Social Assistance Act Draft Regulations: Department briefing

Social Development

01 August 2006
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Meeting report

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
02 August 2006
SOCIAL ASSISTANCE ACT DRAFT REGULATIONS: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING


Chairperson: Ms TS Tshivhase  (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Regulations to Social Assistance Act, 2004 (PowerPoint Presentation): Part1 & Part2
Draft Regulations of the Social Assistance Act, 2004.[Gazette No: 28976]

SUMMARY
The Department of Social Development briefed the Committee on the draft regulations to the Social Assistance Act, 2004. Members were generally concerned about the ability of the Act to assist children in foster care as well as children with disabilities. Some Members were of the opinion that the Act did not take into full consideration the interests of children living under the guidance of foster parents especially after the death of foster parents. Members also raised questions on the conditions at grant pay-points. The Department was unable to respond to some questions requesting further time to engage fully with the concerns raised by the Committee. A follow up meeting was agreed on.

MINUTES

Draft Regulations to the Social Assistance Act: briefing

Mr Selwyn Jehoma, Deputy Director-General (DSD), introduced his departmental delegation as Ms Lulu Pemba, Director: Legal Services; Ms Dimakatso Moetloatse-Pooe, Acting Chief Director: Policy; Mr Bathembu Futshane, Intern: Legal Services; Ms Patricia Maloka, Acting Chief Operations Officer; Ms Nozipho Buthelezi, Chief Director: Regulation and Oversight. He also introduced colleagues from the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) as Mr Andre Brink, Senior Manager (Western Cape); Mr Zane Dangor, Chief Operations Officer, and Ms Rihanna Allie, Senior Manager.

Ms Pemba presented the Draft Regulations indicating that public comments had been incorporated in the regulations. She added that the meeting was solely to brief the Committee on public comments and changes where applicable and not to introduce any major policy issues. Ms Pemba informed the Committee that the regulations were aimed at regulating and giving effect to the Social Assistance Act, 2004 which came into operation on 1 April 2006. Chapter 4 of the Act dealing with the Inspectorate was not yet operational. The regulations covered the requirements for eligibility and determination of amounts of grants that included the Older Persons Grant, Disability Grant, Child Support Grant, Foster Child Grant, Care Dependency Grant, War Veterans Grant, Grant-In-Aid and the Social Relief of Distress Grant. Other chapters dealt with application for social assistance, appeals, determination of income thresholds, payment of grants, conditions applicable to a person in receipt of a grant, review of grants, application for unclaimed benefits, abuse of social assistance received by a beneficiary, appointment of a person to receive a grant after the death of a parent, general responsibilities, standard rules and procedures applicable at pay-points and offences, penalties, repeal of registration of short title and date of commencement.

Chapters 12 and 13 were new chapters that resulted from engagements within the Department and during public hearings.

Discussion

Ms H Weber (DA) asked what form of training the staff from Social Development Offices received and was there any reason for them not to have name badges? She was concerned that there were problems of lack of service because people were not clearly identified. Ms Weber was worried that children moved around in search of safe shelters once their foster parents died. She said that while they moved around, they struggled to benefit from the grants, as they had to share their money with other children at the new facilities they found accommodation in.

Mr Jehoma started off by acknowledging that it was difficult to respond to some of the questions and an attempt to respond at a later stage would be made. He indicated that the Department aimed to double the level of compliance to meet the required standards. Regarding accessing foster care grants once parents died, Mr Jehoma said that it was unfortunate that there were few people who were keen on fostering children. However the Minister remained responsible for children whose foster parents died until other types of fostering had been put into place.

Advocate T Masutha (ANC) asked about the state of pay-points and the norms and standards that governed the pay-points. He was worried that there were difficulties in monitoring and controlling pay-points as the structures and sites were not clearly defined. Advocate Masutha asked if there were any omissions from the original Act.

Mr Jehoma said that the status and condition of pay points were a challenge mainly because it was difficult to clearly define them as they varied according to areas and circumstances. Another challenge was setting up formal structures, as they would only be utilised on certain days in a month. There were financial constraints in meeting that challenge.

Ms S Rajbally (Minority Front) referred to Regulation 23 on the payments of grants, asking what caused grants to be reduced and lapse. She asked how the Department intended to protect people at the pay-points considering the poor conditions at some of them.

Mr Jehoma said that Regulation 31 gave the reasons for lapsing and reduction of grants. Some of the reasons were death and consideration of time frames. The Department found it difficult to create certain measures as boundaries in pay-points could not be really defined. The issue was being given attention.

Ms H Bogopane-Zulu (ANC) asked if the Act took into consideration the latest developments from legislation such as the Children’s Bill and the Older Person’s Bill. She was concerned that the Act excluded children with disabilities as it referred only to mental and physical challenges. That caused problems in terms of such children accessing grants. Ms Zulu asked the Department to clarify why the annual personal income of the foster parent was not taken into consideration when administering grants. She further asked if grants were accessible to non-South African children.

Ms Moetloatse-Pooe said that the draft regulations acknowledged new legislation and the Act itself made reference to the Older Person’s Bill as well as the Children’s Bill. It was however not possible to fully align with new legislation. The Cabinet approved a new definition for disability in an attempt to accommodate people with disabilities. However it still remained a challenge to cater for chronic illnesses when administering grant applications and funds. It was unfortunate that the issue of children with disabilities were not always attended to with the same attention as those of adults with disabilities. The grants were only accessible to South African citizens.

Advocate Masutha asked for clarity on the composition and proceedings of the committee dealing with appeals. He also asked if there was a distinction between the primary care giver and the guardian.

Mr Jehoma replied that the Minister had two options when dealing with appeals. He could appoint an independent tribunal or could make his own decision when necessary. Primary care giver and guardian according to the regulations did not have the same meaning.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu posed a follow-up question on the need to consider the marital status of foster parents. She further commented on the process of accrediting people accompanying blind people to the pay-points. She was concerned that that could be an extra burden as there already were problems with administering and monitoring pensioners and beneficiaries of grants.

Due to time constraints, the Department could not answer some of the questions in greater detail. It undertook to respond more fully at a later stage.

The meeting was adjourned.



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