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SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
22 March 2006
SOCIAL ASSISTANCE ACT REGULATIONS: BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Regulations to the Social Assistance Act
A representative of the Ministry of Social Development briefed the Committee on draft regulations to the Social Assistance Act. The briefing was an attempt to inform and consult the Committee on the regulations. The Committee was concerned that only Members of the ANC were present at the meeting and resolved that the regulations would not be discussed formally. It was agreed that the regulations would be circulated to all Members for study before a follow-up presentation by the Department. This would allow all Members to fully participate in formal discussion of the regulations.
Ministry of Social Development briefing
Mr Vukani Mthintso, Chief of Staff in the Office of the Minister of Social Development informed the Committee that Mr Zola Skweyiya, the Minister of Social Development was required by the Social Assistance Act of 2004 to develop certain regulations that would regulate social assistance. The current regulations that the Department used fell short in key definitions. For instance, they did not deal with the issue of financial institutions acting as disbursement agencies for social assistance. The regulations presented to the Committee today sought to explain such issues in more detail.
Another issue covered in the regulations dealt with people having been declared dead in the past even though they were still alive. The regulations therefore aimed to outline a process that had to be followed when a person was declared dead. The regulations also sought to redefine the means test that is used to qualify for the social assistance grant. The new regulations also paid attention to questions raised by the Committee about deductions on grants. It highlighted the procedures to be followed when allowing for such deductions and listed the circumstances under which such deductions would be possible. The regulations now gave the Minister the power to allow or refuse deductions from social grants. In addition, the new regulations took into consideration the existence of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) as the Agency had not existed in the past.
Mr K Morwamoche (ANC) asked if the regulations had taken into consideration the issue of refugee children qualifying for social assistance in South Africa. Did the Department’s budget cater for such children?
Mr Mthintso responded that the Act did not have a specific clause regarding refugee children, but the Child Care Act catered for them specifically. The new regulations would refer to the Child Care Act as part of the process to finalise the regulations to the Social Assistance Act.
Mr B Mnkongi (ANC) raised a concern about the protection of children, which was compromised by abuse of the system that provided social assistance to children. He referred to instances where parents or caregivers misused the child grant intended to assist children. He wanted to know what measures had been included in the Act to prevent abuse of the grant system.
Mr Mthintso replied that the Act did not directly address grant abuse, but the Department hoped that other processes such as research and fraud prevention would limit it.
The Chairperson wanted to know when the regulations would be promulgated given that the SASSA would start operating on 1 April 2006 only.
Mr Mthintso replied that the regulations would be promulgated in June 2006.
The meeting was adjourned.
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