes. I told my daughter that she will have to leave school when she turns 16. She loves school, but I have no choice, she will have to go to work to help me. I cannot afford to give them a little porridge in winter. I can no longer afford milk. They can only have bread...
3. Lack of dignity and self-sufficiency
The Social Maintenance Grant provided women with independence and a feeling of self-sufficiency. Now this dignity is taken away and women suffer starvation and the humiliation of having to beg from family and neighbours in order to survive and provide basic necessities for their children.
Another woman from Duncan Village states:
â€¦The children have no food. Nobody is interested in us because we are beggars...
...Now my children are suffering. One of my children stayed at home for three weeks because he had no shoes to go to school until I was helped by one of the teachers. I was very ashamed...
4. Increased despondency
The cancellation of the Social Maintenance Grant as well as the introduction of the Child Support Grant brings despair and suffering to the women and children. Our research has revealed a marked deterioration in the socio-economic condition of women who were already living in poverty to begin with. Access to healthcare, nutrition, and education is declining, while family and social structures are disintegrating.
5. Globalisation and feminisation of poverty
Current trends of globalisation, economic reforms and policies to privatise public services as well as cuts in social spending will perpetually decrease women's participation in the workforce and increase their poverty. Since women are the most vulnerable in the workforce, retrenchment will affect them long before their male counterparts will be affected by it. The privatisation of public services has a greater impact on women, since they are - defined through their multiple reproductive and caretaker roles - the greater recipients of those services.
Women have to rely more on social services, which means that cuts in spending on those services will have tremendous impact on women's multiple roles. Decreased social spending will increase women's reproductive and care-taking tasks, while the availability of state provided services and social security schemes are decreasing. This translates into the further feminisation of poverty rather than women's socio-economic empowerment and upliftment.
Since the macro-economic policy is not meeting its target and is not aimed at equal access to socio-economic rights by the historically disadvantaged, GEAR will in the long term perpetuate the socio-economic inequality in South Africa rather than reducing it. Without recognition of this fact, a meaningful re-examination of the social security and welfare system is impossible.
1. We therefore recommend that the macro-economic policy be restructured and budgetary allocation for social security be increased.
Since the well-being and quality of life for women and children are deteriorating as a result of cuts in social spending, including the State Maintenance Grant, the constitutional right of access to social security must be reinforced.
2. We therefore recommend that further analysis into the socio-economic impact of cuts in social spending be conducted in order to make informed and data-based policy decisions regarding future cuts.
Since the Child Support Grant is evidently not sufficient to ensure the dignity and survival of women and children, the constitutional obligation toward the welfare of children must be re-emphasised. In order to ensure that children have adequate access to food and shelter the amount of the grant needs to be increased.
3. We therefore recommend an increase of the Child Support Grant to at least 50 per child to provide the bare minimum of standard of living for women and children and to recognise the dignity of women and children.
Since the Child Support Grant seems to disregard the fact that the constitutional rights of a child does not stop at age 6 and the right of access to social security has no age limit, the age restriction needs to be lifted.
4. We therefore recommend that the age limit of the Child Support Grant be raised to 18 in order to provide access to education, health care, nutrition and basic services. This could potentially guarantee a generation of young people who are empowered to impact positively upon the growth of society.
Since the private maintenance system is in complete disarray and fails to have meaningful impact on the lives of women and children, recommendations of the Lund Report in regards to private maintenance needs to be revisited.
5 .We therefore recommend that immediate attention be given to the revamping of the private maintenance system.
Since the Means Test is designed to limit access to the Child Support Grant and it is difficult to administer and even welfare officials have not demonstrated expertise in its application, universal access in the application process needs to be guaranteed.
6. We therefore recommend that the means test be abolished to ensure universal access to social security.
Since developmental projects like the Flagship Project for Unemployed Women With Children under 5 are not addressing the needs of women mostly affected by the cuts and cancellations of the SMG and introduction of the CSG, access to these programmes must be universal.
7 .We therefore recommend that developmental projects need to be researched and designed to assist women and children who are in crisis because of the existing cuts to the grants.
Since Black women bear the brunt of poverty and inequality and women are now relegated to the lowest socio-economic position as a result of the cancellation of the Parental Allowance a grant targeting women's needs should be implemented. Awareness needs to be raised and steps taken to ensure that women are non only seen as social assistance receivers through their role as mothers, but as deserving recipients of social security in their own rights.
8. We therefore recommend a independent grant targeting women and their needs should be created to ensure their independent access to social security.
SANGOCO/Nadel Child Support Grant Campaign.
We initiated this campaign after the grave realisation that many poor families and children had become further impoverished as a result of the introduction of the Child Support Grant. During a national welfare summit which we held on the 13th of April 2000 in Cape Town, SANGOCO members and representatives from 35 NGOs and CBOs drafted a memorandum which was submitted to the Minister of Welfare and Population Development at a picket held outside Parliament on the 18th of April 2000.
Part of our demands as listed in this memorandum, (see circulated copies) include an increase in the amount of the child support grant and the creation of a basic income grant. It is our belief that with the appropriate political will, many of the problems presently bedevilling the welfare system in this regard, can be tackled.
In conclusion comrade chairperson, We wish to state that in principle, we support the establishment of a comprehensive, accessible, effective and sustainable social welfare system for the country. A proper safety net is critical, bearing in mind that the majority of our people live in conditions of extreme poverty, hunger and want. With the current spate of job losses, more and more families have been forced to rely on this net for survival.
We trust that the recommendations proposed in this submission will be given more thought and taken forward by the honourable members of this committee, so that we can give the poor and marginalised members of our society some measure of hope in their difficult lives.
Drafted by Simon Kimani
and Johanna Kehler,
Memorandum concerning the Child Support Grant to the Minister for Welfare and population Development.
HANDOUTS BY BLACK SASH
1) Principles of Batho Pele
In the Government Gazettedated 1 October 1997, it is stated: ''Putting the Principles of Batho Pele into practice is the challenge now facing the South African public sector. The following paragraphs describe what national and provincial department will be required to do, but they should also be regarded as guidance by all levels of Government and the wider public sector when introducing their service delivery improvement programmes.
The 8 principles of Batho Pele
1. Consultation - Citizens should be consulted about the level and quality of the public services they receive and, wherever possible, should be given a choice about the services that they are offered.
2. Service standards - Citizens should be told what level and quality of public service they will receive so that they are aware of what to expect.
3. Access - All citizens should have equal access to the services to which they are entitled.
4. Courtesy - Citizens should be treated with courtesy and consideration.
5. Information - Citizens should be given full, accurate information about the public services they are entitled to receive.
6. Openess and transparency - Citizens should be told how national and provincial departments are run, how much they cost, and who is in charge.
7. Redress - If the promised standard of service is not delivered, citizens should be offered an apology, a full explanation and a speedy and effective remedy, and when complaints are made, citizens should receive a symathetic, positive response.
8. Value for money - Public services should be provided economically and efficiently in order to give citizens the best possible value for money.
Government Gazette (1 October 1997)
2) Letter from the Minister of Welfare to Black Sash
Request for cooperation with the Black Sash in the monitoring of the Welfare Sector
In our various MINMEC meetings we have discussed and agreed in general on the need for better monitoring and evaluation of the operations and service delivery of the welfare sector. In particular, we have in principle agreed to the establishment of a monitoring and evaluation facility that could service both the national and provincial departments of welfare.
The national 10 point plan, Mobilising for a Caring Society, states that : ''All our work must be based on a commitment to co-operative governance that includes working with different tiers of government and civil society. â€¦ A particular challenge is to work with organisations that are located and have the competencies to reach beneficiaries.'' In furtherance of these objectives I received a positive response from the Black Sash to my request for assistance in the monitoring of the operations and service delivery of the welfare sector. This monitoring will encompass:
Service delivery at paypoints,
The efficiency with which grant applications are processed, and
Adherence to Batho Pele principles.
The Black Sash has committed itself to providing regular reports to MEC's, with copies forwarded to my office. It is imperative that we all co-operate with the Black Sash in this initiative to monitor the operations and service delivery of the welfare sector. Effective monitoring is one of the keys to improved service delivery and in respect of the welfare sector, it makes possible the creation of a caring society in our country. I am counting upon your co-operation with this particular initiative and our general endeavour.
Dr ZST SKWEYIYA, MP