The R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant which is offered to unemployed individuals have been benefited by millions of South Africans who are not receive any other income.
In 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic stroke, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa introduced the Special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant of R350 after he declared National State of Disaster.
Financial aid in the form of the R350 grant was introduced to help unemployed individuals who could not work due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
The Sassa R350 grant is governed under the Social Assistance Act since the country is no longer under a National State of Disaster, the grant has seen so many extensions since 2020.
Since the grant’s implementation in 2020, Sassa has had numerous challenges with paying qualifying citizens and many changes have been made to the qualifying criteria for beneficiaries receiving the grant.
During the Social Relief of Distress Grant progress report discussion, the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu explained that when the third iteration of the grant was implemented, R44 billion was allocated to serve 10.5 billion out of the 10.9 qualifying beneficiaries until the end of March 2023.
In the first three months, serious challenges were faced, and it resulted in a two-month delay in grant implementation.
The shortfall prompted the department to introduce the first additional qualifying criteria for the grant because according to laws within the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), the department is required to stay within the stipulated allocation, she adds.
“This included the introduction of a means test threshold of R350 for all applicants. This was implemented by checking the bank account of each applicant monthly to assess whether their monthly income is R350 or more.”
Zulu says that the assessment brought about many challenges for the DSD as it meant that they had to go into negotiation with the banks to perform these means tests and banks always choose to protect their clients.
Recently the department announced a further increase to the means test threshold, increasing it from R350 to R624. The increase created many misunderstandings as people thought that the grant payment had been adjusted upwards, but this was not the case.
Zulu says the most serious challenge the department faced was the low uptake of the grant as it is lower than the budgeted amount.
“The unspent money must be returned to National Treasury, despite knowing that there is a growing number of hungry and distressed people in the communities.” she says
The Department of Social Development and Sassa are hopeful that with the increase in threshold, they will see an increase in the uptake of the grant.